Friday, March 13, 2009

Helene Cooper Forgets She's A Reporter, Tries To Call Her Sister From Air Force One.

What’s the point of being one of the White House reporters for the New York Times if you don’t get at least a little excited about your first trip on Air Force One?

That's the lede -- we swear -- of a first-person account by White House correspondent Helene Cooper of her experience interviewing President Obama last Friday on Air Force One.

Yes, Cooper has confessed that after years of coveting a flight on the President's plane, she had a wondrously wide-eyed afternoon wandering around Air Force One and admiring its amenities. Here's a sampler from her recollections in an article (available only online; tough luck, print addicts!) that demonstrates Cooper's painfully inappropriate levels of awe at the perks of power.

Cooper begins by complaining about the plane that carried her and Condoleezza Rice on foreign trips for the last few years, during her duty as diplomatic correspondent. On Rice's plane, Cooper said, the press "sat in the back and had a mix of economy and business seats, for which we drew straws. " Economy seats! Imagine the indignity.

Cooper couldn't wait for the supreme perk of her promotion to the White House beat:

I wanted the real thing. I wanted the double-decker plane. The one that has its own operating room for medical emergencies and special Air Force One tchotchkes. The one that carries the nuclear launch codes and various other highly classified paraphernalia. The one that didn’t have to stop to refuel every six hours.

Highly classified paraphernalia! Wowie zowie!

Cooper discovered she'd finally get her chance when told that Obama would give the NYT its first interview aboard Air Force One.

"I was thrilled that it would be on the plane," Cooper said. She and three other NYT reporters rode in the Presidential motorcade to the Columbus, Ohio airport to board the flight. "There it was, sitting on the tarmac in all of its enormous blue and white splendor," Cooper reported.

Next, Cooper's efforts to get herself a souvenir snapshot!

A flight attendant welcomed us on board and ushered us to our special cabin, outfitted with two big tables, each surrounded by four luxe leather chairs. One table was for us, labeled “NYT.” At the other table sat Zachary Space, the Ohio congressman. Within five minutes, I had dragooned Mr. Space to snap a photo of the four of us.

Emboldened, Cooper couldn't restrain herself: she was going to call her sister and tell her was she was!!!!

As we took off, the flight attendant motioned to the white telephone between one of my colleagues and me. “You can use the phone to make a call anywhere you want,” he said. I snatched up the phone, excitedly. “I’m going to call my sister from Air Force One!” I said.

I looked up into a solid wall of New York Times disapproval. All three of my colleagues were shaking their heads at me. “Don’t even think about it,” said one of them, Jeff Zeleny. Sighing, I put the phone back down.

Poor Helene! Jeff Zeleny is such big meanie party pooper. Well, at least he couldn't keep you from eating the out-of-this-world lunch, or checking out the super fantastic ladies' room:

Lunch was beer battered Cod fillets, baked to a crispy golden brown, and spicy chips with tartar sauce and slaw. And a to-die-for orange creamsicle cheesecake.

The bathroom is huge. There’s a cover that goes over the toilet that seemed to transform it into a long cot on one side of the wall. Seriously, a short person could actually lie down on the toilet cover.

Hey, Helene, that doesn't actually seem like such a swell idea.

Honestly, we don't quite get why you reporters lose your sense of balance and distance when given a seat on the presidential jet. We remember back in November, when your colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported that "it's cool to fly on Air Force One," and told us how she loves the presidential M&Ms.

Is it really appropriate for an NYT reporter to gush over a government plane, and to scam souvenir candy and make silly phone calls to family members, telling them where you are? Seems a little childish when you're there to interview the President of the United States about the momentous and painful issues facing this country.

Maybe Cooper should try to adopt a little of Barack Obama's famously cool personality, and lose her fascination with all things luxe and swank. She's got an important job to do, and we can't afford to have a White House reporter who forgets to ask tough, probing questions because she's too busy staring at the furniture.


Anonymous said...

Oh lighten up. It was a first-person web column. No one's credibility was hurt, and it was kind of nice to know that a high falutin' reporter is just like me or you when it comes to an institution like Air Force One. Love you guys, but this isn't even worth your time.

Anonymous said...

Agree, she sounds just like I'd be on Air force One. That's what's scary about it.
love the nytpicker!

Anonymous said...

Cooper's piece was great. According to Times style, an article like this should have had Air Force One thanking Cooper for being on board and blessing the plane with the Times's presence. You can substitute things like the British Parliament, all of Poland or most of South America for the jet and find it in the archive.
For once, a Times reporter is not so cool that she can't say "Wow!" The only disappointgment was that she didn't steal a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom. When in doubt, always take a souvenir.