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MSNBC just provided a camera to Steve Schmidt, Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign manager, and Schmidt’s daughter is also learning how to apply the powder. Schmidt is finding that he can keep a connection to the Beltway that doesn’t interfere with a connection to the great outdoors — not unlike his on-again antagonist, Sarah Palin.
From the banks of Lake Lucille, Palin can digitally commune with Greta Van Susteren or Sean Hannity or any other Fox News host who books her. When the former Alaska governor was taping her reality show, the TLC cameras recorded the Fox News cameras recording her, thus crossing a new threshold.
A Fox News spokeswoman declined to discuss the financial arrangement, but unlike the instruments that MSNBC and CNN install, the Palin-cams are satellite-linked and high-definition — and thus, have a nyah-nyah factor.
Schmidt is just happy not to be stuck in a Town Car’s back seat all the time. “Where I live, I have to go over a 9,000-foot mountain just to get to a TV studio. It’s not passable when it snows,” Schmidt said from his newly camera-equipped house on the Nevada side of the Lake Tahoe region. “There’s definitely been instances where you can be in from the ski hill and out of snowsuits and into a jacket and tie and on a show within an hour.”
If Palin’s live shots show mountains and a lake, Schmidt’s spare surroundings have only a few framed items in view: a prized letter from a V.I.P., his wife’s commission as a naval officer, the vote sheets that Vice President Dick Cheney used in the two Supreme Court confirmations that Schmidt helped make happen.
If one has to suffer the intrusions of “The Truman Show,” take control of self-image with talking points and an “ego wall.”
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The only commotion near Schmidt in his current habitat comes from kids and pets, which is in keeping with punditry’s pioneer in high-tech telecommuting.
A few decades ago, Cokie Roberts allowed NPR to install a microphone in her husband’s study, just off their bedroom. Many a Monday since then, she has gone on air at 6:15 a.m., often still in her nightgown, broadcasting her view from Bethesda. It’s not very far from NPR’s HQ, but still.
Years ago, her basset hound, Abner, took to baying at exactly the wrong time. She tried barricades and closed doors to keep him a safe distance from the live microphone but then Abner checkmated by barking in the room below. “The dog was determined to be on the radio,” she recalled. (NPR did, in fact, capitalize on the Abner anecdote during a pledge drive.)
Then there was the time that Linda Wertheimer, Roberts’s NPR colleague, overnighted at the Roberts residence for the sole purpose of quieting a ready-to-squeal infant grand-daughter during the live takes. It’s all very intimate, but within limits. “I must say, I would not like a camera,” Roberts said. “It would not be a pretty picture.”
And as with all technology, there’s that status thrill of getting a V.I.P. perk before anyone else. After all, who cares about getting comforts-of-home niceties at the office, when you can have the actual comforts of home? But when there’s a give, there’s always a little take.
“The minus is,” Roberts explained, “they can always find you.”