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We are back from our quick trip to South America with the White House Press Corps and the president and I thought I would blog about it. Tonight we will show you our interview with President Bush which was the reason for our trip. I am also posting a few pictures from the interview. Click here to check them out.
First, the White House Press Corps, which has worked closely together with each other for a long time and is very friendly with each other, was very gracious to us. Although we were essentially hitchhikers on the White House Press Corps charter plane, they welcomed us and made us feel at home. CBS' Jeff Goldman is like a brother to me and he helped us throughout our trip.
For the White House Press Corps I suppose the trip was ordinary — for us, since it was our first foreign trip with a U.S. president, it was an adventure and exciting.
The trip with the president is certainly not for the weak or lazy... or anyone who needs sleep. I was gone four nights but only stayed in a hotel two nights... the other two nights were all night flights. At least one of the nights we should have paid by the hour to stay in the hotel, since few spent more than an hour or two or three in the room.
To say the press corps schedule was a bit cramped is understated. For instance, we arrived well after midnight in Uruguay the second night, and with a need for about 100 to stand in line and check in at the hotel and wait for luggage, etc., people did not get to rooms until very late. As everyone registered in the hotel and then boarded the elevators for rooms, there was an obvious sign to read. The elevator signs posted informed all that the bus taking the press to the next event was leaving at 5 a.m. No one in the press corps seemed to think that unusual… I heard some groans but no complaining.
From more than one person traveling in the press corps I was asked about my "entourage." Apparently there was a rumor that I had an entourage. My entourage was one person — my producer. I hope that rumor was put to rest, but my producer and I did have some fun laughing about it. We could not figure out if I were her entourage or if she were mine. We did meet up with a crew in Uruguay for our interview with the president, but we had to have a crew... someone had to run the camera, etc. We could not hijack Wendell Goler and Bret Baier's crew. They had to do live shots.
The trip started on Wednesday night. We left from Andrews Air Force Base in a bit of an ice storm. The tarmac was coated with ice as we made our way out to the 777. I walked carefully since I did not want to fall and break my leg — somehow I just could not stand the thought of being the anchor who did not even make it to the press plane before she had to drop off for the ER. I had already heard the tale of the journalist who missed the press charter home from China and did not want to become another press corps story.
I was told that we were lucky to have the 777 plane as the press charter. Apparently there have been many other press charters with not so nice or large planes. Our charter was about 2 hours late for take off from Andrews... I heard that we had to wait for King Abdullah of Jordan to take off first and he was delayed for some reason (ice?)
The first stop (Thursday) in South America was Sao Paulo, Brazil. On Friday the president went to an ethanol plant and we went with the press pool to the plant. I was interested in going since we had five days earlier been to an ethanol plant in Wisconsin and I am interested in renewable fuels. Of course the very purpose of our trip was to interview the president about ethanol. Brazil — which leads the world in ethanol production — makes ethanol from sugar cane... the U.S. makes it from corn.
Last week — in anticipation of our two trips to ethanol plants — we interviewed people on the street about ethanol. Many had heard of ethanol, but knew little about it. More than one thought that ethanol was a substance used (abused?) by college students... hmm. No one we spoke to on the street knew the difference between corn-based ethanol and ethanol from other material. There are many pros and cons associated with ethanol produced by corn and you will hear the president's views on ethanol tonight on our show when we air the interview we had with him on Saturday. Ethanol production and use as a fuel substitute is controversial.
Our interview with the president occurred in his hotel in Uruguay. It was done at his hotel for security reasons. As luck would have it, his hotel was next to a radio tower and that created an unexpected problem: the president's mike — not mine for some reason — was picking up the radio station. So in the hours leading up to the interview, as the audio was being checked, we were in a minor panic. In our gallows humor we joked about who got the job to tell White House Press Secretary Tony Snow that there would be music in the background of the president's interview. Somehow our crew was able to solve the problem before the president sat down for our interview. At least that problem was averted.
After the interview with the president we raced to the airport to catch our commercial flight back to the USA. We flew all night and arrived back in D.C. at 6:30 a.m.
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