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In the afternoon session, the RNC moved us from their offices in a tony section of DC to an even tonier hotel, the Hay-Adams, to continue meeting with various strategists and political players inside the GOP. Being from out of town, I had no idea what a nice place the Hay-Adams was. As I explained to Patrick Ruffini, I'm more used to hotel employees holding doors to kick me out to the street than to welcome me inside. Nor was that the only surprise the RNC had in store for us.
At the end of a series of meetings with strategists, we met with the most senior strategist one can find in the White House: Karl Rove. He spent quite a bit of time with us discussing different issues, but we did promise to keep the specifics off the record. I can tell CQ readers that Mr. Rove comes across as warm, engaging, thoroughly knowledgeable, and very gracious. He knew most of our blogs well, and hoped to come up to speed on the rest. He teased me about not being Canadian -- I think I can reveal that much -- and he also mentioned that CQ has a spot on his browser favorites, along with Red State and Town Hall.
He spent most of his time answering our questions rather than coming with a speech, and being mindful that bloggers get few opportunities for this kind of access, we talked quite a bit with him and his staff about the general politics of the war, the legislature, and the upcoming election cycle. I think I speak for everyone when I say that he had our complete attention during the meeting, and quite frankly, I think we all found ourselves a little surprised to have received that kind of attention. (Some CQ readers will assume the meeting was to do a chip upgrade for Mr. Rove's implant in my brain. If so, it seems to have worked well.)
Our second surprise followed immediately afterward, when Fred Barnes closed out our session. He brought copies of his new book, Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush. As Mr. Barnes is not just one of my pundit/literary favorites but also now my boss -- I write a weekly column for the Daily Standard -- I was delighted to finally meet him in person. He brought each of us a copy of the new book and talked at length about his analysis of Bush as president. The book itself only takes 55,000 words, a fairly quick read for political analyses these days; he told us that he thinks books that go much longer than that usually require better editing. The discussion led into a much more general discussion about what we thought Bush's legacy might be, the state of politics inside the Beltway, and the decline of seriousness in the mainstream media, especially in their demand that the American president serve as emoter-in-chief. The book looks very interesting, and I'm hoping to devour it on the flight home on Wednesday.
I'd love to tell more about the sessions this afternoon, but right now I'm at dinner with the First Mate, who is getting exhausted from a long day and needs to hit the sack soon. Besides, I'm getting a message from the implant that says I'd better wrap this up ... I must obey ...
UPDATE through the laughter: I love the idea currently cropping up in the comments that I have lost all credibility because I told everyone we met with Karl Rove yesterday for an off-the-record chat. Since I can't tell you what we spoke about, everyone assumes (a) Karl did all the talking, (b) all of us nodded our heads and agreed with him, and (c) we've done something different than every reporter in town. Would you have considered me more credible if I never told you that we met with Rove, or less? And would it have been off the record if Karl had just wanted to emphasize the Republican talking points, or would he have wanted us to go out and promptly blog it, or post it right from the room where we met?
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