Cranky cameramen and a tetchy in-house audio system delayed the start of Sen. Barack Obama's tax cut speech.

10 different networks, including Japan's NHK, sent photographers and audio assistants to the event. To allow the cameras to record high-quality audio, The Brookings Institute borrowed what's known as a "mult box" from the Hilton hotel on Embassy Row. The mult box connects to the podium microphone and has two dozen inputs; it's easy to plug in and record.

For a few minutes, the podium mic was hinky. An audio tech from one of the networks unsnapped it and replaced it with one of her own. A CNN producer scurried up to test the new mic. It worked. All was well.

And then, inexplicably, an employee for Brookings unhooked the operational mic and replaced it with the broken mic.

"Don't do that," one photographer screamed. It took a few more minutes for the right mic to find its way to the right mic stand.

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Fifteen minutes late, the program began. But the microphone was still gimpy. The TV guys had good audio, but those of us sitting in the Ambassador ballroom here were treated to a high-gain, reverb version of the speech. It's a little hard on the ears.

But begin we did.

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