Friday, February 03, 2012

Who Gets to Decide Whom the Media Is? Part 14 Obama

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

September 27, 2010

Obama’s scheduled arrival was 6:55 p.m.

White House Media Affairs Office Associate Director of Press Advance Brandon Lepow, along with John Cochran and staff of Kirtland's 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office met members of the press at a gate to the base to escort them to Base Operations.
The escort was delayed momentarily while a recording of retreat was followed by the national anthem as the Base flag was lowered at 5:00 PM. Xavier Mascareñas, above right checked shirt, salutes while Albuquerque Journal Photographer Morgan Petroski, far right, watches.

Mascareñas, a 2008 Photojournalism graduate of UNM, photographs for The Journal News from New York’s lower Hudson Valley.

He has served as:
Staff photographer at the Weekly Alibi, Albuquerque, N.M.
Multimedia/photo editor at the NM Daily Lobo, Albuquerque, N.M.
Photo intern at the Austin American-Statesman, Austin, Texas
Senior photographer at the The Daily Times, Farmington, N.M.
Staff photographer at The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.

The professionalism of the White House staffer Lepow and Kirtland’s Public Affairs office stands out in stark contrast to the media handlers of the gubernatorial campaigns.

There were no political events scheduled during the president’s visit according to Lepow.
The local press, made up mostly of still photographers and TV reporter – photographer crews set up on a gooseneck trailer, which provided an unusually stable platform. As the sun went down, the shadows began lengthening across the tarmac. The C-17 support aircraft used to ferry the, “secure package,” of Secret Service vehicles: the SUV limousines follow up and communications vehicles sat in the sunlight.
KOB TV Political Reporter Stuart Dyson did a teaser live shot leading up to the 6:30 Eyewitness Newscast. I overheard a Secret Service radio transmission announcing, “six minutes” until arrival.
Air Force One flew over the Manzano Mountains to the South, then approached from the southwest landing on runway 3 to the northeast touching down at 6:35 p.m.
Upon touch down, two Secret Service vehicles followed the VC-25 military transport, tail number 29000, an aircraft based on a Boeing 747-200B, to Base Operations.
Air Force One represents the power of the United States of America; with the majestic bearing of the White House, but it has wings and cruises at Mach 0.85, about 600 mph.
These Air Force pilots have got to consider this to be the best flying assignments around, maybe only after getting to fly one of the hottest fighters in the inventory.
This Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor from the 49th Wing stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on the taxiway is the proud display of American military might and power. It took off about 25-minutes before the arrival of the President. If the pilot flew directly to Holloman at just under Mach speed, half the capable speed of the aircraft, the pilot would have had his/her feet on the ground before the President.
As the aircraft departed to the east, it performed a max-performance take-off; upon lifting off the runway, it retracted its gear, flew level with full after burners lit, then rotated to vertical and went straight up on a smokeless column of fire and noise, with greater thrust than its weight, until it disappeared from sight, when the pilot shut off the after burner.
The president’s arrival was not a "public event," but it was attended by a welcoming line of state and local dignitaries and about a hundred people corralled in a holding pen.
President Obama stepped out of Air Force One into the golden light of a clear-skied New Mexico late summer setting sun, which clearly impressed him.
Obama is greeted by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, one of 24 official greeters; local politicians, party loyalists, and office seekers assembled to meet him, included:
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson,
U.S. Congressman Martin Heinrich, (D) N.M.
Santa Fe Mayor David Coss,
Kirtland Air Force Base Commanders, 
Brig. Gen. Evrerett H. ThomasAir Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander,
Col. Robert L. Maness, 377th Air Base Wing commander,
New Mexico State Treasurer James Lewis,
New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas,
New Mexico Democratic Party Lt. Gov. candidate Brian Colõn,
former First Lady of New Mexico Clara Apodaca,
LaDonna Giron, lawyer,
President of the NEA NM Sharon Morgan,
Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz,
Maureen Sanders, lawyer,
one unknown woman,
President and Chief Executive Officer Center for Civic Values Michelle Giger,
Bruce Barnaby, New Mexico Democratic Party Rules Committee,
John Pound, Santa Fe Attorney, Obama New Mexico campaign coordinator,
former U.S. Senator Fred Harris, (D) Oklahoma and UNM,
President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)-New Mexico and is also the President of the NM State Federation of Labor Christine Trujillo,
Governor of the Pueblo of Pojoaque George Rivera,
Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department Alvin Warren, and
New Mexico State Rep. Al Park, (D) Bernalillo County.
About halfway thru the reception line, Obama paused to take in the sunset. Though in a crowd, he clearly took a moment for himself. Chief White House Photographer Pete Souza, to the right of this picture turned to see at what the President was looking. To the left of the President is a balding man, Bruce Barnaby, to his left is a woman with grey hair, she is Michelle Giger. Souza failed to photograph her when Obama shook her hand because of the distraction of the setting sun.
As the president continued to speak with the greeters, Congressman Heinrich, Mayor Berry, and Gov. Richardson, turned to admire Air Force One.
Security was tight as usual with United States Secret Service Special Agents, USSS Uniformed Division manning magnetometers, and counter-sniper teams, in abundance.
Army dog handlers of the 79th Ordnance Battalion from Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas, checked through all media equipment and guests. State, County and City law enforcement agencies provided motorcade escort, route control, and added event site security.
The always agent protected presidential Chevrolet Suburban was placed so the President is only steps away from a secured environment. It moves where he moves.
The “Football” with the nuclear launch codes was passed from a Naval Officer to a Marine Major. The “Football” is never far from president in case there is a need to respond a nuclear attack.
I talked with Colõn a minute about the situation of my not being allowed by his campaign to cover or photograph Denish.

“I’ll talk with you any time; you know I like you,” Colõn said to me, as he walked alone to the hanger after he had separated from the reception line group to glad hand one of the people sequestered in the public greeters pen.
The 26-member flight crew of Air Force One buttons up the plane and leaves it in the charge of the Air Force Security Police and the Secret Service for the night.

September 28, 2010

After the Andy Cavalier family backyard event with neighbors in the South Valley, the Democratic Party managed to sneak in a partisan political event, a photo op, when Denish took Obama to the Barelas Coffee House.

He talked to staff and patrons, saying vote Democrat. Obama ordered take out, saying he was paying for it himself so the press wouldn’t blame him for leaving without paying, according to the local pool report through the White House Media Affairs Office by Albuquerque Journal’s political reporter Sean Olson.
The press covering Air Force One’s departure was escorted to Base Operation’s ramp and passed through a series of checkpoints under heavy security to wait a couple of hours in the hot sun.
The staff of the Kirtland Air Force Base Public Affairs office sought some shade under the trailer being used as a press riser/camera platform.
Arriving at Kirtland Air Force Base, Obama got out of the SUV, put on his jacket, ran up the steps, to Air Force One.
Pete Souza’s exclusive access, lower left, allowed him to make a picture using the flags in his foreground, on the SUV.

My efforts to incorporate the presidential and American flags both days instantly fell as Souza got “the” picture.

The President stopped at the top of the steps, turned around giving about a three-second wave.
This Naval Lieutenant Commander stood in the shade of the wing, chatting with a secret service agent while awaiting the Marine to hand off the “Football”.
The Marine Major showed a sigh of relief; another assignment completed without having to fulfill the duty for which he is ultimately trained; no nuclear war on his watch.
Lepow, center with his back turned, shepherded the about 20 members of D.C. Press corps as they loaded up on Air Force One.
The senior Air Force Non-Commissioned Officers seen reflected in the highly polished silver skin of the aircraft are the last to board.
Within moments of the rear door being secured, the jets roared to life and as the plane turned, one of two Secret Service agents turns to avoid the jet blast.
The massive VC-25, in an effort to engage in noise abatement procedures, departed to the southwest, raising a huge cloud of dust along the way. Aircraft of this size are not regular visitors to the Sunport. Air Force One, hidden in the tree, under the light pole, turned north heading to its next stop, Madison, Wis.
Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department’s Eurocopter AS 350 B3 flew aerial surveillance during the motorcade’s movement returns to its hanger on Kirtland.
So what’s wrong with this picture?

President Obama’s September 27-28, 2010 visit was choreographed to as close to perfection as a fluid event as might be expected. Every detail is meticulously staged, but where else is a man arriving on an airplane met by forty or more media cameras, and a hundred or so people who willingly call themselves friends on hand to greet him.

The credential verification process by the White House Media Affairs Office was handled in the normal course of business.

In speaking with Associate Director of Press Advance Lepow about how the President’s media affairs office deals with news organizations perceived as less than supportive of the administration’s agenda? “They get in,” Lepow said, “taking hits is just part of the political process.”

Not all presidential administrations have been so open; maybe not even this one.

I made numerous attempts to cover President George W. Bush’s visits to Albuquerque with little success.

On June 16, 2006, I photographed President Bush’s limousine with Rep. Heather Wilson going to a private fundraiser. I entitled my post, “Can We See George?

Part of the post was about retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Sullivan, who had piloted Vice President Walter Mondale’s Air Force Two. Mondale was Jimmy Carter’s vice president, for their one-term from 1977 to 1981. Sullivan was dismayed when Air Police stopped us from watching President Bush embark Air Force One. There is something fundamentally wrong when American citizens can’t go to the airport to see their president board their tax-paid airplane and watch it take-off. Sullivan said.

You might recall during the 2006 Congressional District race, First Lady Laura Bush visited Albuquerque on November 3. I applied for credentials through an Albuquerque based volunteer staffer at New Mexico Victory, who was handling press matters for the White House. He later informed me that I passed the Secret Service’s background check and was authorized a pass.

However, before arriving at the event the volunteer staffer left a voice mail message that someone locally quashed my name denying me access. Before it was over, I was never able to ascertain who overrode the White House and Secret Service, be it the State Party Chairman Allen Weh, Rep. Heather Wilson’s campaign, or NM Victory.

You may also recall the Aug. 27, 2007, visit of President Bush to Albuquerque and more specifically, the Village of Los Rancho de Albuquerque’s Mayor Larry Abraham’s home on Rio Grande Boulevard, for a Sen. Pete Domenici fund-raiser.

The non-pooled press corps was relegated to a far off cordoned area along with protestors while President Bush’s supporters were allowed to stand across the road from the main driveway to cheer him on. The American Civil Liberties Union, in pursuing a lawsuit, obtained the October 2002, "Presidential Advance Manual," in which there were strict instructions on how to eliminate protesters’ access to see and petition their government.

I eventually was able to photograph President Bush’s arrival and departure on May 27, 2008, when he attended a fund-raiser for Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White who was in a primary race for the Republican nomination for New Mexico’s First Congressional District; a seat vacated by Rep. Heather Wilson who was running for the Senate Seat of then retiring Sen. Pete Domenici.

As tightly choreographed as the presidential administrations have become, the Obama administration, which promised to be more transparent seems to put on a more polished show than did the Bush administration. However, there is still a struggle, especially for the reporters covering this administration, in getting to the information.
However, getting visuals of President Obama’s arrival and his basking in the warm New Mexico sunset light with his political supporters and those seeking his support, Democratic Party Lt. Gov. candidate Brian Colõn, was no problem.

No comments: