Today we talk with CNN’s Dana Bash, who, like many other Capitol Hill journalists this week, attempted to land an interview with the cantankerous Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). Here, she takes us step by step through the process.
1.You’ve been running around Capitol Hill for years. What have your experiences been with Sen. Bunning in the past? Has he been cordial, crusty? It’s hard to believe seeing the images over the past week of him flashing frustration, but there are times – usually off camera – when Senator Bunning is cordial. But the crusty times leave the more lasting impression.
Love him or hate him, you have to give Senator Bunning points for being consistent. He has never seemed all that concerned about what reporters think of him, and when you ask his colleagues, some say it’s not much different for them. After all, on the floor of the Senate last week, he said “tough sh**” to one of them!
2. What has it been like to chase down Bunning this week? Please describe your experiences and specifically where the quest for an interview with Bunning has taken you? It was in the Hart Senate Office building where the now infamous elevator incident occurred. I got to his office early with a camera crew and just waited until he finally snuck out a door on a different floor, and we all bolted to find him.
The next day, I happened to be in the Capitol subway and saw that Bunning was headed back to his office. I took a short cut to get there seconds ahead of him and tried again to ask him some questions as he got off the elevator. That time I stuck with him walking towards his office, until he closed the door in my face.
To be fair, I saw him a few other times in the Senate hallways this week without our camera, and he was more responsive. (Not very responsive, but more responsive.)
3.Does Bunning behave differently toward male and female anchors or is the senator an equal opportunity curmudgeon? Well, between [ABC’s] Jon Karl and me at the elevator, you had both Mars and Venus. He seemed mad at both of us. Yet, the next day my colleague Ted Barrett had an extended conversation with him on the Senate subway. Ted is 6 foot 7 inches.
Maybe it’s a tall thing, not a gender thing.
4.What is your technique (if you have one) to getting a senator to discuss a topic he or she does not wish to discuss? I remember you following Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) outside on Capitol Hill one day during the tense aftermath of his extramarital affair. Are these moments awkward? Sure, those moments are sometimes awkward, but I always try to be polite and respectful – and most of all fair. I think it’s my job to walk my beat and find the people I cover who have questions that should be answered. In the case of Senator Ensign, it was allegations that he broke Senate rules, and maybe even the law, that we were pursuing.
One of the things I love most about the Capitol Hill beat is that I have regular access to the lawmakers I cover.
5. There must be days when the job is extremely stressful. How do you manage to keep a seemingly genuine upbeat demeanor on your face at all times on air? Cable TV? Stressful? Never. The honest truth is that I work with an incredible team of people who are not only first rate journalists, but good friends who always try to keep me laughing.
And, I love what I do.
The following is a video of Bash’s latest brush with Bunning.
“I’ll bet you do,” the senator testily replies when Bash tells him she has questions. Watch it here.