Ask just about any reporter flying around the country with Al Gore during the 2000 campaign, and he or she will tell you that Gore was not a popular guy with his press corps.
It wasn’t that they despised him. It was just that he rarely gave them good copy, and was seemingly physically unable to spend quality “off the record” bonding time with the girls and boys on the bus.
Now comes word that presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry is keeping up the tradition of ticking off his press. The difference between Kerry and Gore is that Kerry and his staff aren’t communicating with the press about actual important stuff — at least to the reporters covering Kerry’s every move.
For example, in just the past five days, Kerry’s campaign failed to tell the pool reporters about a doctor visit (to inspect Kerry’s bum shoulder), a secret meeting with Al Gore (perhaps to discuss how to alienate the press corps?), a visit to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, apparently to visit injured U.S. military personnel, though no one in Kerry’s camp confirmed it, and a bicycle ride in Concord, Massachusetts.
Things really did get weird for the press when Kerry and his staff refused to discuss why the candidate was flying up to Boston on Sunday, particularly after it later turned out that the only reason was the ill-fated bike ride. “And the only reason we learned about that was because Kerry fell and someone on staff felt like they had to tell us,” says a TV news producer based in Washington.
Prior to the fall, on the way up to Boston, Kerry told some of the reporters that it wasn’t really their business what he was going to do in Boston. “I’ve just got a bunch of stuff I’ve got to do — just never get home. There are some decisions that are more important than being on the road.”
And it’s best to make them while on a ten-speed (no word yet whether the bike is American-made or perhaps French or Italian). Prior to “Bikegate,” the Kerry campaign was happy to create the illusion with some reporters that the supersecret Boston trip was convention and vice-presidential-candidate-selection related. The spill, in which Kerry was unhurt, was an embarrassing moment for all involved, including the reporters who felt they had been suckered.
“This isn’t the easiest candidate to cover,” says the producer. “Let’s leave it at that.”
Kerry, by the way, was on Monday supposed to meet with his search committee to discuss the vice-presidential vetting process. Last week’s candidate du jour was Rep. Dick Gephardt. This week, it’s Wesley Clark. Another name being floated, seemingly out of nowhere, is Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who has neither the swing state nor the overly “moderate” label Kerry is said to be looking for (unless compared to Babs Boxer). But using that kind of logic, Gephardt should be ruled out as well.