Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ruth Marcus -- "Meet the Press"

Despite the rise of the alternative media, the press has been the proverbial fourth rail in politics for many, many years. Being president means having to engage them, or engage with them, whether one likes it or not. President Reagan -- "the great communicator did it. so did Bush-41. Clinton practically dripped in charisma for the press, and was as good as Reagan was. President Bush, while not the greatest of speakers, tries his best and makes himself available to the press. Ruth Marcus in today's WaPo takes note of two presidential candidates that don't seem to be too fond of the press, and she warns that it doesn't bode well for candidates that don't engage the press:

It's not as if this president has been Mr. Openness. But by some important measures, George W. Bush is more accessible to the reporters who cover him than are some of the leading candidates to succeed him -- most notably Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The candidates' reluctance to engage in regular give-and-take with reporters on the campaign trail does not bode well for how they would behave if ensconced in the White House, swaddled in protective layers of presidential prerogative.

Through the end of September, the president had given 25 news conferences this year and answered questions from reporters in 19 less-extensive sessions, according to statistics compiled by Towson University political scientist Martha Joynt Kumar.

By contrast, Clinton and Obama have only occasionally held the kind of "press avail" that for other candidates, and in previous years, has been a common, often daily, occurrence.

"Senator Clinton has had one real press availability out on the campaign trail since she announced," my Post colleague Dan Balz, who is not given to cheap shots, pointedly noted on "Meet the Press" in September. "Obama is very much the same way."

Clinton stepped up the pace somewhat after Balz's remarks, to perhaps once a week. But when a New Hampshire reporter noted at a "press avail" last week that this was only her second in the state and asked if she'd pledge to do more, Clinton's answer was chilling.

"We will continue to run our campaign as we run our campaign, and we'll see how that unfolds over the next two months," she said.

Translation: I'll be talking to you only when my advisers decide I absolutely must.

Politicians don't talk to the press because they like it. They do it because they have to, and most of the time it's in their best interests. Politicians also know that if they're silent on an issue that the press is preparing for a feeding frenzy over, and they don't say anything, then they're in trouble. The press will run with innuendo and rumor just to draw the politician out and confront them.

Hillary and Barack don't like engaging the press. Hey, look, the wife and I are fairly private people. We always say that our lives are an open book for those that ask a question (provided it's not deeply personal), but other than that we do like our privacy. If this were such a case, I could respect both of them for that. But that's not the case with these two. This isn't about keeping the press out of their lives, but rather keeping them out of the campaign, and avoiding any of the dreaded "gotcha" moments that occur during campaigns.

But regularly engaging with the press is a smart thing to do. Not only will the press be a tad more friendlier, and less combative with the candidate, but the candidate also scores a win because they can be better prepared for some issues. For example, had Hillary actually been paying attention, and engaging with the press, her answer on 30 October's debate regarding licenses for illegal aliens might have been a bit smoother. Furthermore, she wouldn't have had to play the victim card like she did. That didn't score her any points in either direction.

Same thing could be said about Obama. See, here's his biggest problem, and it resonates louder than feedback at a Who concert: He's young and energetic, but he's inexperienced. Instead of engaging with the press to hone his platform, he's kept himself in the shadows. This also might be a reason why he keeps making verbal gaffes, such as suggesting we might invade Pakistan.

No one really likes the press. They're arrogant, condescending, always looking for the "gotcha" quote, and they're not too bright when they try to push their own agendas. Unfortunately, they're here to stay, and candidates should be willing to engage them. They should be using them to forward their platform, and neither Hillary or Obama has done that. That speaks volumes to how they would conduct themselves if they won the presidency.

And the Left accuses President Bush of being the most secretive president, evah.

Publius II


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