The press corps’ mode of life: It’s something we enjoy about our top-end professional press corps.
They aren’t afraid to pull back the curtain and let us see the ways they live and think. Average people are eager to know about the lives of these troubadours.
Back in the day, Henry Thoreau tended to get the same thing:
THOREAU (1847): I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at all impertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent. Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these questions in this book.We thought of that passage from Thoreau when we read our Ashley Parker this morning. Much as Thoreau once did in his book, Parker helps us understand a campaign reporter’s “mode of life” when she is out on the trail:
PARKER (2/4/12): No one knows yet what Mr. Romney’s Secret Service code name is, but a few weeks ago over a long dinner, his traveling press corps came up with their own suggestions. The Secret Service’s custom is to choose a letter and then assign the candidate and each family member a name starting with that letter. For Mr. Romney, the reporters went with “S.”Good solid highly informative stuff! You’ll note it took the scribes a “long” time to come up with all those ideas! That is a direct quote!
Mr. Romney’s wife, Ann, who is known as the “Mitt-stabilizer” for her abilities to calm her husband, was “Serenity.” His oldest son, Tagg, was “Scion.” Ben, his doctor son, was “Scalpel.”
And Mr. Romney himself was named in homage to his campaign theme song, Kid Rock’s “Born Free,” which includes the verse, “Wild, like an untamed stallion.” Mr. Romney, at least to his traveling press corps, will always be “Stallion.”
Question: Should the scribes cut these long dinners short and study up on the rare occasion, hoping they might be able to describe this candidate’s ludicrous tax proposals? We’ll leave that one to the philosophes! But we’ll guess that Parker won’t be so inclined. Earlier in her rumination, she took us inside her own mental world, as Thoreau did long ago:
PARKER: For a politician like Mr. Romney, who is remarkably disciplined in public, those moments on the rope line offered brief glimpses into the impromptu and unscripted candidate. It was there that we learned about his penchant for guessing voters’ ages and heritage—often incorrectly—and where a reporter spotted Mr. Romney handing a wad of cash to a woman who said she was unemployed. All of those moments will become more difficult to see and hear as the security buffer around him expands.Interesting! Romney has a penchant for guessing voters’ ages! And he often gets them wrong! It will be hard to get information like this if reporters can’t get near him on those rope lines!
(Parker linked to this earlier “news report” about this particular penchant. The headline said that this behavior showed Romney was “retooled, loose.”)
By their own admission, the reporters linger at long dinners, inventing code names for the whole family. Where do they come from? What makes them like this? Do they behave this way all the time?
In Concord, townsmen had questions for Thoreau. This morning, sitting right here at our desk, these questions popped into our minds.
Full disclosure: For five years, Parker was Maureen Dowd’s “research assistant.”