The other day I was covering a press conference about the Google Lunar X Prize and Bob Riley was there to do the things governors do at such events. Handshakes, talking, handshakes, talking, the set-up joke, the polite applause...you get the idea. He must have been to 10,000 of these things as Governor of Alabama.
He's really comfortable in the limelight. He doesn't even seem to notice it, but he does. He has this very laid-back air to him, like the office fits him like one of his custom boots. Now that he is at the end of his second term and just watching other candidates beat each other up and sling crap at each other like monkeys, I think he is enjoying it. He's just being "The Gov".
After the press conference, the company staff handed out Rocket Pops, popsicles in the shape of a rocket, for the dignitaries and guests to enjoy as they chatted. Bob Riley was the first with a Rocket Pop. A tv reporter asked for an interview. He obliged, and they began to clip microphones to him for the interview.
Normally, folk like the governors have "minders" with them to help with the crowd, logistical issues and make sure they look good on camera. We don't want the governor's tie all catywumpus while he's talking about a balanced budget or the oil spill. In this case, the governor's photographer, Robin, was closest to the head of state.
Robin, being as cool as ever, offers his hand to take the Rocket Pop so the governor could do the interview. Riley just looked at him with scorn! Robin said, "Did you see that? He was gonna shoot me! He's not giving up the Rocket Pop." Riley continued to savor his Rocket Pop. I had to shoot the photo. I had about five other journalist come to me and ask me for the photo already.
So, the interview begins and Riley just keeps eating the Rocket Pop. He would lower it to his waist when he would talk but when the reporter was talking he'd munch on his slowly melting Rocket Pop. He did the whole interview this way, talking about the Google Lunar X Prize, taxes, road...all eating a Rocket Pop.
In an age where image seems to trump content, it's nice to think that it's ok for the Governor of Alabama to eat a Rocket Pop during an interview. It's also the advantage of being a two-term, well-liked, lame-duck Governor.