April 12 Radio: Obama Videographer Shares White House Insights

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on April 11, 2013

Arun Chaudhary, the nation's first official White House videographer, appeared on MTL Washington Update radio show April 12 to describe his more than four years with President Obama on the 2008 campaign and first two years in the White House.

The author of First Cameraman: Documenting the Obama Presidency in Real Time shared his unique personal story. He moved from the low-budget film world to a front-row seat to history. His book and experiences go far beyond the world of politics, and provide cutting-edge lessons in social media applicable to many goals in both business and non-profit advocacy.

Join the author, me, and network founder and co-host Scott Draughon at noon (EDT) for our one-hour weekly public affairs show. Click here to listen to the live broadcast, now on archive.

Chaudhary, right, is now partner in Revolution Messaging, a Washington, DC-based consultancy. He recently shared his experiences with the National Press Club Photography Committee. After listening to his illuminating presentation, I invited him to reprise highlights for the launch of our radio show's seventh season.

The season began last month with the memoirs of former GOP congressional leader Bob Ney of Ohio and faith-based legal reformer Mark Osler. Guests confirmed for coming weeks include Pulitzer-winning New York Times national security reporter Mark Mazzetti discussing his new book. Other confirmed guests include Cook County assistant public defender and legal reformer Jeanne Bishop, and Republican former Virginia governor and senator George Allen.

Here is the publisher's description of Chaudhary's engaging memoir, which is highly rated by 11 reviewers on Amazon.com:

The first official White House videographer chronicles his time capturing behind-the-scenes moments of the president and his administration. From the early months of the 2008 campaign and through the first two and a half years of the Obama administration, Arun Chaudhary had a unique perspective on the president of the United States. "I'm sort of like President Obama's wedding videographer," he explains, "if every day was a wedding with the same groom but a constantly rotating set of hysterical guests."

The publisher's description continues as follows:

Some of the moments Chaudhary captures are small, like the president throwing warm-up pitches deep inside Busch Stadium in St. Louis before the All-Star game. Some are intensely emotional, as when Obama comforts a grieving teenager whose father had died in a devastating tornado. And some are just plain bizarre—like getting thrown out of the Indian parliament by his belt, or being trapped in a White House bathroom while Obama conducts a YouTube town hall on the other side of the door. Film and politics have been intertwined ever since the first Edison reels rattled in projection halls a century ago. But with the advent of new technologies and a new public that is hungry for images of their leaders, Chaudhary has been in the right place at the right time to participate in the interplay of film and politics at the very highest level. His entertaining and eye-opening book—which includes stories and images of key players such as Barack and Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton, among others—gives readers a unique view of their government and their president in these historic and challenging times.

This is a sample of the kinds of guests we'll be presenting over coming months on the show, which combines practical learning with an insider's glimpse of how Washington and government policy affect the rest of the country. For questions or comments on any of the shows, call in toll free (866-685-7469 ) or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Mark Mazzetti this month published an important new book, The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth. The Woodrow Wilson Center fostered his research with a 15-month fellowship. He lectured April 11 at the Center, where I met him. I am just beginning to read his fascinating book (portrayed at right), and so will share for now the publisher's description:

At the heart of the book is the story of two proud and rival entities, the CIA and the American military, elbowing each other for supremacy. The CIA, created as a Cold War espionage service, is now more than ever a paramilitary agency ordered by the White House to kill off America’s enemies—in the mountains of Pakistan and the deserts of Yemen, in the tumultuous civil wars of North Africa and the chaos of Somalia. For its part, the Pentagon has become more like the CIA, dramatically expanding spying missions everywhere. Sometimes, as with the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, their efforts have been perfectly coordinated. Other times, including the failed operations disclosed here for the first time, they have not. For better or worse, their struggles will define American national security in the years to come.

Mark Mazzetti is a national security correspondent for The New York Times. In 2009, he shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the intensifying violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Washington’s response, and he has won numerous other major journalism awards, including the George Polk Award (with colleague Dexter Filkins) and the Livingston Award, for breaking the story of the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes. Mazzetti has also written for the Los Angeles Times, U.S. News & World Report, and The Economist. He lives in Washington, D.C. 

