Inside Friday’s Washington Post, White House reporter David Nakamura wrote about life in the White House press pool when tragedy strikes. President Obama was in Chicago for fundraisers (ticket $32,400). But the reporters were moved from underground parking back to the fundraising venue when the new Fort Hood shooting broke.
One reporter wondered why Obama would scramble to make remarks (no questions) so quickly, and other cynical reporters reply, duh, because he has to go to another fundraiser tonight:
His full remarks are 327 words. He takes no questions before turning and walking out of the room. We are hustled back downstairs into the press hold, where we have a few minutes to frantically file [stories] before reloading the vans to accompany the motorcade. We're still filing as the motorcade turns onto Lakeshore Drive en route to a second Obama fundraiser at a private residence.
On Twitter, reporters are posting updates of Obama's remarks based on our reports. I even see my entire transcription posted whole-cloth -- typos and all.
Later, on the way back to Washington aboard Air Force One, one reporter wonders aloud why Obama made his remarks so quickly. She notes that in a decade of pooling, she's never seen a president respond in public so urgently to a breaking news crisis before all the facts are known. There is discussion among the reporters about the optics of Obama continuing to raise money for the Democrats if he had not spoken about Fort Hood.
Nakamura didn’t exactly make it sound like your press people were barking hound dogs on the trail. When Obama talks up an old Chicago reporter friend, it sounds like it was all pleasantries and no pushing for a quote. So why be there? Just to be noticed?
The news for the day has happened, but there's still work for the traveling press before leaving Chicago. We're led inside the residence, where Obama speaks to 60 Democratic supporters, only mentioning the Fort Hood shooting in passing. The president calls out to Chicago Tribune reporter Rick Pearson, serving as one of the local press poolers, whom Obama knew during his time in the Illinois statehouse.
"What's going on man? Good to see you. How's everybody in Springfield?" Obama says.
"I'll tell them you said hi," Pearson responds. We're led back to the vans, where [publicist Jesse] Lewin arrives to hand out leftover pieces of cheesecake from the fundraiser.