Several readers were kind enough to tell me <$NoAd$> that on his radio show today Al Franken mentioned TPM. That put me in the mind of this brush with greatness I had a little earlier in my career, which I recounted in a reporter's notebook item I wrote while on assignment for Salon covering the impeachment of President Clinton in January 1999. It was my first time in Washington as a reporter ...
Maybe the funniest impeachment moment came from comedian Al Franken, who was attending the trial with one of the prized yellow impeachment tickets as a guest of some senator -- he wouldn't say which one. After a few minutes of conversation, Franken and I and a few others were shooed out of the hallway by a Capitol police officer, and we took the elevator back up to the Senate gallery. Before I knew it, Franken and I were sitting together in one of the rooms where senators give press conferences.
Sen. Phil Gramm had just bounded into the room to do a little damage control about Sen. Robert Byrd's proposed motion to dismiss. Apparently one of the first rules of the Senate is that no one can ever criticize Bob Byrd about anything, and Gramm did his best to comply. He told us he'd just spoken to Trent Lott, and he made a strained argument about how it would be wrong to cut the trial short, even if it was clear the House didn't have much of a case. Franken raised his hand and asked Gramm whether he would have voted for the articles of impeachment if he were in the House, knowing what he now knew. Gramm seemed to have no clue who Franken was and proceeded to ignore the question and pipe on about justice being a process, not a verdict.
Franken and I chuckled about Gramm's refusal to answer the question, and suddenly two spindly arms reached across me and grabbed Franken and started to pull him out of his chair. It was a woman from the Senate press office, barking, "You have to leave. You're not press." Franken pointed to me and said, "But I'm with someone from the press" as he was being rushed out of the room. But he stayed in character through the whole thing, laughing as he got tossed out. That really drove the woman crazy. She mustered up her schoolmarm best and scolded him: "It's not funny!"
I rushed out of the press room after Franken got the boot. But by the time I got out into the hall, he'd already slipped back into the Senate gallery -- where celebrities, but not the press, are allowed to roam free.
Those were the days.