Saturday, August 22, 2020

Modcoach Gets a White House Press Pass

I never thought writing a blog about the construction industry would one day lead to my getting a White House Press Pass to one of President Trump’s events or any Presidential event. If I had, it would have already been added to my Bucket List.

When I learned I was being considered for receiving the press pass for this Thursday’s event at the Mariotti Building Products factory in Old Forge, PA, I did a little happy dance and crossed my fingers I would get it.

Wednesday afternoon I received an email from the White House with all the details for the press. I was going to be a member of the White House Press Pool.

Watching President Trump or any standing President give a speech in person is something everyone should do at least once and I had my first chance when Reagan was President but seeing what happens behind the scenes of a Presidential visit as part of the press is something else entirely.

I arrived about 9 AM for President Trump's speech at 3 PM. I was one of the first ones to park in the Press parking lot. About a hundred yards behind me was a very long row of Secret Service vehicles of all types and agents walking around preparing for the day’s events.

One of the first things that caught my eye were the number of snipers walking to the buildings and lumber stacks at the Mariotti facility. That’s when it hit home that this is the real thing.

Killing time waiting for 12 noon when the press was allowed to enter the area gave me a lot of time to talk with others from the press. One camera man has been covering Presidential campaigns for 19 years and he was a wealth of stories that killed about an hour of our wait time.

When we were allowed to enter it was just like airport security check-in except we didn’t have to take our shoes or belts off. After being scanned we were allowed to proceed to the “press area”. This was my first time in a press area and I was underwhelmed to say the least.

We were not allowed to talk to any of the people there for Trump’s rally as they had their own holding pens and we were not allowed to go there. Did I mention there were Secret Service, PA State Police, local Police and Private Security comprised of  some the biggest and most physically fit men and women I have ever seen in my life. It seemed that bullets would simply bounce off them.

The holding area for the press was located directly behind the risers used for all the cameras from every station and network you could imagine. This is the area where all the press people prepared for their time in front of the camera which meant I really couldn’t find anyone to talk with for almost three hours. I couldn’t even see the stage from this vantage point.

Did I mention it was in the 80’s with no clouds and only the slightest breeze. Good thing I had my hat on or I would look like a cooked lobster. It got so hot my phone gave me a warning that it was too hot to work properly. A little shade and being placed on a bottle of water brought is back to life.

After several speakers and the National Anthem we were getting ready for President Trump’s arrival. When he didn’t show up at 3 I asked one of the others if he was running late. She said he won’t arrive on stage until the reporters that travel with him arrive in their “Special” holding pen next to us ordinary press people. 

At 3:30 he arrived and the crowd of 250 people, all that were allowed to attend in PA thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, began cheering and holding up signs. 

Now here is the part I wasn’t expecting. After being there for 6 ½ hours, interacting with others in the press and even the security people, watching President Trump speak to the crowd was almost anticlimactic. 

I have listened to him speak before and this was just like every other speech I had watched on TV. One of the reporters told me that it doesn’t matter which Presidential candidate is speaking, they both have their elevator speeches down perfectly. 

When it was over I was surprised how quiet everyone in the press was. They just wanted to get on with their day and go to the next stop. Just another day at the office.

These reporters and camera people were the most non-opinionated people I was ever around. When I asked one of the CBS reporters about being called out for ‘fake news’ he told me the news isn’t fake but if you watch TV after 8:00 PM, that’s when it is turned into opinions, entertainment and fake news. He hates that what he reports about is turned upside down after 8:00 PM.

I was excited to be part of this and would love to do it again, Who knows, maybe that might happen. 

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of the, blogs and the ‘coming soon’, Construction Consultant’s Directory. 


1 comment:

JobLine said...

Gary, it would be interesting to know more about how the press felt, what they have seen over the years as far as access and information from different presidents, and your take on the location for this event than the boilerplate speech we have all heard before. Without any "breaking news' it is as you say, boring but still cool to be part of regardless of who is at the podium. Great article!