We weren’t powerful, but we were respected; George W. Bush used to call out, “I love the stenos!” whenever he saw my boss, Peggy, or her colleagues. Our job, after all, was to provide a first line of defense against the press by being present whenever a reporter was in the same room as the president.
We carried a microphone and two recorders at all times, and let them run until the last reporter had left the room, just in case a reporter yelled a question over his shoulder with one foot out the door. Should the press actually misquote the president, we were there, armed with an official transcript of what the president did or did not say.
But now, we were faced with a president who didn’t want to be recorded. Perhaps he didn’t fully understand the role of the stenographer. That would make sense, since his administration had rebuffed every invitation from the Obama transition team during an inherently stressful time, including to learn how to keep the lights on.