Many on the White House Beat wrote in with some final thoughts for outgoing White House reporters Ed Chen and Warren Vieth, both of the Los Angeles Times. And despite Chen’s great reporting, most seem to remember him most for his ability to run fast and eat well.
One anecdote that helps illuminate Chen’s grace and humor comes from the Cheney’s Christmas party: (first reported in Reliable Source, Dec. 15…thanks to the Post’s Peter Baker for the reminder):
Three press types found themselves making small talk with [John] Roberts when Ed Chen of the Los Angeles Times asked how the “new gig is working out.”
“Great,” said Roberts.
The Post’s Mark Leibovich then asked the judge whether it’s . . . well, appropriate to describe the job of chief justice of the United States as a “gig.”
“Oh yes,” Roberts replied. “Absolutely.”
Both Chen and Vieth passed along some final comments. From Chen:
The White House press corps comprises perhaps the greatest collection of cantankerous, impossible-to-please neurotics that one could possibly find inside the Beltway.
But they also are among the sharpest, smartest and most dedicated bunch of professionals that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. I shall miss each and every one of them. Thanks for the memories!
I regret that I couldn’t spend more time on the White House beat. It’s been a great 13 months. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I doubt that I’ll ever again have the opportunity to work side by side with so many smart, creative, curious, funny, eccentric and genuinely good-hearted people. That, more than the reporting or the writing or the attention, is what attracted me to this profession in the first place.
More wonderful remembrances and anecdotes after the jump…
They are both about the nicest, most charming and discerning reporters I’ve known, ever, anywhere.
When I was new at the White House, Ed was the one who went out of his way to save me from the bouts of indignity and calamity that are the mandatory hazing experiences of the newly assigned. There is not a kinder, more helpful seatmate on the charter. And he is also a great wit, with an eye for the absurdities that make the beat so funny. Despite all his years at the White House, he never gave in to the easy cynicism that is so pervasive there.
Among Warren’s many distinctions is his fondness for Crawford. He also became notorious for breaking the unspoken covenant of the file by developing, on his first trip, a feature story about how a local investment club felt about Bush’s Social Security proposal. Not only did his industry incite the ire of those of us who insist there is no news in Crawford but what the president makes, he also set a dangerous precedent for himself, because then his editors expected a highly readable local feature every time Bush went to the ranch.
What I’ll miss most when Ed Chen leaves for California:
1.) His always interesting pool reports
2.) His incredible sense of humor
3.) His ability to get questions answered that few others in the White House Press Corps are able to do.
He’s going to be missed
When you spend countless hours packed like sardines in a WH pool van, you quickly become very grateful for colleagues who are genuinely a pleasure to be around. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Ed and Warren are two of the nicest people on the beat. Ed, especially, has been a big help to relative newcomers like me. He’s always quick to volunteer nuggets of institutional knowledge that have proven to be incredibly helpful–not just stodgy stuff like how often or not the president talks to the travel pool, but also the goods on how to pass time when you’re stationed in Crawford.
Ed’s also a big jogger. Last summer, Karl Rove made a rare visit to the press cabin on Air Force One just to tease Ed about the time he saw him running in upper Northwest. According to Rove, he drove up next to Ed and honked and waved trying to get his attention, but failed repeatedly. Personally, I don’t think I realized how dedicated Ed was to the sport until I saw him last August jogging around Waco in what must have been 90 degree heat. Wow!
Ed is a runner and we are all jealous that he can eat pretty much anything he wants without putting an ounce on his svelte figure. On the Bush campaign trail in 2004, one of the last stops was in Milwaukee, and the filing center fare included these huge steaming bratwursts. I’ll never forget Ed coming up and saying, “I just ate three bratwursts, and the third was as good as the first.” I still chuckle about that.
As the WH reporter who survived the Great Ed Chen Write-In Campaign for president of the WH Correspondents Assoc, I feel I am uniquely qualified to say “good riddance” to a guy who was too popular for his own good. I mean, who else could have blown the whistle with that expose of Bush43’s failing knees and lived to WALK away from the job?
And yes – Ed has been angling for the first-ever Pulitzer for WH pool reports-all that color and humor.
You should have seen the grin on his face when he came up the driveway last week with his wife and disappeared into the formal West Lobby (where Marines guard the door and Real People enter to see the President.) He got a farewell photo with 43.
Ed Chen is the only White House correspondent who, over his seven years on the job, actually lost weight. Traveling with the White House press corps is like living in an all-you-can-eat restaurant. The food never stops coming. But Ed rarely ate the chicken-fried steak or hogie sandwiches or stuffed potatoes. He would most often leave the buffet with a plate piled high of fresh salad and ripe fruit. And on all the overnight trips, he would rise early for a run, jogging through downtown St. Louis or Shanghai at an admirable clip. He’ll blend in easily in weight-conscious L.A.
One of the ironies of life is that Bush has personally appreciated Ed oh-these-many-years — for his straight, fair reporting and his unfailingly polite and respectful manner, but I believe the LA Times was never granted an interview with Bush because of White House hostility to the paper (or maybe to its readership). Or at least that was the status the last time I talked to Ed about this and I don’t think it changed, despite his best efforts….
Also, Ed is the kind of generous reporter who helps his colleagues at the LA Times AND his competitors on the beat, when circumstances call for sharing. It may seem a small thing, but Ed is the sort of reporter on pool duty who will get a top WH aide at an event to comment on something in the news and share the response or the quote with everyone as part of his pool report. That’s the way it’s supposed to be done, but there are senior WH correspondents for other major papers – who I will not name – who tuck those sorts of things into their notebooks and keep them for their own stories down the road.
We all love Ed! He is a journalism talent and a gentleman.
Ed Chen, happily, has always confirmed my belief that a truly great human being can also be a tough competitive reporter. He’s the champ.
And Warren Vieth, hopefully, will remind us that there is indeed life outside the rat race. We’ll miss them both.
Ed’s departure should mean lower catering bills for those of us who remain. When he dies, I hope he donates his body to science, because, even with his regimen of distance-running, it’s impossible to believe that he could eat between five and 8 meals a day on the road and never gain a pound. His body holds the dietary and metabolic secrets that will make some future diet peddler a very rich man.