Given the nature of a commercial outlet with an all-news format, stories must be kept brief. McConnell concedes non-commercial entities like NPR “have the advantage in going long-form.” Still, in the cacophony of the day-to-day, “people don’t always have the time. Surveys show listeners trail off after a time. We both serve the public. We’re complementary.”
‘True story,” begins Jim Farley, WTOP’s vice president of news and programming. “When Dave was in high school, he and his buddies cut class to go see the Senators play at Griffith Stadium. The other guys went to see the Senators. Dave literally went to Capitol Hill to watch senators debate. I don’t know if our younger reporters could keep up with Dave.”
He’s there for all-night filibusters, long confirmation hearings and garden-variety speeches. And, somehow, he remains unjaded. McConnell has a ready response for those who bemoan how Congress remains bitterly divided. Not so fast, he explains. At best, Congress offers a mirror on the human condition. Whenever people assemble in any setting — particularly those with dominant personalities — “there’s going to be backbiting,” McConnell warns. “It’s always been that way. There will be long periods of great inactivity and shorter periods of real accomplishment.”
McConnell, a father of three and grandfather of seven, has seen Congresses come and Congresses go. Watching the passing show, he says, has enabled him to draw some unscientific conclusions about those who serve in the legislative big-leagues. He winnows members into two categories.
The first, he notes, excel academically and socially. “He believes he can come here and be successful. He isn’t driven by public service. It’s an ego thing — and I mean a good ego thing.” The second are on a quest to “advance the voters’ agenda for good. It’s the best job these people will ever have. And why shouldn’t it be?”
It’s a job that many of his broadcast colleagues dream of having, and McConnell says the inverse is also true.
“All reporters would love to run for office,” he says, “and all members want to be media types.” But after demystifying the legislative process through eight presidential terms, McConnell is not conflicted.
“I’m doing what I should be doing.”
Glaros is a freelance writer.