Last night in the New York Times building, before a crowd of over 300, five members of the Times political team — assistant managing editor Rick Berke, chief political reporter Adam Nagourney, online political editor Kate Phillips, and reporters Patrick Healy and Jodi Kantor — held a surprisingly frank conversation about the 2008 presidential campaign and the relationship between the reporters and the candidates.
At the beginning of the presentation, Mr. Nagourney discussed the recent endorsement of Rudy Giuliani by Pat Robertson as “freaky,” “weird” and “a stunt.” He also echoed a widespread criticism of Republican candidate Fred Thomspon, saying “I really think he’s just not that into it.”
At one point, Times assistant managing editor Rick Berke asked reporter Patrick Healy, who covers Hillary Clinton, whether the New York senator has forgiven him for the notorious A1 exegesis of the Clinton marriage he wrote last year. “No,” Mr. Healy replied.
“She’s never quite sure what questions are going to come out of my mouth,” Mr. Healy continued. “We have these moments where her people have to assess beforehand, well is there anything you’re going to spring on her?” For instance, will there be a “question on marriage for her in a health care interview.”
“It’s really complicated,” he continued. “She thinks of The Times as her hometown newspaper and she also sees its readers as her people, by and large — not only as New Yorkers, but also as Democrats around the country. So she cares a lot about everything — what’s on the blogs, what’s on page 1. She can be very critical.”
Referring to the crowds in Iowa, Mr. Nagourney noted: “The average age was about 64.” You could say the same about last night’s event. The discussion was endlessly promoted on WQXR, a favorite of the over-50 crowd, and the audience grew visibly irritated when it hit the two-hour mark. When Mr. Berke asked how many people in the audience read The Caucus, The Times‘ most popular blog, four people raised their hands.
Afterwards, salted peanuts and Blackstone wine was served for the few stragglers willing to stick around. Eventually, Mr. Berke and Mr. Healy, in separate groups, were the last Times staffers standing.