Saturday, June 12, 2010


by Roger Simon

Once again Politico is proud to announce an exclusive scoop. Now some of the grammar police might tell me, 'Roger, the word exclusive is unnecessary in your lead as it is fully indicated by the word scoop'. Lord, do I ever hate the nipickers. Did it ever occur to you people that I was giving the word extra emphasis, much the way that Ed Sullivan would say 'We've got a really big show tonight'. Is the word 'really' really necessary? Not really. But it does imply that the show will not only be big tonight but it will somehow surpass one's ordinary notion of bigness, the exact same expectation that I hope to create when I say that Politico has a really exclusive scoop.

You know that feeling you experience immediately after a bully punches you in the stomach, before the pain hits you and your primary focus is the shock and surprise? This is the same feeling I had this morning when I went into Mike Allen's office to use his Swingline Optima 70. Now don't get me wrong - of course I've got an electric stapler of my own, but sweet Jesus, have you seen the Swingline Optima 70? I'm just saying that the Optima is the Ferrari of staplers, that's all. I wanted to use it, and Mike was out of the office investigating a hot lead he had regarding Elena Kagan's podiatrist. That's when the phone rang. Not just any phone, mind you, but the white Dictaphone. It was a Dictaphone 0421-DPS, and that's one sweet dictation machine. It would not at all be an exaggeration to call the 0421-DPS the Cadillac of Dictaphones, that's all. It really helps you keep your quotes straight, which I somewhat believed was the key to Mike's success. Get people on the phone, and accurately type their words. So simple, so elegant.

I picked up the 0421-DPS not knowing what to expect (other than one-touch dictation access to a variety of Dictaphone central systems, including the StraightTalk NE) and heard the words that pummeled my belly like the sudden blow of some unrepentant ruffian: 'Mister Allen? Please hold for the President of the United States'.

Now some of the English professors might tell me that the phrase 'of the United States' is totally unnecessary, and I pondered this while President Obama began his monologue. I knew that if I were to interrupt him with a question he would immediately know that it wasn't Mike Allen and my chance to type out the words of the president would be lost forever.

Avoidance of this anxiety is what caused me to ponder the necessity of the qualifier 'of the United States'. I believe that most good reporters would assume that 'the president' referred to the chief executive of the nation, not the president of Hewlett Packard, although I was well aware of the fact that Mike had recently received a call from Carly Fiorina, so I couldn't be certain. Still, Fiorina had been CEO of Hewlett Packard, but had never been named as it's president. How did this work? Do they have elections every few years? I pondered this as the president rambled on about the Gulf.

Ultimately I decided that if President Dmitri Medvedev were to call he would be announced as such, otherwise it would throw the reporter off balance. I, myself, tend to think of Vladimir Putin as still being president of Russia, so the announcement by name could potentially save me some embarrassment. I tried to apply this logic to the current example when I was abruptly interrupted by Obama, telling me that I could ask my question now. Zounds! I had not prepared myself for this eventuality, even though I knew that traditionally Mike Allen was allowed a parting question, so I whipped off the first thing that I could conjure to mind. "Are we winning the war in Afghanistan," I asked him. Good one.

"I think it's too early to tell," he answered, a response that I found so insufficient that I felt entitled to another question, and so I boldly ventured forward. "They say that the Swingline Optima 70 staples up to 70 pages, hence it's name, so why do they only sell staples with a capacity of 60 pages?"

It had been bold, my bid to ask a second question, but it was to no avail. The president was gone, perhaps granting someone else an exclusive scoop, but I was unphased. Truth be told, I was so excited about investigating the playback capability of the 0421-DPS that I scarcely cared one way or the other.