Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Sorry, no follow up questions

My letter to the author of this column.

Dear E. J.:

Why do the press continue to allow the president to hide from their questions? One of the most amazing tricks of this White House is their ability to keep their candidate out of anything that requires him to personally answer hard questions.

I have noticed the methods and techniques:

1) Limit press conferences (14 in 3 and ½ years! That is a travesty!)
2) Set rules to “no follow up questions”
3) Punish the press that ask hard questions by limiting access, browbeating them and complaining to their bosses
4) Limit overall question time (and therefore number of questions) at press conferences (he took a total of three today)
5) Handpick "reporters" who have one-on-one interviews with him
6) Control the audience at his appearances so no real questions will be asked
7) Set up the press to the public as “filters” so that people don’t trust them

How it is that the President can get away with so many controlled settings and the press doesn’t scream foul? Actually I think I do know why. In addition to the way the White House controls access and sets the rules, it appears the media will not cooperate with each other and refuse to let the White House push them around. This is where the White House is using the media’s own egos and careerism against them. Would it be considered a conspiracy if all the press covering the White House got together and said to the Bush administration, “We will not accept your rules about no follow ups. We want at least two press conferences a month. We insist you and your staff treat everyone with respect and if you threaten one of us, you threaten all of us.”

Why is it important to have the president answering the questions himself? For one it is because a surrogate can always be "out of the loop" on some critical question. It is one thing for Scott McClellan to dodge and lie, but it is another for we the people to see President Bush avoiding questions, giving weak answers and dancing around real issues. We are a nation of people that now respond strongly to images, both good and bad ones. Remember watching Clinton’s facial expressions while he was attacked by Ken Starr? It was played over and over on TV because for some people that said everything about his character. Don’t we deserve the same opportunity with this President? Of course his handlers know this, because as Michael Moore has shown, if you show the President in anything that is not tightly controlled he doesn’t always come off as “Presidential”.

If the press finally started to pull together in the quest for truth, what would this look like?

Well first you could start by demanding Helen Thomson get placed back in the front of the room during press conferences.

Second you could refuse to allow the White House to limit you to one question with no follow ups.

Third, support your fellow press members. Say the guy from UPI asks a great question like in the last press conference I saw, "Why aren't you and the vice president testifying to the 9/11 committee separately like they asked?"
He is given a bullshit answer. So he asks again. Luckily the person who had the mike didn’t move away fast enough so he got to ask the question again. He still got the same bullshit answer. Wouldn’t it have been great if other press members would put their own precious question on hold and ask, "Mr. President, I'm sorry, but you still haven't answered the question posed by the UPI reporter. Your answer is a non-answer. The American public needs to understand why you aren't talking to the 9/11 commission separately like they requested. Please answer the question.”

I suppose it is too late for all this. And of course if Kerry uses the same tricks as Bush the right wing will scream bloody murder about how the press isn’t being given enough access and aren’t allowed follow up questions.



ellroon said...

Good letter, Spocko! To the point. We need to start demanding answers from the elected officials in the White House. People seem to forget Bush is the country's employee. We elected him. He is supposed to be working for us, not his neocon cabal. This secrecy crap, the I-am-God's-emmissary crap, we know what's best for you crap would not be tolerated if people would remember that.

You work for us, Bush, and you're fired!

3:18 PM  
Anonymous said...

well, after today's craptacular press conference, i guess most of your questions have been answered, yes?

bush couldn't ad-lib a fart after a bean dinner.

11:15 AM  
spocko said...

Yeah, my favorite moment was when a reporter(Gregory from NBC) said that the president didn't answer his question. Bush looked SoOOO pissed off. He gave this puff of air like, Are you kidding me? I'm the president damn it. Nobody questions me.

"Couldn't ad-lib a fart after a bean dinner." Hmmm. I seem to remember someone telling me that about Johnny Carson... Who would know that? Only an insider!

11:03 AM  

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