CBS Radio White House Correspondent Mark Knoller is on the President’s European tour this week. We caught up with him somewhere between Ireland and London to bring you his thoughts from the road. The above photograph is Knoller in the U.S. TV workspace in London.
1. Did you see any volcanic ash on your way out of Ireland and did news of it scare you? Haven’t seen a bit of ash. Inside the filing center all day. Sort of a self-contained ash hole.
2. What has been the most exciting part of your voyage so far to Ireland and London? Ireland’s beautiful. Most verdant country on the planet. Nothing really exciting yet, unless the it was the fast-paced, live-on-the-razor’s edge world of World Leader Ping Pong. President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron played “table tennis” as doubles against a couple of school kids.
3. What is the best/worst thing you’ve eaten? My palate runs to the tastes of an 11 year old. Rarely try new things. Peanut butter crackers and Slim Jims are all you need on a presidential trip. But the worst food I ever heard of on a presidential trip but wouldn’t try on a bet: On a Bill Clinton trip to Moscow in 1994, we were told that the dinner menu at Pres. Boris Yeltsin’s dacha included – still have trouble saying it – moose lips.
4. Tell us something interesting about any of the places you’ve stayed so far. Can be some detail about the room or an example of foreign hospitality or anything else you care to share. There was no clock in the hotel room in Dublin. Tick tock. Happily, I travel with three timekeeping devices: my watch, Blackberry and cell phone.
5. What is the most unusual thing you’ve witnessed on this trip? Back to the Ping Pong table at Global Academy in London. Can’t recall ever seeing two foreign leaders share one side of a table tennis table.
6. What is the most heartening thing you’ve observed? Still on the lookout for something heartening. If you had asked for irritating, there’s plenty. 2:45 a.m. bus call Thursday leaving London. UK will make us go through their TSA screening. France made us get finger-printed for a visa.
7. Who has made the biggest impression on you during this trip and why? White House Travel Director Ashley Tate-Gilmore. She puts up with a whiney, complaint-ridden press corps and gets us from venue to venue almost flawlessly. She does a great job and deserves more of our gratitude than she gets.
8. What do you think of ‘Is féidir linn,’ President Obama’s Irish version of “Yes we Can?” It was a good line line – though it’s always risky to insert foreign words into a presidential speech. It’s ripe for a trip-up. But not this time. It was one of two top soundbites of the day. The other: “My name is Barack Obama – of the Moneygall Obamas.”