Where Would You Rather Be?

The never-ending, New Years Eve-spoiling Fiscal Cliff drama still unfolding on Capitol Hill has reminded me why I so disliked my years covering Congress as a reporter for USA TODAY. As many of my friends and former colleagues learned last night, much of their job is standing around. And standing around. And, oh yeah, standing around while our elected representatives dither over what they would — or would not — do about something they should have done long before. In other words, a lot of late nights.

Take this photo that ran in The New York Times back in 2005. It shows Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist briefing the media during the debate on Judge John Roberts’ nomination for chief justice of the Supreme Court. That’s me on the right diligently taking notes. That was a rather calm presser and, unlike those covering the current controversy, I didn’t have to cancel my New Years Eve plans.

Capitol Hill 2005

Now take a look at these photos of me hard at work almost four years ago to the day:

abu ghraib interview

abu ghraib street interview

These were taken outside the prison in Abu Ghraib in Iraq a couple days after New Years 2009. I was there for this story about the transfer of detainees to the government of Iraq.

Yes, I did have to wear heavy body armor to interview a local council member and storekeepers in the market. And I did have to travel in an armored MRAP to get to my appointments. But compared to covering the political battle right now on Capitol Hill, I’ll take a war zone in the Middle East any day.

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Nancy Pelosi Is Staying

The news this morning that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California will stay on to head the Democratic caucus for another two years ends speculation on Capitol Hill on who will be in charge of the minority party during the upcoming 113th Congress.

Pelosi has already secured her place in history as the first woman to serve as speaker of the House. I was covering Congress in 2006 when it became clear that Democrats would take over the House in a wave election. USA TODAY sent me to Albuquerque, N.M., to interview the future leader, whose schedule was so tight that the way I could get a few minutes was to meet her on the campaign trail. It was worth it though as my profile of the highest ranking woman in U.S. history would later show.

Though Pelosi went on to win the votes of her caucus, her tenure as leader was hardly without bumps or controversy — none more divisive than her pivotal role in pushing through health care reform. Still, as I wrote for AOL News, by the time Republicans took back the House and ousted her as speaker, historians and nonpartisan political observers ranked her among the most effective legislators in history.