First day back from two weeks of glorious vacation in the Canadian Rockies. Spiking hundreds of e-mails on the home computer before heading in to the official cubicle. But some raise e-mails alarms.
A recurrent alarming theme that today is the day V.P. Dick Cheney is coming to fund-raise for Michele Bachmann (Republican candidate for Sixth Congressional District open seat).
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m covering that race. Is it possible that Workstation Strib lays in wait to send me to the BIG TIME, covering one of the nation/worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most important and controversial figures for a large midwestern metropolitan daily?
Upon arrival, it turns out, the answer is yes! IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m on the Cheney story.
Nine e-mails later, a few facts are clear. The actual fund-raiser, at a tres elegante Minnetrista estate on the shores of Lake Minnetonka will be totally closed to non-Bachmann donors. (Since IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m covering the race, a donation to one of the candidates might violate objectivity norms.)
But the fax from the White House (BIG Time, BIG Time) titled Ã¢â‚¬Å“Press Schedule of the Vice President for June 26,Ã¢â‚¬Â¿ describes CheneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s arrival at Grand Island Airport Executive Offices Building as Ã¢â‚¬Å“OPEN PRESS.Ã¢â‚¬Â¿
Editors, reporters, photographers confer. Decision is: Big Questioner Black and a photog will go to the Airport, cover CheneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s remarks to the Open Press, maybe even ask a big question or two. Another reporter and photog will go to Minnetrista to be denied admission to the fund-raiser. Maybe see if thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s any way to photograph the protesters who have told us during the early morning flurry of phone calls that they will be waving protest signs from boats in the lake (a new protesting trend?), maybe even try to land one of the boats so they can get arrested.
(The protesters tell me by ship-to-shore phonecall Ã¢â‚¬â€œ actually just cellphonesÃ¢â‚¬â€ include one that makes a pun on the vice president’s first name. My first thought: That one will not get in the paper.
Second thought: Since we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t shoot the main event or cover CheneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s speech there, the best picture and most colorful sentences will almost certainly involve the protest boaters, which will cause editor consternation because we often get criticized for allowing a handful of protester to get too much coverage in such cases. (As of this posting, I don’t know how the final story came out).
Last thought: Maybe Big Questioner Black can save the day by getting Veep to say something interesting at airport.
Ha. Fat chance. Get to airport and notice I am only reporter present. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m either going to get an exclusive interview with man of BIG TIME importance or there is no news here.
Question various men wearing earpieces and serious expressions. The sad, shocking truth slowly comes out.
“OPEN PRESS” means that if I can run the gauntlet of humiliating body cavity searches (actually, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all done with the clothes on nowadays, thanks to the metal detecting magic wand) I will be allowed to stand on the tarmac from about 100 yards away, watch the Vice PresidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plane land (itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not even Air Force Two), watch him get off, watch him shake hands with a delegation of Republican greeters, watch him get into a waiting limo, and watch him drive away to Minnetrista.
With notebook and pen in hand (one in each hand that is, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve used these tools before) I watch the promised events transpire. The landing. The greetersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ applause. CheneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s emergence atop the deplaning stairs. He doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even make the obligatory wave for the cameras. (Even the TV photographers start complaining about the lameness of this assignment.) He shimmers down like a gazelle (of a certain age), shakes hands with the greeters, gets in the limo. And heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gone.
Thanks to the miracle of the cell phone and the internet, I phone headquarters and startribune.com is the global first to report that the vice president has arrived.
In the parking lot, I catch up with some of the greeters. What did you say to him? Ã¢â‚¬Å“Welcome to Minnesota.Ã¢â‚¬Â¿ What did he say? Ã¢â‚¬Å“Good to be here.Ã¢â‚¬Â¿ I decide not to call back in to add this information.
I return to the office, secure in the knowledge that I have covered the vice president of the United States.