Post-State of the Union Scene

Moments after President Bush finished his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol filled with senators, House members, and the media. A power failure provided some extra suspense.

BRAND: And now we have a little behind the scenes scene for you from last nights State of the Union Address. There were hundreds of journalists waiting in the Capitol Statuary Hall and NPR's Andrea Seabrook said they almost had a giant collective heart attack.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Light glared, TV cameras were ready to roll and radio reporters stood by to go live when the power went out. See none of this fancy technology works without juice. So this intrepid reporter prepared for a very different story.

(Soundbite of Andrea Seabroook):

I'm standing in Statuary Hall and lawmakers are dumping into this big great hall full of statues after the president's speech. I assume that Jim Webb is on the air now or in just a couple of minutes - and the lights have come back on. And there are jubilant television producers across the room.

SEABROOK: And producers there were. Dozens of them. And cameramen, correspondents, runners, and gophers, even at the BBC? Peers Whisby(ph) is a producer for the British network.

Mr. PEERS WHISBY (Producer, BBC): Well and there are more BBC producers and correspondents here than probably any other American network I think. We go nuts on this sort of thing.

SEABROOK: What does this look like to you? I mean you've covered the British government right?

Mr. WHISBY: Yeah.

SEABROOK: I mean.

Mr. WHISBY: Yeah. Well to be honest, American politics is so much razzamatazz than the rest I think. It's a personality, it's a sense of fun, of excitement and people really enjoy covering it.

SEABROOK: People love working in politics too. Florida congressman Adam Putnam is the chairman of the house republican conference.

Mr. ADAM PUTNAM (Republican, Florida): I guess for political junkies it's kind of like Oscar night. You know they bring in the diplomatic corp, then the bring in the cabinet, and then they bring in the Supreme Court, and the Joint Chiefs.

SEABROOK: Pretty much all politicians are, by nature, political junkies. As Putnam demonstrates.

Mr. PUTNAM: The parlor game on the floor is always to figure out who the special guest that year is going to be.

SEABROOK: Right, yeah, and who was it this year?

Mr. PUTNAM: You know the hero of the New York subway was by far the most popular. And that guy is a great American hero and then his reaction to being called out by the president was captured (unintelligible) heart.

SEABROOK: What did he do? (unintelligible).

Mr. PUTNAM: You know he's giving the old Sammy Sosa, beat the chest, kiss two fingers and give it up for the crowd.

SEABROOK: That guy who leapt in front of the speeding subway to save a stranger was just one of the celebs in the gallery. There was basketball great Dekembe Mutombo and actor Michael J. Fox. He was the guest of another strong advocate of stem cell research, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langeman.

Mr. JIM LANGEMAN (Democrat, Rhode Island): I told him I'm a big fan of his acting, I loved him on "Family Ties," of course we all loved him in "Back to the Future" he's such a talented actor. But this fight with stem cell research he said, is one of the highlights of his, of his life and when he really is making a difference for millions of people. And in just an amazing way, I, I give him such great credit. He's a special person.

SEABROOK: See, even elected officials can be star struck. And you should have seen the fawning over Barack Obama. But after all the excitement and pageantry and spin down, just about every journalist was most thankful for one thing, that the power came back on. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.

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