It’s awards show season, and, perhaps inspired by the ever-popular red-carpet interview, CNN decided it would be a good idea to position chief political correspondent Dana Bash outside the House chamber to snag interviews with lawmakers, justices and Cabinet members as they showed up for Tuesday’s State of the Union address. It was, in a word, awkward.
Attendees mostly blew her off, never breaking stride on their way in. At one point, Bash observed that the approaching Supreme Court justices had not yet donned their robes — how unusual! — and asked her camera operator to pan over to show them. The sight was not exactly Hollywood glamorous. When the justices drew near, Bash joked that she could hardly recognize them in normal clothes. If they were amused, it didn’t show; they kept walking.
Bash’s biggest victory — which CNN played up — was getting Secretary of State John Kerry to pause long enough to say he expected Iran to release 10 U.S. sailors who had been taken into custody earlier in the day “very soon.” (Iran did, in fact, free the Navy crew members early Wednesday.)
But even that exchange was far from smooth, with Kerry clearly trying to extricate himself ASAP. It ended with Kerry moving away and shaking his head apologetically as Bash called out — to no avail — “Can you come over here for one second?”
This is no knock on Bash, who as we've noted is a very reputable Capitol Hill journalist. But she had an impossible mission. While movie stars love to stop and gab on the red carpet — largely because they know the questions will be total softballs and because they are, well, celebrities — politicians have no interest in impromptu interviews on live television. Why risk being surprised by a question you don’t want to answer?
And by the way, reporters are used to being ignored. It happens all the time — just not with footage of their rejections beaming live into living rooms all over the country.
This was the drudgery of journalism, the part of the job that doesn’t make anyone look good. Bash did her best to get into the red-carpet spirit, even tweeting about her own attire, but this just doesn’t work in politics like it does in entertainment.
Let’s not do it again next year.