Regarding other upcoming guests, Jeanne Bishop appears next week to describe her work, sometimes in tandem with fellow law professor Mark Osler, in advocating for legal reforms. She has a highly unusual background for such work in that her sister and brother-in-law were murdered in what became one of Chicago's most sensational crimes two decades ago. Yet her lifelong commitment to justice and her religious faith have inspired her throughout to continue her advocacy, often on behalf of impoverished clients in Chicago accused of serious crime. Bishop, shown at left, is a longtime friend of mine who brings unusual accomplishments and experiences to her advocacy work. She is an adjunct law professor at Northwestern University, and the volunteer treasurer of the non-profit group Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.

Among other expert guests planning to join us is Virginia's former senator, Allen. I enjoyed his memoir two years ago, and encountered him thiis week at a conference, where he discussed federal energy policy. He was Virginia's governor from 1994 to 1998, and a senator from 2001 to 2008.

Keeping the show on keel with decisive questions is its founder, Scott Draughon, left, a pioneer in business radio who developed the My Technology Lawyer network a decade ago. The show's audience is heavily comprised of business professionals, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and technologists. Our recent guests on the Washington Update series include prominent newsmakers, authors, and other public affairs experts. Review the list of past guests, and visit our archive to hear previous interviews from recent years.

We launched the season with a stimulating discussion by Ney, shown at right. Ney, now a radio host in West Virginia, authored the new book, Sideswiped: Lessons Learned Courtesy of the Hit Men of Capitol Hill. The six-term former Congressman is embarked on an unusual journey. He went from being one of the nation's most powerful Congressman to a prison cell. Now free from that confinement and his self-imposed chains, his book is a gripping portrait of Washington life and his return to his roots in Appalachia.

Ney's message is that Washington's corruption is far more extensive than the Jack Abramoff scandal that led to his guilty plea on corruption charges in 2006. Released from prison in 2010 and now a radio show host in Wheeling, West Virginia, Ney has nothing to lose by sharing in blunt detail what he has seen and learned. I gave the book a positive review last week, and suggested that its details are worth much more in-depth discussion.

For now, however, our attention is focused on the extraordinary experiences of our April 12 guest, Chaudhary, whose segment began at 17 minutes past the hour following our news round-up. Before his political work beginning in 2007, Chaudhary was a member of the NYU Graduate Film Department faculty. He received his MFA in filmmaking from NYU and his BA in film theory from Cornell University. 

David Greenberg, a Rutgers history and media professor reviewing Chaudhary's book last year for the Washington Post, combined praise with fault-finding because Chaudhary did not take a critical tone against his former boss, but was instead self-deprecating.

My view, based on his illuminating answers to my questions at the Press Club seminar, is that we can learn many useful things if we frame our questions and go with the flow. Useful discussions do not have to be "Gotcha!" or "Got him!"  I hope you join us for this unusual opportunity.


 

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
 
 

 

 

Related News Coverage

Washington Post, ‘First Cameraman: Documenting the Obama Presidency in Real Time,’ David Greenberg, Aug. 24, 2012. Ever since Theodore Roosevelt convened the first proto-press conferences, with reporters huddling to hear him sound off during his afternoon shave, the White House communications apparatus has inexorably expanded. Presidents now confer with a swarm of press secretaries, speechwriters, pollsters and virtually every species of media consultant that Marshall McLuhan might have imagined. One of Barack Obama’s contributions has been the creation of the post of White House videographer, a job first held by an indie filmmaker and political junkie named Arun Chaudhary. He has now written a memoir. First Cameraman hasn’t generated the anticipation of a tell-all from a recently departed chief of staff, but its singular, quirky take on Obama’s brief career adds a smidgen of useful information to the historical record. And it serves up, simultaneously, a smattering of laughs, glimpses of the scutwork that goes into White House image-craft, and insights into the modern media presidency. What the book lacks in newsy disclosures it makes up for with freshness and wit.

Other comments on 'First Cameraman':  “With grace and good humor, Chaudhary weaves together his recollections of the Obama campaign and the White House with the theory and history of film in American politics. But you might not realize how much you’re learning, because you’re having too much fun.”
—Richard Ben Cramer, author of What It Takes and Joe DiMaggio
 
“So interesting to finally learn what whatshisname’s job actually was, I used to just ask him if he knew where the president went.”
—Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of the City of Chicago and Former White House Chief of Staff
 
“First Cameraman tells a refreshing story about American politics—it’s that what you see is what you get. What the camera saw in Barack Obama in 2008 is what the cameraman himself discovered off-camera. Wow!”
—Chris Matthews, Host of Hardball and The Chris Matthews Show and bestselling author of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero
 
