"FOX News Sunday" Profiles Mark Knoller's Political Record Keeping
CHRIS WALLACE, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" MODERATOR: Whenever a president does something like hold a press conference or head to Camp David or even go for a round of golf, there is someone in the White House keeping count of exactly how many times he's done it. But it isn't some White House official. No, it's our Power Player of the Week.
MARK KNOLLER, CBS NEWS: The numbers really help tell the story, in an important way.
OBAMA: I'm going to call on Mark Knoller. Where's Mark? There you are.
KNOLLER: Mr. President...
WALLACE (voice over): The numbers CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller is talking about are meticulous records he keeps on almost everything the president does.
Think we're exaggerating?
KNOLLER: I keep logs on the number of speeches. Did he use a Teleprompter? How long did the speech run? Where did he go? How many times has he been there before; number of flights on Air Force One; number of flights on Marine One?
WALLACE: We squeezed into Knoller's cramped booth in the press room where he showed us his file on each of the 114 rounds of golf President Obama has played.
KNOLLER: I keep log what date did he play; how long did he play it; who was in the foursome; what time did the golf game begin; what time did it end?
WALLACE: You love this stuff, don't you?
KNOLLER: At least now I've got an aspect of the presidency that pretty much I own. And I like that.
WALLACE: And Knoller does own it. His colleagues in the press corps come to him to find out how many news conferences the president has held. And when National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was briefing reporters on the economic summit last year, he deferred to Knoller.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TOM DONILON: It's always risky to do this with presidential historian Mark Knoller in the room, but I'll do this anyway...
... at the risk of being -- at the risk of being corrected immediately.
WALLACE (on camera): How do you feel being the unofficial records-keeper of the presidency?
KNOLLER: Well, it certainly wasn't what I set out to do, but unofficially, yeah. I guess I'm unofficial.
WALLACE (voice over): Knoller started his record-keeping a couple of years into the Clinton administration when he noticed the president kept going to California.
KNOLLER: I tried going back to reconstruct how many trips he had made to California and it took all day.
WALLACE: So Knoller started keeping his own records. He spends 60 to 90 minutes at the end of each day logging every presidential activity.
The presidents have noticed. When Knoller reported George W. Bush had spent more than a year at his Texas ranch, it came up at a White House Christmas party.
KNOLLER: I come up to shake his hand and he says to Laura, "This is the guy who tells everybody how often we go to the ranch, and if we get there at 10 in the evening, he counts it as a full day. And I corrected him. I don't count it as a full day. And he seemed glad to hear that.
WALLACE (on camera): Do you think it's a tad obsessive?
KNOLLER: OK, I'm obsessed with doing my job well, to doing it thoroughly. You got me.
WALLACE (voice over): Knoller has been covering presidents since Gerald Ford. At age 60, he's never married. But he has no regrets.
(on camera): Is this job; is this group; is this your family?
KNOLLER: Sure. It's my life. I'm able to cover this place exactly on my terms. And I find that very satisfying.
WALLACE: Knoller isn't sure what he'll do with his files once he leaves the White House beat, but he'd like to find some think tank that wants them. And he's also like to write a book.