Following the president on weekends can be dull. But it’s an important assignment with interesting moments — if you are patient.
By David E. Sanger
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WILMINGTON, Del. — It is one of the most rote tasks in White House reporting: covering the president on the weekends, when he wants to relax, go to church, play golf or just sit around reading the paper and talking on the phone. But it has to be done, and the answer, for decades, has been the White House “pool,” a small rotation of reporters who follow the president wherever he goes, even if the place he is going is somewhat mundane.
Most White House reporting, of course, involves investigative work, deep dives into policy and profiles of key figures. But I’ve done my share of pool reporting as well, notably when I covered the White House when Bill Clinton was president (good pool duty: he liked to sleep in, so no trip left before noon, though it might end at 2 a.m.) and for most of George W. Bush’s presidency (bad pool duty: he wanted to sleep in his own bed, so day trips from Washington to, say, California were not unheard-of).
But last weekend I found myself back in the pool van, looking out at the forsythia and weeping willows near the Biden’s house on the once-quiet Barley Mill Road on the edges of this city, watching the president … go to church … and golf.
I thought my pool van days were long behind me, and apparently so did my colleagues, based on their emails, as they saw my pool reports populate their inboxes once again. Some wondered whether these were old reports, held up in the digital ether during the Obama and Trump years. More than a few seemed to be enjoying the image of a 38-year veteran reporter of The Times, now 60, sitting back in the cramped seats.
“Hee, hee,” read an email from Helene Cooper, our military reporter, who, when she does Pentagon pool duty, at least gets to sleep on an aircraft carrier or ride the Doomsday Plane. I got the Westin Wilmington. They give you free bottles of water when you check in.
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