A funny thing happened today.
I spent the last two days at the Miller Center of Government Affairs at the University of Virginia. They hosted a conference that brought together a multitude of what the elite consensus considers to be our nation's leading National Security authorities.
I've got questions regarding their selection process, but that will be the subject of a different post, coming soon.
Instead, I thought you all might find an interview I was able to do with David Broder interesting.
Now before you all start flaming me for this and that, let me say the following:
#1. I was there as the guest of the Miller Center. For the most of the conference and while I conducted interviews, I had a Miller Center "minder" with me. And before you go flaming them, let me remind you that I was the guy that did this; the "minder" knew as much before I was granted credentials. Know this too: the entire event was closed to the public; they had a library area in which the public could watch the simulcast, but it did require explicit permission for me to be allowed into the actual event. In the end, I think any fair-minded person would applaud the folks at the Miller Center for extending their hand to me. It is an "establishment" kind of Virginia organization - one in which a certain brand of Southern "civility", even at the expense of frankness, rules the keep. Finally, the very understandable truth is that they cannot afford to alienate their distinguished guests.
So... in summary, this interview was short and friendly. It would have been friendly (though probably a little longer) even without the "minder" - it just doesn't make sense to play "gotchya" if you want to learn anything from, or communicate anything to, influence brokers. The result is that if you're hoping for fireworks, you won't find them here, and for that, I make no apology.
#2. The question about Bush the Drunk was entirely fortuitous. I had no idea this photo (enlarged)would be published by Yahoo News/AP today... (late update: it turns out he was drinking a saccharin beer - no alcohol. I guess everything about the guy is empty-suit).
This is where they spend their lives, raise their families, participate in community activities, take pride in their surroundings. They feel Washington has been brought into disrepute by the actions of the president.
"It's much more personal here," says pollster Geoff Garin. "This is an affront to their world. It affects the dignity of the place where they live and work. . . . Clinton's behavior is unacceptable. If they did this at the local Elks Club hall in some other community it would be a big cause for concern."
"He came in here and he trashed the place," says Washington Post columnist David Broder, "and it's not his place."
"This is a company town," says retired senator Howard Baker, once Ronald Reagan's chief of staff. "We're up close and personal. The White House is the center around which our city revolves."
Does Broder give a plausible explanation? Well, unless someone can dig up information that runs contrary to his explanation - unless someone was there and can provide better context - well, I'm not sure it's OK to look askance at the man over one quote... not when there's a huge archive of his work you can pick apart to your heart's content. Also, when paired with his claim to have distanced himself from the cocktail circuit... well, his explanation makes a little more sense.
#3. I'm new to this work. To the extent that I have any journalistic skills at all, I think they lie in my ability to prepare for the interview and offer decent questions. On the other hand, it seems apparent to me that I've got some work to do in presentation and technique. If there are any career journalists/reporters out there, I'd love to hear from you (I cringed at my interruption - I know I've got to work on that). This is something I expect to do more and more - perhaps making a career out of it after I finish law school. I'd love any feedback you'd be willing to share. stark dot m at gmail dot com.
So, without further ado, here's the interview: