It's not the questions - it's the answers - Just Gimme Some Truth!

No short-haired, yellow-bellied son of Tricky Dick’s gonna mother hubbard soft soap me with just a pocket full of hopes . . . John Lennon



It’s Monday morning and the working world readies for another week.

The press corps covering The President of The United States does the same.

We will get up in the morning, shower, shave, brush our teeth, dress and hopefully add some deodorant to make sure when we’re in a rugby scrum on the South Lawn or elsewhere trying to get a comment from the president in a tight location we do not give offense to our colleagues.

We will do this whether we work for a news outlet the president considers his enemy or one he considers his friend.

While the cries from President Trump of “Fake News” and “Enemy of the people,” continue unabated and without any regard for the truth, hundreds of reporters, photographers, camera operators and television technicians show up every day at the White House and try, desperately, to get at the truth of what’s going on in the Donald Trump Administration.

This cadre of reporters include those long in the tooth and some who are freshly minted from some of the country’s finest post-secondary schools of advanced education.

Some of these people represent foreign press.

Some are fans of the president or work for organizations whose chief executives are fans of the president.

Some of the reporters are nothing more than bloggers.

Some are grinding out multiple stories on tight deadlines.

Some are columnists.

Some are national television reporters and anchors.

Some are wire reporters. Some are newspaper reporters. Some work for magazines.

Some are technicians who’ve seen it all since the Reagan days.

We are black, white, brown, female, male, gay and straight. We are much more.

And while we have our problems, we all get along to do our job.

We may not invite each other to coffee, drink heavily or show up when the band plays, but it struck me the other day we’re far better than the rhetoric at the White House.

The divisive nature of the current administration would, if one were to look at this logically, surely have an effect on the press corps first.


The White House press corps, after all, has the most exposure to the poison.

However, after two years, I can only report that this hasn’t happened.

Those who openly worship the president get along in public with those who openly mock the president. The press corps remains, in other words, as it always has been.

There are big mouths. (Okay, I’ve been accused of that).

There are petty people. There are those who think they’re so “above it all”. There are smug reporters. There is one reporter who can’t seem to find a question without a 30-minute introductory speech.

Other reporters secretly look down on their colleagues and some have no idea what they are doing or how to do it.

There are a slew of reporters who have no idea of the history of the press room and many who believe this administration represents the normal way of doing business at the White House.

There are those who know Trump well and those who do not.

But the press corps gives me a great deal of hope for this country. It always has and will continue to do so as long as I wake up on the right side of the dirt.

We are a fallible group of people. We get things right. We get things wrong.

Each day we show up and try to do better than we did the day before.

I have watched this press corps for the last two years as a genuine outsider.

Though I have been an infrequent visitor to the press room in the last 35 years, I never pounded it out inside the West Wing for any great length of time. I was often bored and unless the White House was dealing with an issue - like immigration that I covered closely - I was never in that room for more than a week or two at any one time.

The greatest amount of time I spent in the West Wing was during the first year of the Obama administration. Then I came back during the last few months of Obama’s presidency and vowed I’d stay after Trump got elected.



During the last week or so of Obama’s administration I spoke with Josh Earnest, Obama’s last press secretary. A Kansas City boy who is a fan of the local sports teams, I had some affinity for him, even though there were those who considered him a bit of an elitist.

I told Earnest I didn’t always agree with what the Obama administration did, but I always felt like I was dealing with professionals and adults. I thanked him for that and said I didn’t expect to see the same from the incoming administration.

I also feared the press wouldn’t be up to the task of covering a true huckster. I saw how we fell for the bombast on the campaign trail.

So, I walked into the Trump administration with my eyes wide open, ready for anything and concerned about what we would get and how we would react.

I remembered something Sam Donaldson once told me; “I concluded that a reporter’s role ought to be one of continuing, unrelenting skepticism about government’s actions. Not hostility, but a continuing eyes-open look at what the establishment is doing.”

The first time we saw this administration I met a young producer from a major network who seemed enthralled to be there, overwhelmed with the history and as star struck as any person I’ve ever seen walk into the White House James Brady Briefing room.

I encouraged the producer and ask if they were an intern. “No,” I was told. The young professional was a “senior producer” for a network and 24-years-old. I asked how old the junior producer was - 12?

Then Sean Spicer came out and lied to my face about the size of the president’s inaugural crowd.

From then on we have been fed a steady diet of crap from this administration - there is no basement. There is no “As low as you can go,” because this administration knows no depth to which it will not descend.

But my initial fears of the press covering this administration were thankfully unfounded.

Last week I personally, along with April Ryan, got blamed with being the cause of the demise of the daily press briefing by the press secretary.

The truth is the White House owns this demise of interaction with the electorate.

Something else Donaldson and Helen Thomas told me upon my first visit to the pressroom in 1986 rattles around in my head: “First, if you don’t ask, you don’t find out; and second, the questions don’t do the damage. Only the answers do.”

The press is doing its job. We are doing it and treating each other professionally. I’ve never been more proud of a group of people - even the reporter who takes too long to ask a question and can’t seem to find one.

In short, the professional reporters in the White House are still professional and still grinding it out day after day and doing a damn good job sitting at the front row of history and keeping their heads while they report on the most chaotic administration I’ve seen in the last 35 years.

We have never been more vilified. I know reporters who have had to hire body guards. We’ve had threats. We are not heroes. We’re just doing our job.

We continue to do this job even though we’ve been threatened, demeaned and denied access to the president.

We’re not perfect. Far from it.

We’re not heroes.

We’re not the enemy of the people.

We are the people. And each day with our resiliency we show there is hope - despite what the fear mongers preach and despite what the naysayers scream.

I’ve had enough of watching scenes from schizophrenic, egocentric paranoiac primadonnas . . .


Just Ask the Question ©2018

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