“If John F. Kennedy was the first television president, then Barack Obama is the first YouTube president—and Arun Chaudhary, the first first videographer, captured the images that mark a seismic shift in the way American politics is practiced.”
—Dee Dee Myers, former White House Press Secretary and author of Why Women Should Rule the World

Democracy Now! The Way of the Knife: NYT’s Mark Mazzetti on the CIA’s Post-9/11 Move from Spying to Assassinations, Amy Goodman, April 10, 2013. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti, left, tracks the transformation of the CIA and U.S. special operations forces into man-hunting and killing machines in the world’s dark spaces: the new American way of war. He describes his new book, The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth. Its revelations include disclosing that the Pakistani government agreed to allow the drone attacks in return for the CIA’s assassination of Pakistani militant Nek Muhammad, who was not even a target of the United States. Mazzetti’s reporting on the violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan — and Washington’s response — won him a Pulitzer Prize in 2009. The year before, he was a Pulitzer finalist for his reporting on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

CBS Radio, Flattering Obama Images Flourish As White House Media Access Narrows, Staff report, April 2, 2013. Capitalizing on the possibilities of the digital age, the Obama White House is generating its own content like no president before, and refining its media strategies in the second term in hopes of telling a more compelling story than in the first. A photo of the Obamas hugging that was released on Election Day 2012 has become the world’s most popular tweet on Twitter. A dressed-up version of Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, packed with charts and graphs, is huge on YouTube. A playful picture of the president cavorting with a 3-year-old in a Spiderman costume is a favorite online.
 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Washington Post, Guantanamo dogged by new controversy after mishandling of e-mails, Peter Finn, April 11, 2013. The military justice system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been dogged by charges of secret monitoring of proceedings and defense communications, became embroiled in a fresh controversy Thursday when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails were turned over to the prosecution. The breach prompted Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief military defense counsel, to order all attorneys for Guantanamo detainees to stop using Defense Department computer networks to transmit privileged or confidential information until the security of such communications is assured. Army Col. James Pohl, the chief judge at Guantanamo, also ordered a two-month delay in pre­trial proceedings in the military-commission case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of organizing the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

Wikileaks Press Release, Special Project K: The Kissinger Cables, Julian Assange and staff, April 7, 2013. The Kissinger Cables are part of today's launch of the WikiLeaks Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), which holds the world's largest searchable collection of United States confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications. As of its launch on April 8, 2013 it holds 2 million records comprising approximately 1 billion words. WikiLeaks' publisher Julian Assange stated: "The collection covers US involvements in, and diplomatic or intelligence reporting on, every country on Earth. It is the single most significant body of geopolitical material ever published."

The Kissinger Cables: "The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer." -- Henry A. Kissinger, US Secretary of State, shown at right, March 10, 1975. The Kissinger Cables comprise more than 1.7 million US diplomatic records for the period 1973 to 1976, including 205,901 records relating to former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. Dating from January 1, 1973 to December 31, 1976 they cover a variety of diplomatic traffic including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence. They include more than 1.3 million full diplomatic cables and 320,000 originally classified records. These include more than 227,000 cables classified as "CONFIDENTIAL" and 61,000 cables classified as "SECRET". Perhaps more importantly, there are more than 12,000 documents with the sensitive handling restriction "NODIS" or 'no distribution', and more than 9,000 labelled "Eyes Only."

The Real News, Wikileaks Releases Kissinger Cables and Two Decisions in Manning Trial, Paul Jay, April 11, 2013. (Video: 20:41 min.)  Michael Ratner: Kissinger files show important role Wikileaks continues to play revealing real history of US foreign policy; Judge makes one decision favorable to Manning, one not.

WikiLeaks News Conference / Press for Truth / YouTube, The Kissinger Cables: "Illegal we do immediately; unconstitutional takes a little longer," April 8, 2013. (Video: 3:57 min.) Wikileaks has just released 1.7 million classified files appropriately referred to as the "Kissinger Cables" which is comprised of congressional correspondence, intelligence reports, and cables. In a 1975 conversation with Turkish and Cypriot officials former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is quoted as saying, "Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, "The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer."

