Fourteen More Motorcades
I have covered George W Bush regularly since his first campaign trip in June of 1999, but this was something I had never seen before. On the final day of the bitterly contested 2004 campaign the President was scheduled to make 7 stops in 6 different states.
November 1, 2004 was different. Being in the travel pool on Air Force One normally shortens the day, eliminating the early departures and late arrivals on the press charter that follows the president whenever he goes. But on this day there would be no way to bring along a planeload of over 100 journalists to all the stops. The press charter would only make three stops.
The first line on the first page of our 26-page schedule has our pool call time listed as 5:00 am in the president's Cincinnati hotel. After 4 hours sleep the night before, nobody looked too happy that we arrived before coffee and breakfast for our daily security sweep. By 6:45 am we were off in a caravan of seven helicopters.
The first rally of the day in Wilmington, Ohio started at 7:30 am inside a chilly hanger on an airport tarmac. The crowd of several thousand had been in place for two hours, some arriving as early as 3 am. A shortened stump speech had been developed for the day, and we were off by 8:30.
As we arrive at each event we are escorted to a specially constructed platform to see Bush enter, surrounded on all sides by adoring supporters. Frequently we are not given any other option to shoot his arrival. After taking this photo once, some of us start to search for other options. We get lost on the crowd, or look for new perspectives. But on a day when the president walks on the stage the moment we arrive, this is a challenge.
By mid afternoon in Iowa, fatigue set in. Keeping up with downloading, editing, captioning & transmitting all the photos filled my travel time. On the plane from the first Iowa stop to the second, I fell asleep at my computer and woke up as we hit the ground 20 minutes later.
The day ended with a boisterous rally at a jam-packed field house at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Laura Bush's alma mater. It was Bush's final rally of the 2004 campaign, and possibly, some thought, of his political career. Many journalists had dropped off the press charter earlier in the day to fly commercially to Dallas for the final speech. President Bush was energized by the crowd but kept his emotions in check, looking with one eye on the election day ahead.
The logistics, constant movement, and lingering fatigue from weeks on the road, make good photography difficult. As a magazine photographer, I search for something different then bread and butter campaign photos the campaign serves up. Arriving early to an event on the press charter and staying late while the press corps files, leaves you more time to explore and linger. This proves an advantage on November 1st, even if you only see three of the seven events.
After 14 motorcades, 2 chopper rides, and 7 flights on Air Force One, I finally arrive in my hotel room 22 hours later. I then spend another hour finishing captions and sending photos back to New York from the day's events.
Pool call election day was 5:45 am, leaving 3 hours to sleep.
Now I know how the Clinton press corps must have suffered.
© Brooks Kraft
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