Gelman Starbucks was, for an hour, filled with students grabbing seats instead of lattes on Wednesday evening when it became the venue for an intimate event with three of D.C.'s top political journalists.
Starbucks, in conjunction with Politico newspaper, held its first in a series of four "Coffeehouse Conversations." A crowd of more than 100 packed the tiny coffee shop to listen to John King, CNN's chief national correspondent and Dana Bash, CNN's senior congressional correspondent, discuss President Barack Obama's transition and various other political and media topics.
Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for Politico, moderated the event.
The conversation also served as Bash and King's first public appearance together since they married last May. Allen introduced the pair as "part of the best political team on TV."
NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd was originally scheduled to attend as well but event organizers said he had a last-minute conflict. The event also changed venue at the last moment, switching from a room on the second floor in Gelman Library to the Starbucks downstairs.
"Space was a concern with the switch," said Austin Myerson, Northeast regional marketing manger for Starbucks. "But in the end, it was better to have the atmosphere."
Bash, a GW alumna who graduated cum laude with a degree in political communication in 1993, spoke of her experiences covering the presidential election.
"I love covering politics and that early stage. You could walk up to Mike Huckabee and get to know them before the lights and audience come," Bash said.
Allen and King reminisced about the days before the 24-hour news cycle.
"Every story evolves," King said. "They evolve more quickly now, which can be dangerous."
King, noting the young audience, quipped, "Does anyone know what a pay phone is?"
Allen asked the two journalists about the media's role as politicians, most notably Obama, begin to use increasingly sophisticated methods of reaching the electorate.
"Is it possible to put you out of business?" Allen asked. "Scoop around you?"
Bash and King agreed, saying that more and more politicians are targeting the people directly instead of using mainstream media outlets like CNN and the New York Times.
The trio dissected and compared the coverage of another trio: Obama and former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, all of whom are known to have a certain charm at the podium.
"Something would happen when Obama entered a room. The energy would change," King said. He added later that Bush also had the same ability to "light up a room."
All three panelists stayed roughly 45 minutes after the event ended to speak to students and hand out free goodies like baseball caps promoting John King's show.
"I just spoke to John King for good three or four minutes, which in the life of a journalist is a really long time," sophomore Jesse Regis said. "I unfortunately did not get a lot of the conversation because I was looking into John's eyes."