The network stars were gone, the seats half empty and the questioning low-key as Dana Perino held a White House briefing last week, her biggest announcement that the administration would try to ease air traffic for the holidays.
President Bush has faded from the news, and the last year has been hard on his press secretary as she tried to follow his orders not to defend him from the verbal assaults of the campaign to succeed him.
"We took it from all sides, and it was difficult," Perino says. "When you're that close to your boss, it's hard sometimes not to take it personally."
Perino marvels at the glowing press that Barack Obama has gotten -- "He was a great candidate, a phenomenal candidate," she says -- but warned his incoming chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, that it wouldn't last forever. "I'll give you eight months," she told him.