Self-centered. Self-serving. Smug. Fawning. Incurious.
Back in 2006, I was a video tracker for the Jim Webb senatorial campaign in Virginia against George "Macaca" Allen. I spent many days with Allen and his staffers, as well as with the journalists covering the last month of the hotly-contested race. David Gregory coptered in for a day to get the latest (and to suck up).
Allen was surrounded with sleazoids and out-and-out thugs. I am not kidding, the atmosphere around this weak-dick candidate was reminiscent of 1932 Germany. Allen himself seemed somewhat unbalanced, probably gobsmacked by the earlier Macaca incident. He has patches of red on his cheeks and seemed physically weak and uncertain. He appeared much like Romney does today -- alternately overly energetic then lethargic, always uncomfortable.
A tracker has an ambivalent job. I can say that the tracker for Allen, who followed Jim Webb, was treated with a short of bemused tolerance and personal respect. Indeed, he became something of a bellwether of the effectiveness of events. He was invited to open events, provided with schedules, and informed when events were private.
Follow me over the croissant for more about the day I tried to give David Gregory a news tip.
The first encounter in Arlington that I had with the Allen staffers was just silly. The second one at the Charlottesville Airport was not. I'm a small middle-aged woman carrying a 7 pound camera -- I was pushed and shoved, wedged between two large young men staffers. The reporters there were so outraged that two of them placed themselves on either side of me so I could shoot without physical threat and intimidation.
Enter David Gregory. The next week, I was shooting in Arlington at an Allen event, when David Gregory walked in. Although he looks like a small fellow on TV, he is actually quite tall -- 6'4" or more. His head looks disproportionately small for his body size, and he has a schoolboy manner of carrying his lanky frame and a vapid, perpetually grinning facial expression - much as he appears on Meet the Press.
I watched Gregory during the pre-interview tech set-up, chatting with Allen like he a long-lost frat brother. I couldn't hear much above the noise in the room, but it was clear they were comfortable, cokin' and jokin.' Gregory was like a 9th grader on his first date -- smiling blankly, batting his eyelashes, a clear case of mancrush or, more likely, celebrity politician crush. Of course, both men sat straighter in their chairs for the actual interview, giving at least the appearance of seriousness.
From my experience at the Charlottesville Airport, I thought there was something seriously wrong with the Allen campaign. I don't think pushing and shoving is any part of a campaign. I had never encountered such behavior during many years of experience in national, state and local campaigns.
I felt concern about the staffers' thuggish behavior. In fact, later in the campaign, then-law student Mike Stark was chased by these same staffers, knocked down, and slammed against a sliding glass door before being tossed out of an Allen press conference. It was exactly this kind of action I hoped to prevent. Here's a local TV station article about that incident.
So on that day of the Allen interview, when Gregory took a comfort break, I followed him to the men's room and waited for him to come out. When he did, I told him I was a video tracker and that there was information he should know. He looked at me with absolutely no expression, said nothing, and walked away. In short, I have never seen such a complete lack of curiosity in any journalist, anywhere in the world.
I've been a journalist for 30 years, in the old Soviet Union, Poland, Cambodia, and Iraq in 2003, producing for ABC and NBC and other outlets. I've probably been to more press conferences than birthday parties. When I say I have never seen a less curious journalist, I can't tell you how utterly surprised I was. Most journalists crave information, even mediocre information. They may even be titillated by bad and ridiculous information. Such a low level of alertness is simply unheard-of in the journalism business.
Suspicions confirmed: David Gregory is no journalist. He is a callow, insipid mouthpiece for mediaspeak (at best) and, more likely, a Repub tool. Big surprise, I know.