Arnone: I was in his class right after the election at Columbia Journalism
School. As a Columbia Journalism School student I was really excited
to get a chance to talk to him about the election and his life at the White
House. But, right after the election it apparently was just too much
of a burden for him to bring it up. That's perfectly understandable...
Q. How many people were in the class?
Arnone: About 80 on a regular basis, but they cycled in maybe another
120 on a rotating basis. Three classes had his course added on to
their course and then they would cycle in an individual class here and
there to hear him speak on specific issues. The core was 80.
It was 880 to 100 for each individual class session and then he addressed
the entire class, which was about 200 students at the end of the course.
Q. So what kind of a teaching style does he have?
Arnone: His teaching style I think came up out of his experience as
a public figure. He's used to conveying information to the public.
Teaching is just different though. It's about getting the message
out, but it's less programatic I would say. As a politician you have
a different motivation.
Q. He's been criticized for talking to people like they're a fifth grade class.
Arnone: I think that some people could say that he comes of as pedantic,
but I think it's not condescending; I think part of it is that for him,
he's used to handling a wealth of detail--he's very comfortable with that.
In order to get that out, I think he tries to do it in as straightforward
a way as possible, that some people can interpret as pedantic. I
didn't see it that way. I think in some respects he burdens himself
trying to get too much detali across at one time...
Q. What were one or two highlights of the class?
Arnone: When he high fived Alan Greenspan in front of the class when he made a dig at Bush. That was fun. What happened was that he made a crack about, Gore made a crack about economic forecasts on graphs, and he said that you know it can look like a "Y" or a "J" or if it's really bad it can look like a "W." And then he turned around and high-fived Greenspan, who returned it. That was fun.
It was just a great opportunity to ask a very seasoned political figure
tough questions, and granted he tended to evade them, but that was his
Q. Were there [areas] off limits?
Arnone: Yeah it was something frankly that frustrated a lot of us students
is that he made the election and his time in the White House off limits
for questioning, which is completely ridiculous. And when you're
at a journalism school, you can't expect... So basically what he
did is he made it the Al Gore Show, where he was the talk show host and
brought in guest stars, and he would act as the moderator and we could
ask them tough questions, but we couldn't ask him tough questions...
Q. Bottom line is you're glad you took that class?
Absolutely. It was one of the best experiences I had in journalism
school. As a public figure, he's a very interesting person to work
with and learn from, even though I think a lot of what we learned was not
what he wanted us to learn.