LCB Reporter's Notebook: CNN's Democratic Debate, Los Angeles, Jan. 31

Backstage at the First Head-to-Head Debate Between Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at CNN's Democratic debateFollowing are some thoughts, notes and quotes that didn’t make it into this week’s Left Coast Bias column on spending the day with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at Thursday’s Democratic debate at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. 

  • Standing on stage after the debate, I had to ask CNN honcho Jon Klein where the money came from that CNN paid former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) to drop out of the race before the debate, leaving CNN with the first head-to-head between Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) right before Super Tuesday. “We have a very special slush fund for these kinds of things,” he said. “We use it for bribes, mainly, but mostly of foreign governments for different things.” 

  • During the filming of The Situation Room in front of a massive and rambunctious audience, CNN staffers were desperately trying to quiet the crowd. I suggested to one that next time they needed to borrow those “Quiet Please” signs from PGA Tour golf events. Then one CNN volunteer grabbed a Barack Obama sign and wrote, “Quiet Please” on the back. I quietly suggested that a CNN staffer probably didn’t want to be carrying around an Obama sign in public right before the debate, and that experiment ended pretty quickly. 

  • While there were a couple of mass “We Love Wolf” chants during the live Situation Room show, not everyone was kneeling at the altar of the Wolf Man. When a CNN staffer told the crowd that they’d have to be quiet or they wouldn’t be able to hear Wolf, one attendee shot back, “That’s OK by me, he’s always sucking up to the president, anyway.” 

  • When CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux walked off the Situation Room set and outside the barricades separating it from the masses, a man with a hand-held video camera ran up to her and started asking questions, and she smartly kept walking. In the old days, that would have just been someone’s keepsake of a fun day at a CNN show. Today, whatever she said probably would have been on the Internet 30 minutes later.

  • After walking off stage at the end of the debate, presidential offspring Chelsea Clinton walked by a staff of paramedics who were on call backstage. She stopped. “Thanks for everything tonight, appreciate you being here,” she said. Smooth, that one.  Starting her political career already, I see. 

  • Sitting in the media room Thursday morning, I saw CNN playing a clip of Britney Spears being taken to the hospital for whatever her drama is this week. Boy did it make me even more excited to be covering something of actual consequence. 

  • After spending Monday-Wednesday in Las Vegas, I knew I wasn’t at NATPE anymore Thursday night at the debate when I was sitting on a crate by the security check-in and a big guy with a very big gun came over quickly and told me to get off it. I didn’t ask what was in there, I just moved. Fast. 

  • Okay, this is tabloid city, but here it is in case you care. Among the celebrities at a post-debate party CNN threw at the Roosevelt Hotel across the street from the Kodak Theater: Quentin Tarantino, Bradley Whitford, Garry Shandling, Lauren Holly, Joe Mantegna, Jimmy Jean Louis, Richard Schiff, Stevie Wonder, Amy Brenneman and Brenda Strong.