Porkbusters Go To Washington: Bloggers Attend Transparency Bill Signing Ceremony

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 26, 2006 3:01 PM


So, that's the picture I took this morning. I kinda wish I'd gotten a more handsome one of him-- I do love it when he smirks-- but I didn't want to spend the whole time taking pictures. No, I wanted to spend the whole time nodding in agreement and trying to make eye contact-- which I did.

Why'd they let me so close the President? I was at the bill-signing ceremony for S. 2590, the Coburn/Obama transparency bill that came to be passed with a huge assist from the blogosphere. For the assist, a couple bloggers got an invite to the signing, and I was lucky enough to be among them.

Mostly I just wanted photographic proof of proximity. Allah got me some more. I show up in the White House webcast of the event. I'm wearing a red dress, on the left of the center section, messing with my hair-- predictable. I went all out, wore the red dress and snagged a seat, second-row, center, but it was Ace who got the Fox shot and the Presidential handshake. Go figure, huh? It must be the cool nickname.

The President didn't mention bloggers or Internets or even people power in his remarks, which I thought was silly. One sentence and he would have been talked about all day. Of course, he's being talked about anyway, but had he said "bloggers," he would have been hailed. And, everyone knows that "hailed" is much more to the Chief's liking than merely "talked about."   

I was sitting over by Ace when we first got to the event, on the far left side of the room as you look at the webcast. I sat there until everyone got very quiet right before the President walked in, at which point my former boss from The Heritage Foundation pointed out a chair in the center section second row. She told me to go grab it. She had to tell me a couple times, since I assumed it surely belonged to someone. It seems it didn't. I "excuse-me'd" my way down the row and over to the center, but not without banging the heel of my shoe on a chair, of course. I got seated just in time to settle down before the President walked in.

My first impression? Dude walks with purpose. I had barely registered the "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States" announcement and he was already halfway to the podium. I had that singularly dumb thought I always have when I see a famous person up close-- "Hey, he looks just like hisself!" Um, yes, he does.

The remarks were no big whoop. Standard talk about "folks" being able to keep an eye on government and how it's spending. I was sitting near the photog pool, and it was entertaining to hear all the shutters whisper-click at once every time Bush made one of his trademark hand gestures. It was also entertaining to see that Bush knew that's exactly what they were looking for and served it up-- just one of those unspoken deals between public figure and the press.

Bush then moved over to the little baby desk (wow, it's a seriously baby desk) they had put out for him, and the Members shuffled along behind him, subtly jockeying for position. He signed the bill which, of course, means it's no longer "just a bill." But y'all know that lesson.



My favorite part. He stood up, clapped his hands together and said, "You're dismissed," with a big smile. He breezed out of the room, waved to various sections, head-nodded in general directions, and thanked the crowd, but only Ace got the coveted handshake. The end seat served him well.

After that, we had a briefing with Clay Johnson of OMB about the nitty-gritty of implementing the bill. I was encouraged to see that there are deadlines in place for making it happen and that OMB is aggressively seeking blogger and public input on what the new site should do.

The whole thing was a thrill for me, a great recognition of what blogging can do, and a move toward making government more transparent and accountable to the public. All around, a very good day.

More pictures and accounts here, here, and here.

Update: N.Z. has good pictures..