Wednesday , April 24 2024
How often would I get a chance to meet and interview a president I'd voted for?

Reflecting On My Al Gore Encounter

During my approximately 13 years as a newspaper reporter I had many highs and lows. I learned everything from how to manufacture a meth lab – a defendant argued, from the witness stand, that she could not have caused the meth lab fire that claimed the lives of her kids, because she was too skilled at what she did, as she spelled it out step by step – to why writing music criticism is not my cup of tea.

I stop and reflect from time to time about some of those experiences.

Sure, there are a few nightmares like covering the trial and sentencing of a serial killer or covering way too many fatal traffic accidents. And there were the funny moments, especially when interviewing people as they turn 100 and hear what it is they are mad about. ("They took away my driver's license! Just because I drove into a house! Who hasn't?")

But today I wanted to stop and answer a question a friend asked me recently. She wanted to know the circumstances of this photo, probably the favorite photo taken of me while in action.

The backstory to the photo: It was about a month or two after the election. We'd heard that his son's lacrosse team was playing a local private school's team. I volunteered for the interview thinking, “How often would I get a chance to meet and interview a president I'd voted for?”

I arrived and had a dilemma. He was sitting by himself in the stands and was clearly enjoying the freedom of being away from everything. And here I was about to burst that bubble and ask, in so many words, how's life after one of the most public and contentious presidential election losses in recent history.

If I walked toward him from in front of him he'd see me, note the reporter's notebook and would have the chance to say, "no comment" and I'd have to return to work, head down, saying I didn't have a story. In the photo you see a Newsweek in my jacket pocket, proving once again that I take reading material everywhere I go.

I wrote down things Gore said which consisted of brilliant, eloquent comments like "Go!" and "Yeah!" Finally I decided it was time to make my move. I jumped onto the bleachers behind him, jumped a few steps (i was so afraid I'd fall and be really embarrassed since I am a total klutz.

The good news is my plan worked. As far as he was concerned I appeared out of nowhere, standing next to him, asking him how the game was going, what he thought of our fair county, before moving on to tougher ground like "What's he going to do now?" I was counting on him being too polite to end the interview amid discussion of his son's lacrosse game. Amid that interview that photo was shot.

But speaking of shot, I almost was. Shot, that is.

Seems that the photographer said he spotted at least three men,secret service guys – who I'd detected before but ignored – who reached for their guns when I jumped over to the former vice president. It probably didn't help that I was taking something out of my pocket. That it was a notebook, not a gun, was known to me but not to them. So I got my interview but also could have been maimed, if not killed. And THAT – as Paul Harvey would say – is the REST of the story

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been working in mental health for the last ten years. He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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