Mark Knoller is obsessed with the presidency, says Elizabeth Williamson in The Wall Street Journal. The stocky, rumpled radio reporter for CBS has covered the White House since 1975, while fastidiously compiling a treasure trove of trivia about every president from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama. He’s kept notes and details on every trip the president takes, at home or abroad; bill signings; vetoes; pardons; every word of every speech; meetings with foreign leaders; hours spent jogging or playing tennis or basketball; social events; and more. If he doesn’t write it all down and file it, Knoller explains, “a lot of this vaporizes. I’ve got an assessment of the presidency that others don’t.”
He can tell you how many presidents have promised “not to rest until every American has a job” (five), how many words were spoken in the recent White House health-care summit with Republicans (60,000), and how many trips President George W. Bush made to his ranch in Texas over eight years (77, spanning all or part of 490 days).
Knoller, a 58-year-old bachelor, last took a vacation a decade ago. The work “gives me a sense of achievement, fulfillment, contentment,” he says. “I really long for very little else.” After his 12-hour days, he eats a late dinner at a diner, rereading six newspapers, and then places them carefully in his car trunk, in case he wants to read them again. “That is me at its essence,” he says. “A trunk stuffed with newspapers.”