Sometimes, I suppose, ignorance is truly bliss.
It was for me today, and all it did was get me into the Senate Press Gallery to watch the Senate confirm Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and at the Senate floor’s door trying to talk to a senator about Hilda Solis’ pending confirmation to become labor secretary.
San Gabriel Valley Tribune reporter Rebecca Kimitch asked if I could try and get a quote from Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Since I’m here, it seemed like a good idea, and what the heck, I thought it might be a great experience.
Well, that it was, but it technically never should have happened.
I walked over to the Senate, and at first talked my way into getting a gallery pass — the kind the general public gets to view Senate proceedings from above the Senate’s floor.
But that wasn’t good enough. Rebecca needed a quote, and I was pretty determined to get it for her.
So I went back to the clerk who issued me the first pass, and asked about a one-day press pass.
She didn’t give me that, but she did give me a little pin-on piece of paper that allowed me into the Senate Press Gallery.
The press gallery is essentially the wing of the Capitol in which reporters have an office to cover the Senate. The doors of those offices open right up into the actual gallery, a balcony that overlooks the proceedings, with a great view.
But I guess I didn’t understand that with that little piece of paper pinned on to me I wasn’t suppose to go inside — as I only later understood.
But being the snoop that I am, I walked through anyway, only to find Sen. John Kerry touting Clinton as a the needed lead the nation’s foreign policy under Obama.
He was the lone senator on the floor at the time, and was stalling with words as he waited for his colleagues to enter for a vote.
I looked for Coburn, once the senators started trickling in.
Anyway, slowly they started streaming in for the vote…Reid, Rockefeller, Graham, McCain, Burris (the new guy from Chicago)…and ultimately Coburn.
He talked briefly with a colleague. And as I sensed he was going to leave, I bolted for the second floor exit of the Senate chamber.
If you’ve never seen that second floor entry/exit area, where senators enter and leave the Senate floor, it’s quite a sight.
Just imagine a Hollywood movie premiere, only with a bunch of guys wearing blue suits walking in and out of the theater.
Now, this was a big vote, so maybe that’s why so much press was there.
But as I came down the stairs, I walked into a mish-mash of reporters and press secretaries, photographers and police, interviews and senator-led lines of people. But no Coburn.
For that brief moment I was coming down stairs, he either left the chamber or was still in there, and you can’t tell who is in there form outside those second-floor doors.
So, after a guard told me to step back to a press waiting area until the senator I wanted to speak to exited, I waited and watched as reporters bolted to who each wanted to talk to.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham got a lot of attention, for some reason. Perhaps I should have spoken to him. At that moment, I wasn’t sure.
Kerry left, so did Rockefeller…and others perhaps left through doors I didn’t see or know of.
Anyway, the press pool dwindled down to me and a few others. I asked a guard something about access — I can’t remember what — and they he asked me what kind of pass I had. I looked down to the front of my shirt only to realize that the original pass I’d pinned on to myself was missing.
Great! Now that guard didn’t even believe I was from the media.
Here I was, a man looking for a senator without a pass, in an environment I didn’t know.
The guard was nice enough to let me go back upstairs to the press gallery offices, but before that, I was required to have an armed guard escort me back into offices. So there I was, with a police officer by my side, weaving though a bunch of other reporters to get a gallery employee to vouch that I was there earlier.
“No, I haven’t been stirring trouble,” I told her.
She vouched for me.
Only this time, she reminded me I couldn’t go anywhere — not even the gallery — without a credential, which my editor back home would have to write a letter for.
It was a little much for my purposes.
So, I gathered my belongings, and left.
I still had a gallery pass, though, and hung out for a debate, I think about equal pay for minorities and women in the workplace.
The seat just wasn’t as good as the first one, though.
And Rebecca, sorry I didn’t get that comment. Maybe next time.