As Obama is quickly wrapping up his last Hawaii vacation, my last White House press pool day was on Dec. 21st. The day came with a deep sadness as I knew this type of assignment would likely never happen for me again. Never would I sit endlessly waiting for the President to finish a golf game nor would I ever have the chance to shout out “What flavors did you have on your shave ice?!?!”
While this sadness overtook me, I have to be thankful as the Associated Press gave me a chance to use a pen over pixels as I worked as a reporter inside the press pool. While I wanted to be a writer early in my days, the camera topped the keyboard and f-stops replaced verbs. So it wasn’t a stretch to write a few sentences about where the President was heading and what color hat he wore that day.
While no real breaking news took place while on duty over the years, I still enjoyed zooming through the city within the motorcade. Those jaunts are likely the most memorial aspect of working with the President over the holidays. Everything else was a mixture of waiting, eating junk food, and more waiting all set to the theme of Candy Crush.
Hardly did any of us set eyes upon the President other than a glimpse at him through the windows of his armored limo or in the far distance as he crossed the greens at an exclusive golf course. After his motorcade would speed past us, I’d plead if anyone had seen what he was wearing as that seemed to be the only thing of importance to write about on those sunny winter days in Honolulu. And beyond that, any other sightings of the President were strictly controlled. Windows were blacked out by dark tarps taped to the windows or we were kept blocks away and not allowed off the bus. Those were the worst days.
Obama was very secretive and rarely gave the press pool any glimpses into his vacation life. Why the White House did so much to block the credentialed pool from view yet allowed anyone outside to have full access to him was mind boggling. Just tonight, local TV aired smart phone video of the President on a hike. Where was the WH press? Back in the bus.
Press pool photographers demanded access and producers pushed for air time but the White House never budged. For a President who was spawned through social media, he was hardly the model for transparency as he preferred to speak directly to the public via Facebook and released crafted images from his personal photographer. He sidestepped the media anyway he could, yet the romance went on.
On occasion, the White House allowed whats termed a “spray” where media was given a short window to capture whatever was going on. In the video above, I captured my colleagues photographing Obama as wrapped up his golf on the 18th green at the Kapolei Golf Course. The White House handler rushed us off our perch no more than 30 seconds later.
But aside from all the hassle, the press pool bus became a small winter haven for the few years I was allowed in. The press pool allowed me to work as a writer and gain international bylines. I am grateful for all those who trusted me to sit inside and report on the daily events of the President.
As I walked off the bus that night, I was hugged and was back slapped by many who had known me over several years for a few days in December. I shared many a coffee inside the tiny kitchen of the media house and talked endlessly about the strange Japanese bath at the other end. We fed the goldfish and we all saw G1 jump in the swimming pool at least once. We all ate the best hash browns at the MCBH McDonald’s and shared a common exhaustion as the motorcade sped out to another late night dinner. I’ll miss the rush and the companionship…but I won’t miss the painful boredom. I won’t miss that at all.