There is this visual cliché you see in every movie, every television show featuring a politician. Pick one – anyone. It doesn’t matter. The scene is always the same. The well groomed politician comes out, grinning, or looking serious, depending on the moment. Microphones are thrust into his/her face. Video is rolling. There is either a friendly or hostile give and take with the press – but there is a give and take.
The cliché is real. One of the (sometimes) more annoying aspects of a free culture is the fact that a free (and often hostile, always annoying) press needs to have access to a candidate. Pick a candidate. Any candidate will do, from dog catcher to Presidential aspirant. This process is extremely important, guarded by the Constitution (freedom of the press) and is often the only time voters will be able to judge a candidate.
These are the fun times. We love watching our politicians squirming, sweating, and evading the answers. It has become something of a national pastime, right up there with tiddly-winks! We laugh, throw popcorn, and critique everything from body language to hair. What is she wearing today? The people have a right to know….don’t we?
"The Problem Is That That’s Not What You Guys Have Been Reporting On."
"Barack Obama used his first news conference after announcing his run for president to accuse the media of ignoring his substantive record and falsely depicting him as a lightweight. 'The problem’s not that the info’s not out there,' he said of his record on policy issues. 'The problem is that that’s not what you guys have been reporting on. You’ve been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit.'" (Ben Smith, "Obama Casts Peevish Eye On National Media" The Politico, 2/12/07)
We the people …. have a right to absolutely intimidate, interrogate, and question any perspective office holder, especially someone running for the job of President of the United States of America. How else are we going to know who and what they are? Does he have a temper? Does she really know how to kick back beer and shooters? Is he really that accessible? This is America. We want to know everything from the (nix that one) to what are the names of their animals. Did he or she sleep with a teddy bear when they were kids? Did they need a night light? Did she ever play Barbie? Was he that bad a pilot?
"I just answered, like, eight questions!"
"An exasperated Barack Obama scurried away Monday from the toughest news conference of his campaign, telling reporters who kept shouting questions that he'd spent enough time on the grill. 'Come on! I just answered, like, eight questions,' Obama, looking surprised, told shouting reporters as he fled the room." (Michael Saul, "Angry Barack Obama bombarded by media," New York Daily News, 3/4/08)
There is a normal give and take between a politician and the press. There are times (many) when it is hostile. There are also times when it is downright uncomfortably friendly. Always, though, there is a give and take with the press.
"Absolutely No Questions This Evening."
"'Senator, I was just hoping to ask what you want to accomplish this weekend.' [Obama] replied: 'It wouldn’t be fair to everybody else. We didn’t do a press avail for everybody else. Absolutely no questions this evening.'" (Mike Allen, "For Obama, No News Is Good News," The Politico, 2/2/07)
Barack Obama does not like to answer questions from the press or at appearances unless he is in complete control of the situation. Being a control junkie myself, I can understand the need to maintain absolute control of every situation. Being a political junkie, when I see someone so tightly controlled, it makes me wonder about a few things. Why is Barack Obama avoiding the hard questions?
"You Can Walk With Me. That Doesn’t Mean You Can Ask Questions"
"As Obama left the hotel reception, smiling and saying, ‘Thank you AGAIN,’ I introduced myself and said, 'Good evening, Senator, may I walk with you?' He replied, 'You can walk with me. That doesn’t mean you can ask questions.' I chuckled, thinking he was kidding. 'But you can certainly walk with me,' he added. The Senator then underscored, 'I’m sorry. I’m not answering questions.'" (Mike Allen, "For Obama, No News Is Good News," The Politico, 2/2/07)
LEGO MY EGGO!
The Democratic contender was allowed to surf along in this blissful state of carefully selected questions and scripted appearances until the morning when The Great Waffle Affair called attention to the fact that he did not care to visit with the press, even during the middle of a very hotly contested race. Have you ever known a self-respecting politician in his or her right mind who would turn down an opportunity to schmooze with the press in such a charming location? Well, Barack Obama did. And, in a moment that will go down in presidential primary history, he asked the rhetorical question of the entire campaign.
"Why can’t I just eat my waffle?"
"Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama kicked off a day of campaigning in Pennsylvania by dropping by a Scranton diner for a breakfast of waffles, sausage and orange juice. But the press corps went hungry — hungry for an answer that is. The Illinois senator brushed aside a question from one reporter on his reaction to former President Jimmy Carter’s description of a positive meeting with leaders of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas. '“Why can’t I just eat my waffle?' Obama replied." (Caren Bohan, “Why can’t I eat my waffle,” Reuters, 4/21/08)
Politics can be fun, especially if you are the other guy. It is time for a little Straight Talk here. I am a staunch supporter of John McCain. I am biased in my support, but not as a writer covering a story. I’m also fortunate to be supporting a Presidential candidate who goes out of his way to be open and accommodate the press. He is even tolerant of bloggers like me and goes out of his way to accommodate us! (There was one blogger conference call where he took something like 37 questions!) If “Straight Talk” is good enough for John McCain, then it should be good enough for Barack Obama.
Obama Took The Unusual Step Of Banning Press From A Hotel Reception During The DNC Winter Meetings.
"A flier for DNC members said, 'Senator Barack Obama Cordially invites you to an Evening Reception.' It was held in a medium-sized reception room. Cocktails, sold by the hotel, were $6.75 and domestic beer was a buck less. 'Space is limited, therefore this event is for DNC Members ONLY,' the flier said. 'Members can bring one guest to the event.' The room was jammed and a line snaked onto the promenade as Obama workers checked their lists like it was a nightclub. Reporters were barred – a somewhat unusual, although not unheard of, policy for a meet-and-greet-type event in a public place like a hotel.” (Mike Allen, "For Obama, No News Is Good News," The Politico, 2/2/07)
Try Googling “McCain Bans Press” – you come up with “Press” and other assorted “bans” but I did not find a current incident where John McCain has banned the press from an event. I imagine there have been times in the past where he has, but I don’t see anything current. That’s not his style.
CAN WE ASK?
The RNC (Republican National Committee) created Can We Ask as an antidote to the fact that Barack Obama is not living up to the Straight Talk example created by John McCain. He is not answering questions from the media or the American People. Can We Ask was created as a tool to enable voters to ask the questions Barack Obama is avoiding. Anyone can ask a question.
Liz Mair, RNC spokeswoman said, Literally anyone can submit a question to the site, in either video or text format. We pre-approve all content that is submitted, because John McCain has made clear that he is running a respectful campaign and we want to ensure that in line with that imperative, no offensive or libelous questions." We need politicians who are not afraid of answering the tough questions. Sure, the press is annoying. But – a free press is one of the most important foundations of a free society.
One of the things I demand out of the candidates I support is that he or she treat the press with respect. Do they make a reasonable attempt to deal with them? Do try answering their endless and often moronic questions like a "grown up?"
Maybe someone should tell this to Barack Obama. Maybe, back in Scranton, when he was eating that waffle, if he’d offered to buy a round of waffles for everyone, he might not have looked so – waffly.