The Art of the Hallway Interview

Want to talk to the author of the goverment tax bill? Merely stick to him down the hall as he goes to vote, will make his way to a policy lunch with his co-workers or leaves a committee hearing (where you have already been standing by a back again doorway looking forward to him to emerge).

I have chased people of Congress straight down hallways in high heels, rain boots and, once, because a sneaker fell off, sock-footed. As more news organizations send more reporters in to the Capitol Hill fray, addressing lawmakers from the swarm that envelops them because they emerge from the Senate subway can be more challenging.

Like my colleagues, I discovered which elevator they favored to use within their office buildings, and at what time and where on the Capitol campus they tended to consume breakfast. I memorized their jogging patterns to and from workplace buildings, and tried to monitor them midday.

Some lawmakers, like Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, seem to enjoy the stalking, and so are happy to talk to reporters in hallways at just about any hour of your day or night. Others, like Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, and Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, almost uniformly refuse to talk when approached, march straight ahead barking “No comment” or look up at an area on the ceiling that all of a sudden seems fascinating.

Many simply repeat talking points honed in these coverage lunches. Others, like Mr. Corker and Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, speak quite candidly – and frequently eloquently – when unscripted. Some will speak just on an extremely limited number of topics, to an extremely specific group of reporters (sometimes house state writers, in some cases those whom they have known for years, sometimes just conservative or liberal media); others pretend to end up being talking on a cellphone when approached. This is pretty transparent, yet the strategy lives on.

While almost all of our hallway pursuits are in the interest of Murphy Brown-like quote fulfillment, there are lots of other types of reporting that may go on in halls, especially when a reporter gets a senator or House member alone.

Lawmakers might confirm rumors, provide ideas and offer guidance in regards to what other persons in Washington – White Property officials among them – are up to. Many can unpack a policy target, unravel the politics of a particular bill and tell you who said what in a gathering. Hallway interviews are also an excellent, if painstaking, approach to figure out how a costs that appears to be too near call is going to turn out.

As I noted on Twitter in 2015 when I was racking your brains on whether a national security costs had the votes in the Senate to move: “I’ve stalked Republicans just like a crazy ex girl for a week, and my best guess is there are 57 votes in the Senate for USA Independence now.” 57 it was.

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All praise be to hallways, and their backbreaking tile floor surfaces.

Keep the conversation going tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. at Washington, D.C.’s Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater, where Jennifer Steinhauer moderates a discussion about bipartisanship with Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, and Senator Tag Warner, a Democrat. To find out more also to purchase tickets, just click here.

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