Associated Press / Fox News, Amish gather last time before prison terms begin, Staff report, April 10, 2013. Come Friday, four women and one man from this tight-knit Amish group in rural eastern Ohio will enter the prison system in various states, joining nine already behind bars on hate crimes convictions for hair- and beard-cutting attacks against fellow Amish. That timing made Tuesday's event the last big gathering before the five depart, and the participants gave The Associated Press a rare glimpse into their largely insular community. Men played baseball in buttoned shirts, work boots and blue pants with suspenders. Their wives, some barefoot, sat outdoors on benches from the schoolhouse, chatting as their long-sleeved, blue and green dresses and white head scarves fluttered in the wind. Their children snacked and relaxed nearby, dressed like smaller versions of their parents. "It's a happy day on the outside, but not on the inside. On the inside, a lot of times we're crying, but we have to keep our spirits up for the children's sake," said Martha Mullet, whose husband, Sam Mullet Sr., was accused of orchestrating the hair-cutting attacks and was sentenced to 15 years, the longest term of the 16 defendants in the case.

World Net Daily, Amish prosecuted because scissors 'crossed state lines,' Staff report, April 12, 2013. Feds invoked Commerce Clause to make 'hate crimes' case. What does the federal hate crimes law inspired by the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. have to do with an internal dispute among the Amish in which the beards of men and the hair of women were forcibly sheared? “The scissors used to cut the hair were manufactured in one state and used in another,” explained Edward Bryan, defense lawyer for Amish bishop Samuel Mullet Sr., who was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Bryan, in an interview with radio host Michael Savage Thursday night, said the Commerce Clause is one of the federal government’s primary justifications for intervening in the dispute in eastern Ohio among members of the Christian sect. U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, of the Northern District of Ohio, argued in the indictment that the “Wahl battery-operated hair clippers” used in the assaults “were purchased at Walmart and had travelled in and affected interstate commerce in that they were manufactured in Dover, Delaware.” The 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act stipulates any crime prosecuted under the law must involve crossing state lines or using “an instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce.” In a September trial, Mullet was convicted of organizing a series of raids in 2011 against religious enemies and disobedient family members in which the men’s beards were forcibly sheared and women’s hair was cut. Fifteen other Amish members were sentenced to prison terms of two to seven years.

Washington Post, Guantanamo dogged by new controversy after mishandling of e-mails, Peter Finn, April 11, 2013. The military justice system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been dogged by charges of secret monitoring of proceedings and defense communications, became embroiled in a fresh controversy Thursday when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails were turned over to the prosecution. The breach prompted Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief military defense counsel, to order all attorneys for Guantanamo detainees to stop using Defense Department computer networks to transmit privileged or confidential information until the security of such communications is assured. Army Col. James Pohl, the chief judge at Guantanamo, also ordered a two-month delay in pre­trial proceedings in the military-commission case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of organizing the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

Legal Times, Judge Reverses Suspensions of Two Prosecutors in Ted Stevens Case, Staff report, April 8, 2013. The U.S. Justice Department violated internal procedure in disciplining two federal prosecutors accused of ethical misconduct in the corruption case against the late Ted Stevens, left, a judge concluded in a ruling that voids the suspensions imposed on the two attorneys. Benjamin Gutman, an administrative judge who hears Merit Systems Protection Board disputes, said the department shirked procedure when a senior management attorney was allowed to take over for the rank-and-file lawyer who was assigned to make a recommendation about whether the prosecutors committed misconduct.

National Press Club, Judge should drop effort to compel reporter to reveal anonymous sources, John Donnelly, April 5, 2013. The National Press Club on April 5 respectfully urged a Colorado judge to drop his push to force a reporter to reveal her confidential sources for a story about the alleged shooter in the last July’s shooting spree in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Jana Winter of Fox News reported days after the deadly shooting that the defendant in the case, James Holmes, had sent his psychiatrist detailed drawings of people being killed before the shootings occurred. All information in the investigation of Holmes was under seal. Winter had cited law-enforcement officials as her source.

Rolling Stone, The most outrageous facts about our broken voting system, Tim Dickinson, April 9, 2013. So you think the American electoral system is broken? New research out of MIT lays bare just how bad it really is. Here are the five most outrageous facts from "Waiting to Vote," a forthcoming paper by Charles Stewart III for the Journal of Law and Politics, on long lines in the 2012 election.

