Barack Obama gives stirring speeches, outmaneuvers political competition and makes history as the first black president of the United States, prepared to govern with a bold agenda in a time of great national and international peril. He also works out, changes clothes, rides in cars and goes home.
It is those modest, wholly unnewsworthy and mind-numbingly uninteresting facts of Mr. Obama’s life that populate the hours and dispatches of the “protective pool” reporters. Since Mr. Obama won the election on Nov. 4, a rotation of reporters in the Obama press corps is selected each day to recount to colleagues what Mr. Obama does when he is doing practically nothing.
It’s not glamorous work. The reporters have no special access, are not privy to Mr. Obama’s private life and mostly wait for a glimpse of him walking into his house or out of the gym. They often do this from coffee shops, where they hole up for hours.
The idea is that Mr. Obama’s whereabouts should be known at all times, and if something unexpected, newsworthy or, frankly, disastrous happens when Mr. Obama is in public, the press and the country will know about it.
Nothing like that has happened.
As a result, the dispatches, written by some of the finest and most esteemed journalists in the country, and distributed by the Obama transition team’s press office to newsrooms nationwide, are unerringly uninformative and rudimentary. But in their repetitive descriptions of motorcades, the wind, the snow, the temperature, the gym, the color of Mr. Obama’s business attire or track suit, they serve as a study in downtime, both Mr. Obama’s and their own.
Following are recent protective pool reports (misspellings corrected) sent by those covering Mr. Obama.
Fri Nov 14 09:53:21 2008
At 8:41 a.m., the president-elect left the gym and returned home on this gray, cold, it-might-rain-it-might-not Friday morning.
Sat Nov 22 11:43:05 a.m. 2008
No news. The 6 a.m. call time allowed poolers to glimpse the predawn red sky above Lake Michigan as the press bus rolled down Lake Shore Drive. The temperature in the Windy City is a colder-earlier-than-usual 27 degrees, but Obama was presumably only outside long enough to go from door to car (the line of sight to the building’s entrance is now blocked for security purposes) and only his White Sox capped head was visible in the SUV.
Sunday, November, 23 2008 4:33 PM
By 4 p.m., the sun had dipped below the horizon. POTUS-elect Obama left the gym at 4:20 and went to a home in 7400 block of Euclid Ave.
Mon Dec 01 15:07:48 2008
For the visual among you: Hyde Park looks pretty today. The trees have no leaves, but the branches are laced with the snow from earlier in the day. It’s cold, and the sky is gray, but there is no more snow falling and it’s quite brisk. And the van we’ve been in for the past several hours has seats that are extremely bright blue with splotches of various colors.
Fri Nov 14 08:37:35 2008
The president-elect left his home at 7:24 a.m., and headed to the gym. He arrived at the gym at 7:30 a.m.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Workout. No news.
Sunday, November 23, 2008 2: 58 PM
At 2:45 POTUS-elect Obama went to the University of Chicago Lab School to play basketball.
Wed Dec 03 12:09:20 2008
Following the press conference, President-elect Obama traveled immediately to his transition office, failing to lose his foot-racing media pool at the Hilton despite their having lounged at a coffee shop earlier while he worked out.
Mon Dec 08 10:11:10 2008
President-elect Obama left the gym at 8:56 am Central for the three-minute ride back home. The pool is holding.