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Old 20th Apr 2015, 08:09
  #92 (permalink)  
Ecce Homo! Loquitur...
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Brighton
Age: 65
Posts: 9,676
The Times: A glimpse of Hillary? You’ll be lucky

It was just before 1pm and we were standing in a college car park in a tiny town called Monticello, Iowa. It was a warm day: pale sunlight gleamed on the colossal steel silos of a fertiliser dispensary and bounced off the white roofs of television trucks. Men in suits sweated gently as they made live TV reports for their viewers. I recognised a few faces: a chap from the BBC, a British newspaper reporter I’ll call Dave, and a British photographer who usually does big celebrity shoots for magazines. I’ll call him Gareth. Gareth had arrived in a pair of luminous orange trousers. “He doesn’t stick out at all,” Dave muttered to me, as we watched him tramping towards us across a field.

Somewhere out there in the undulating countryside of eastern Iowa, Hillary Clinton was at large. A few American reporters had seen her briefly the previous day. They had been summoned to a bakery in one town, and then given the address of a café in a tiny village a 20-minute drive north along the Mississippi river. Even these lucky few had not seen much. A French reporter for the AFP agency claimed to have seen her black van. “What did it look like?” another reporter asked him. He shrugged. Everyone leant a little closer. “It was a black van,” he said at last. We all wrote this down. I underlined the word “van”.

I’ve covered political campaigns in Britain: there is usually an assumption that you will at least see the candidate. But Mrs Clinton was campaigning in secret. At this, the first openly acknowledged event, most of us would not be allowed inside. “She’ll come in the back,” said Dave. “I’m going round there. I’ve come all this way, I do at least want to see Hillary Clinton.” The back of the college was fenced off and a police car was already stationed at the gate. The front, by contrast, was open. Reporters, students, teachers and two men with anti-Hillary placards, demanding that she “Give The Saudi Money Back”, milled around.

Then a cry went up: there on the highway, traversing the edge of a far field, was a black van. Dave and I decided to hedge our bets: we walked out to the turn off to the front of the college. The van rolled past, heading for the back entrance. We began to run, but like people who are trying to pretend they are not running. Then we looked back. The entire American and European press corps had come charging out of the car park behind us. The two men with placards were near the front, like the standard bearers of a Roman legion. Gareth was advancing at a tremendous pace too, his orange trousers blazing. It was an utterly pointless race. At stake was a fleeting glimpse of a presidential candidate, through a fence. On the other hand, we were in the lead. It felt rather exhilarating. We began to sprint. Dave shouted: “This is the greatest scoop of our lives!”

Unfortunately, we were on live television. An MSNBC reporter had begun a report and the camera cut to us, charging after Hillary Clinton as if she was the last train out of Guildford on a Saturday night. “The guy in the orange pants is pretty quick,” said one of the presenters.

Days of mockery followed. The clip appeared on The Daily Show. I’ve always wanted to be on The Daily Show. In egotistical daydreams, I’ve tried to imagine possible scenarios in which I was invited to discuss an important piece of journalism. Instead, there I was, chasing a van like an excited labrador. The star of the sideshow, however, was Gareth, who was being referred to across the land as “orange pants”. When I last spoke to him, he was trying to persuade Mrs Clinton’s staff that she ought to wear orange trousers for a day. “I’m working on sponsorship right now,” he added.

And we didn’t even see her. Our view was blocked by the black van.
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