1. African-American voters wait in line nearly twice as long as white voters. "Viewed nationally, African-Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to 12 minutes for whites."
2. Hispanic voters wait in line one-and-a-half times as long as white voters."Hispanics waited 19 minutes" – again, compared to a 12-minute wait for whites.
3. True-blue Democrats wait in line 45 percent longer than red-bleeding Republicans. "Strong Democrats waited an average of 16 minutes, compared to an average of 11 minutes for strong Republicans."
4. Voting in Florida remains a shitshow – even compared to other big states."Waiting times varied tremendously across the states in 2012, ranging from less than two minutes in Vermont to 39 minutes in Florida. . . . On the whole, states with the smallest populations had the lowest waits. . . . However, it should be noted that California had among the shortest wait times in the country, at an average of 7 minutes."
5. The federal Election Assistance Commission is on its last legs. It is supposed to have four commissioners. It currently has four vacancies. "It is for answering questions such as this – how to shorten lines in urban areas and a few states where they exist statewide – that the Election Assistance Commission was created. Unfortunately, the EAC has become a 'zombie commission,' without commissioners and therefore without a clear agenda . . ."

Huffington Post, Bi-Partisanship We Don't Need: The President Offers to Cut Social Security and Republicans Agree, Robert Reich, April 10, 2013. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, revealed why it's politically naive for the president to offer up cuts in Social Security in the hope of getting Republicans to close some tax loopholes for the rich. "If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement released Friday. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor agreed. He said on CNBC he didn't understand "why we just don't see the White House come forward and do the things that we agree on" such as cutting Social Security, without additional tax increases. Get it? The Republican leadership is already salivating over the president's proposed Social Security cut. They've been wanting to cut Social Security for years. But they won't agree to close tax loopholes for the rich. They're already characterizing the president's plan as a way to "save" Social Security -- even though the cuts would undermine it -- and they're embracing it as an act of "bi-partisanship."

FireDogLake, Countries Subject to US Intervention Become Executioners & Impose Death Penalty, Kevin Gosztola, April 12, 2013. Amnesty International released its annual review of death sentences and executions around the world. The review found the five biggest executors in 2012 were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the USA. It also found that the number of countries that abolished the death penalty rose to 97 and progress toward abolition of the death penalty was made in “all regions of the world.” The human rights organization reported, “In the Americas, the USA remains the only country to carry out executions.” A total number of 43 executions—the same in 2011, occurred. Though, “Only nine states executed in 2012, compared to 13 in 2011.”  And, ”Connecticut became the 17th abolitionist state in April, while a referendum on the abolition of the death penalty was narrowly defeated in California in November.”

Huffington Post, Elizabeth Warren 'Shocked' At White House Plan To Cut Social Security With Chained CPI, Jason Linkins, April 10, 2013. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), right, made it clear Wednesday in an email to supporters that not only would she oppose President Barack Obama's plan to cut Social Security benefits through a cost-of-living adjustment known as chained CPI, but that she was "shocked to hear" it was included in the White House's budget proposal at all. Warren said her brother David lives on the $13,200 per year he receives in Social Security benefits. "I can almost guarantee that you know someone -- a family member, friend, or neighbor -- who counts on Social Security checks to get by," she wrote.

Legal Schnauzer, Feds Promised To Release Scrushy From Prosecution If He Provided False Testimony Against Siegelman, Roger Shuler, April 9, 2013. Federal prosecutors offered to let Richard Scrushy out of the Don Siegelman case if he agreed to testify in a way that would "give" them the former Alabama governor. Scrushy, the former CEO of Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corporation, said prosecutors gave him several examples of testimony that would help ensure a bribery conviction against Siegelman. None of the proposed statements was truthful, Scrushy said, so he refused the offer. He wound up being convicted and was released from federal prison last July after serving a six-year sentence. Siegelman was released from custody for several years to pursue appeals, but returned to prison last September after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Legal Schnauzer, Richard Scrushy: Convictions In the Siegelman Case Are Grounded In A Former Aide's Flawed Testimony, Roger Shuler, April 8, 2013. Bribery convictions in the Don Siegelman case are based almost entirely on an aide's testimony that he saw the former governor holding a $250,000 check after a meeting with then HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. That scenario, as described under oath by former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey, has a slight flaw--it never happened, according to a man who was central to the alleged transaction. Richard Scrushy, who was released from federal prison last July after serving a six-year sentence, says he never had such a meeting with Siegelman -- and he never gave the governor a check. That is one of several major revelations from Scrushy's one-hour interview last Thursday with San Francisco-based radio host Peter B. Collins. It was Scrushy's first interview about the Siegelman case, and the podcast can be heard in its entirety at peterbcollins.com. Collins invited me to assist with the interview, and I was on the phone line to hear Scrushy describe the case against him and Siegelman as a "farce" and a "joke." In fact, Scrushy still can't seem to believe that it happened.

 

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