Thursday, I spent the day in Richmond, Virginia at a fundraiser for Sen. George Allen at the local Science Museum. President Bush was the main attraction and I was fortunate enough to be included in what is known as “The White House Press Corps.”
And as one might imagine, since it’s “The Big Man” as one secret service agent described it to me, the security is as tight as a bridal party minutes before the wedding!
We are treated well and provided with our own work area replete with catered lunches in cute bags with colorful tissue paper (I recommend the grilled chicken Caesar wraps). But after awhile, you begin to feel like Diane Sawyer in North Korea being lead around by minders! They are known as the White House Press advance team.
First there’s the “security sweep” where we had to be taken out of our work area (that required documented and credentialed access to get into in the first place) to be “cleaned.” (We are “dirty” before we came in apparently!) And once we are lead back in, searched and wanded, we cannot leave and re-enter. The Big Man is about 2 hours away at this point and the 400 or so high-dollar donors are going through the security metal detectors at a separate location in the building.
A group of protesters had begun to assemble across the street, so being the industrious and intrepid reporter that I am, I pleaded with my hosts to allow me to head across the street for some fair and balanced coverage. No such luck! One veteran White House producer joined my cause as he wanted video of the merry pranksters, but he too was denied. As my colleague-in-arms put it – “You can be sleepless in Seattle, and pictureless in Richmond!”
Now I am no longer Diane Sawyer, I am in a time capsule and have returned to my High School prom where you could leave the dance, but once you left, you can’t come back… only difference at this prom is that the President is making a cameo!
And then the moment comes – I am lead into the ballroom and put in a cordoned off area reserved for the press and am standing 20 feet from The Big Man.
The event concludes without any glitches and I bid farewell to my newfound friends with a greater respect for the challenging task they face everyday in covering the most powerful man on Earth.
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