His public comments were quick. I’d love to know what he talked about in private. John McCain flew into Des Moines around 3pm. He shook a few hands at the airport, including those of former Iowa Gov. Bob Ray and former First Lady Billie. We were the pool television camera for the event. This helps with the crush of media that would normally cover a VIP visit such as this. As the tv pool camera, we shoot the event, without any other tv cameras around. Then, when it’s finished, we share it with whatever station that wanted it. This day was far from routine.
Sunday night, McCain’s advance team had scoped out WHO-TV’s newsroom. The campaign wanted to do satellite interviews with other local tv stations across the country from our station. They had to check it all to make sure it worked for what they want. They showed up around 7pm and wanted answers now. Normally, we get far more advance of a request. Not this time.
Back to today…after McCain shook hands and smiled for a few minutes at the airport, they hurried him to his waiting entourage of vehicles. We were ushed to the press van (number 4, I believe). We were no longer headed to our station for those satellite interviews. I could tell as we turned right out of the airport parking lot, instead of the left turn that would have brought me back to my work. I learned we were off to West Des Moines. McCain was doing a “statement” there at his hotel to address the collapse of the bailout deal. I wondered what he would say.
After all, he had suspended his campaign last week and threatened to cancel his debate appearance if Congress didn’t reach agreement. Now the deal had fallen through after leaders predicted it would pass. Inside the Marriott’s Concourse B, McCain walked out to a room full of reporters and cameras. He didn’t greet anyone. He just went to the podium. He used words like “crisis” and “grave”. He blamed Obama and his democratic allies. Then he said we shouldn’t “fix the blame”. Three minutes and four seconds later, he was finished. He walked off. No answers for reporters.
The campaign rushed him off to WHO-TV for those satellite interviews. It’s my understand the campaign canceled the interviews earlier in the day and then re-scheduled them. Chaos inside my station. We headed back to press van #4 in the parking lot of McCain’s hotel. Press van #3 was no longer in the procession back my station as the secret service agent sitting in the van with us had not so politely pointed out to van’s driver, Larry, a volunteer from West Des Moines who gave up two days for the campaign. The agent yelled at Larry to follow the van ahead of us. Our van wouldn’t move. The agent yelled louder and longer. Our van still wouldn’t move, despite Larry’s best efforts. The agent yelled again. Larry implored her that it was the parking brake that was stuck. The van wouldn’t move. We emptied out into another van. The agent yelled at Larry to hurry up and catch the procession. She yelled again as he slowed for the red light that would have stopped us outside the hotel. He kept going. The agent angrily asked if anyone knew how to get us to the station, since we had lost the procession. I reminded her I worked there. So I knew how to get there. She stopped yelling. Larry got us there safely (and quickly, I might add. No need for following the speed limit with a secret service agent yelling at you in the passenger seat beside you). I wonder if Larry will be back in the van Tuesday. I wonder if he even wants to be back. Good thing he really likes John McCain.