The nation and its capital saw some extraordinary news made
during 2004 - much of it tied to an election campaign that brought a
sprinkling of new faces to Washington even as President Bush held
onto the Oval Office despite deep public divisions.
As part of our effort to help put it all in perspective, the
Monitor hosted some 73 newsmaker breakfasts and lunches in
Washington and at the political conventions.
On a good morning, our breakfast guest may offer a new
perspective on some issue in the news. And in the process of
nibbling at their eggs and bacon and chatting for an hour with 25
reporters, our guests often reveal something of their character. A
window on the mental qualities that the newsmaker brings to his or
her job helps reporters write
more insightful stories.
Some breakfasts are memorable just because they happen at all.
After two years of sending invitations, in late
December Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed to be our guest
for lunch. The session began almost too memorably when a cabdriver
ignored Mr. Powell's security team and came within inches of backing
into the secretary's armored Cadillac at the hotel entrance.
Striding into the dining room, Powell was impeccably tailored in a
dark blue suit, standing ramrod straight like the Army general he
Powell offered a spirited defense of the administration's foreign
policy and several flashes of humor. When asked to describe his
relationship with the current president he quipped, "I only describe
them after I've left."
The secretary is charming but maintains a reserve that perhaps is
a remnant of the command presence a general develops - fraternizing
neither with the troops nor the journalists.
The most emotionally unguarded moments of this year's breakfasts
occurred in our late July session with John Kerry's daughters: 30-
year-old, raven-haired Alexandra and 27-year-old, blond Vanessa.
They had not yet retreated into the land of prepackaged, plastic
responses that candidates and their families often adopt. Instead,
at least for the hour they spent with us, they were gracious,
articulate, intelligent, funny, and open about their fears.
"To be totally candid, I am scared. Definitely," Vanessa said.
"There are things that you want to be sacred. You want your friends,
your private jokes. You want those moments. You want to know you can
walk down the street and not have someone just come up and just give
you a kiss on the cheek because they think they can, which has
While the Kerry daughters were reluctant politicians, Barack
Obama is a natural, one of the most naturally gifted politicians I
have met. …