Opinion » Bill Cope

The Press Conference

Part One

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You'll never guess who I was with last week. C'mon ... try. Not that you'll ever guess. But just think about it for a minute: Who's the most unlikely person Cope might have been with on the afternoon of June 26? Hmm? Hah! You'll never guess!

I'll give you a hint: He's not from Idaho, and he's very, very important. Like, giga-important. Probably the most important person in Idaho at the time ... even though he didn't stay very long, and even though there's a good chance he only came here in the first place to avoid being at work when some embarrassing subpoenas started showing up around Washington, D.C. But nevertheless, he was here, and if he ever resigns in disgrace like he oughta, some day I'll be able to tell my grandkids, "You know that incompetent, crooked little lying sum'bitch who resigned in disgrace because he got caught helping Karl Rove turn our Justice Department into a whore house for the Republican Party? Well babies, I was with him on the afternoon of June 26, 2007."

Uh, that was actually more hint than I intended to give. I guess I got carried away because I am still coming down from the high of my first press conference. Can you believe it? I attended my very first press conference last week! I bet most of you thought I was a regular press conference-attending fool, but no. I had never been to one in my life, not until then. Normally, press conferences are something only journalists go to, and you can look through everything I have ever written, and nowhere will you find me claiming to be a journalist. In fact, I've gone to great lengths to disabuse my readers of any notion I am a journalist.

Yet there I was. Me! At a press conference! And you'll never guess who was holding it ... uh ... OK, I suppose that cat is out of the bag. It was Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general of the United States of America. By the time you read this, he will have been gone from Idaho for over a week, and it wouldn't surprise me if almost everyone has forgotten he was ever here. But not me. I'll never forget. How could I ever forget the man I was with during my very first press conference?

Let me tell you how it came to pass that Alberto and I spent five glorious minutes together. My editor called: "Alberto Gonzales is going to be in Boise tomorrow and he's holding a press conference. You want to tag along with me? You might get a column out of it." I said, "Gee, boss. I don't know. How's about if I let you know in the morning." He said, "Sure thing, Bill. But consider it. You could even ask Gonzales a question, maybe." Hmmm, I thought. If I could ask Alberto Gonzales one question, what would it be?

I was nervous just thinking about going. You know, when you go to a press conference, it's not just the person holding it that you have to worry about. What if I walked in and came face to face with Dee Sarton or Dan Popkey or any number of local journalists? And what if I had to wear a name tag and Dee or Dan were to read it and say, "'Bill Cope?' Who are you kidding? You ain't no journalist!" How would I answer that? And I didn't even know what to wear! I had to call my editor back and ask if all the real journalists wore suits and ties to press conferences. I was relatively certain Alberto Gonzales would be wearing a suit and tie. I can't even imagine what he might look like without a suit and tie, can you? It's like trying to picture Dee Sarton without any ... uh, never mind.

Anyway, in the end, I decided to go. It's not every day a fella gets to see the attorney general of the entire U.S. of A., even if he is a crooked, little lying sum'bitch. The press conference was scheduled for 2:30 p.m., so I cleared my whole day. I didn't want anything to make me late to my first press conference. When my editor and I got to the Boise Community Center, we were surprised to find the press conference was to be held outside, in front of the building. In the sun. I was immediately happy I hadn't worn a suit and tie. I even had a moment of sympathy for Alberto Gonzales, knowing he would be standing at the podium in the sun. In a suit and tie. Poor Alberto, I thought. He's gonna burn up.

To make matters worse for Gonzales, all the local progressive networks had sent out an Alberto alert, and about 80 demonstrators had shown up. They all carried signs with messages ranging from condemnation of torture to condemnation of the suspension of habeas corpus and condemnation of the politicization of the Justice Department—all issues with which Alberto has become closely associated. Frankly, those are about the only reasons most people would even show up to see Alberto Gonzales, isn't that about right? If he weren't such a lousy excuse for an attorney general, I doubt he could attract a crowd if he were naked.

As it turned out, someone—possibly Alberto, himself—decided it wasn't such a good idea to hold a press conference in front of so many demonstrators. Again, I had to sympathize. If I were a crooked, little lying sum'bitch, I wouldn't get myself into situations where almost everyone there was pointing that out, either. So a smiling young fellow in a suit and tie came out and announced they were moving the press conference inside, to one of those big, government buildings with armed cops at the entrance—are there any left that don't have armed cops at the entrance?—and postponed it until 4 o'clock. They also stipulated that no one would be allowed in other than "credentialed representatives of the press." Uh-oh!

Crap, I didn't even know if my editor was a "credentialed representative of the press," and I was just tagging along. I figured that was the end of the story, right there. Stood up on my very first press conference.

"Still want to go?" asked my editor. "Gee, boss," I said. "I'm not even a real journalist, so I'm pretty sure I'm not credentialed as one." "Let me make a call," he said. "I'll bet we can get you in. Only trouble is, I have something else to do so I can't go. You'll be by yourself."

Well, phooey! Not only had Alberto stood me up, but my double date was bailing on me. I hung around while he made that call, hoping like hell they would tell him I couldn't get in.

"You're set to go," he said. "You know where it's at, don't you?"

Be sure to join me next week as I go to my very first press conference ... alone ... where I don't ask the attorney general of the United States of America the only question I could think of to ask him.

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