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FLASH: Scott McClellan Has No Visible Horns in Person

whgaggle1.jpgA mainstream media lesson we learned the hard way yesterday as The First White House Press Blogger (Patent Pending)? You can either be blogging the news or gathering news to blog. It’s damn hard to do coherent and in-depth reporting on a blog timeline–so today we’re going to take the time to write up a few of the more interesting moments from yesterday.

All-in-all it was a very surreal day–anti-climatic almost even. Something similar happened to bloggers attending the conventions last year: There was a big to-do beforehand and then their writing all seemed sort of pedestrian after all the hype. They were the biggest news they came across.

Indeed we spent almost as much time being interviewed by the regular White House press corps yesterday as we spent interviewing them. In fact, at times we felt it was so meta that Marc Ambinder and the Note had to be guiding our day: We were being interviewed by reporters about what it was like to interview them about them interviewing the White House.

Anyway. A round-up of the afternoon with Scott McClellan post-jump.


Post-briefing yesterday we retired to the rabbit warren in the basement where we’d been blogging earlier in the day. After posting we proceeded back upstairs and found ourselves face-to-face with The Beast himself.

Scott McClellan was working his way through the reporters’ workspace, answering questions and handing down non-answers and obfuscating quotes left and right. He was chatting with a few reporters and when he saw us and pointed: “Are you the mystery man?” We laughed, shook hands, and he ushered us back into his spacious office.

Now overall Scott got very good reviews from the press corps. While his main responsibility–stonewalling for an administration that is remarkably unfriendly to the press–doesn’t win him many friends among the regular reporters, they generally describe him as an affable guy. Plus, as one correspondent said to us, “He has the benefit of not being Ari.” Zing!

His office, just steps from the briefing room and steps from the Oval Office, was as beautiful and fancy as the press room was dreary and plain. His commanding desk faces a bank of televisions tuned to the various cable channels (one TV even has TiVO) and a wall filled with clocks depicting the time in various cities around the world. Strangely, there’s actually two sets of clocks: One set of traditional-looking clocks with hands and one set of fancy red digital readouts of the time in the same cities. A fireplace guards the door and bookcases and memorabilia line the wall over his couch where we sat.

In the non-newsmaking category, Scott said that he hasn’t read Ari Fleischer’s new book (ASIDE: Book party in D.C. tonight! Stay tuned!), although it’s at the top of the pile of books he hasn’t read because he works so hard. We interrogated him gamely about his favorite reporters, and he gamely didn’t answer, but instead babbled about how much he respected the work that reporters do in general. He keeps up with his home state and his favorite UT teams by reading the Dallas Morning News in the flesh each day and reading the Austin American Statesman online.

Oh, and get this: He doesn’t read blogs. (Take that you great unwashed masses!) Can you believe that there are still people who prefer to get their news from places other than DailyKos, InstaPundit, and Wonkette? Shocking.

In the possibly newsmaking category, we asked him the question we’d prepared for the briefing yesterday: Did the White House have any reaction to the comments by FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith regarding possible regulation of political activity on the internet? He said that he was unaware of the comments but that he’d heard nothing about such plans discussed among White House officials.

We talked credentialing (more on that later), and then at the end of our very pleasant 20-minute chat, we presented him with our other bag of chocolate mint cookies, and he, in turn, presented us with a box of White House M&Ms.

Ahh, good ole chocolate: The great equalizer between power and new media.

We never made it over to the Media Affairs office yesterday to say hello to Jenny, John, and Caroline, because that office is actually in the Old Executive Office Building next door and would require a separate clearance. We thought about calling them to see if we could come by, but we know how they are about returning our calls….

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