Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 8, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

DODGING BULLETS....On campaign conference calls, reporters who want to ask questions press *1 and are put in a queue. When their turn comes up, they get to ask their question. But David Corn reports that there are exceptions:

This is not how the McCain campaign does it. When a reporter calls in for a conference call, he or she is asked by an operator to provide his or her name and media outlet. Then when it comes time for questions, there is a long pause — long enough for someone in the campaign to select whom should be called on. This has caused several journalists who have participated in these calls to wonder: is the McCain campaign screening reporters, and, if so, on what basis? A reporter for a progressive media outlet says that he has tried at least half a dozen times to ask a question on a McCain conference call and has had never been selected.

The same has happened to me. No matter how quickly I press *1, I'm never afforded the opportunity to pose a question....In an email, I asked Jill Hazelbaker, McCain's communications director, if the McCain campaign was screening reporters in an attempt to manage the conference calls. She did not reply. I called the campaign's media office and posed the same question. The woman who answered placed me on hold. A few moments later, she told me that a press officer would soon call with an answer. No one ever did.

Right-wing bloggers with softball questions, however ("Can you address...that Barack Obama doesn't have any executive experience at all?") seem to have no trouble being called on. That's some straight talkin'!

Kevin Drum 1:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Comments

It must be noted that reporters from progressive outlets do not abide by the Geneva Convention in their questioning and use techniques that would make North Vietnamese interrogators blush.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on July 8, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

You are slandering the war record of a hero.

Posted by: tom on July 8, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, how can you diss his service! He was a POW! He has had enough hard questions!

Posted by: John McCain: More of the Same on July 8, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Corn was only going to ask questions that couldn't be answered with a creepy grin and a creepier giggle.

My mom, part of John McCain's target audience, has been entertaining me lately with outstanding imitations of McCain's voice: "I put the children in a box in the attic...I have a box for you, too."

Posted by: shortstop on July 8, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Republican politicians screening reporters' questions and accepting only those perceived as "friendly"? You don't say...

Posted by: Gregory on July 8, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Is Kevin going to pick up the story about a California sewage plant looking to be named after George W Bush?

http://www.kvbc.com/Global/story.asp?S=8631109

Posted by: royalblue_tom on July 8, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Just take a page out of the Republican Operating Manual. Lie about who you represent.

Posted by: Orange Crush on July 8, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

*.

Posted by: mhr on July 8, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

mhr: YOU worry too much, NOBODY has a way out of the quicksand of Iraq, NOBODY.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 8, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

mhr regurgitated: "Reagan defeated the Soviet Union"

Wrong. Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski defeated the Soviet Union, by funding the mujahideen rebellion against the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan, thereby provoking the Soviets to invade and embroil themselves in an unwinnable and disastrous occupation -- in Brzezinski's words, providing the Soviets with "their own Vietnam". It was the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, not the US arms buildup (which in any case was also begun by Carter, not Reagan), that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 8, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, so I'd suppose you'd like anybody to just ask McCain anything??? Sorry, that's not the way we do things here in America. In THIS country, we defer to our royalty and show them cringing respect.

Posted by: Stefan on July 8, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski defeated the Soviet Union, by funding the mujahideen rebellion..." whose soldiers, after defeating the Soviets, went on to battle other empires. That's 'cause Carter thought he had to act like a Republican when it came to foreign policy, and you know how that always turns out. No big deal, because it's not like anything bad happened!

Posted by: peejay on July 8, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Listen, Pal. I was in the military and we don't have time to sit around answering a lot of fool questions. Come to think of it, the most unscreened questions I ever answered was in Hanoi.

Posted by: John M. on July 8, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I know it's a mugs game, his minddroppings will likely be gone before I hit post, but what the hell? mhr, you drooling fuckwit, you know fuckall about the military under Reagan, but I do first hand - the number of boots was downsized under Ronnie Ray-Gun who favored fancy toys that often didn't work, or were never meant to be used, lest it be "game over."

This trend was continued by bu$h 41 and SecDef Cheney, and led directly to the understaffed forces we now have, and two wars broke the toys that had utility and the rest are still useless unless you want to make glass from sand.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on July 8, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

That's some straight talkin'!

Aiyeee! Aiyeee! How DARE you denigrate John McCain's military service!

I asked you a question, sir! How DARE you?!?!

Posted by: Stefan on July 8, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

nowhere in Europe does any vestige of communism remain

Many European countries have universal health care.

Posted by: Brojo on July 8, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Many European countries have universal health care.

Fella, must you hand our gooper trolls their talking points?! They get so damned skittish around that word, you know.

Posted by: shortstop on July 8, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Just another Rove trick, Kevin.

Secular Animist: Also wrong. Not to sound too Cold Warriorish, but the Soviet Union defeated the Soviet Union, ultimately.

Both Carter and Reagan, while pushing, were nonetheless somewhat incidental. Ask Gorbachev.

Royal Blue, I blogged about the sewage plant two months ago as part of Friday SCATblogging.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 8, 2008 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

To clarify: I meant the C word, the one they don't call their wives.

Posted by: shortstop on July 8, 2008 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

I totally want McCain to play the "I faced unscreened questions in Hanoi" card.

One of his surrogates can probably be baited into saying something like that. Carly Fiorina strikes me as gullible enough to fall for something like that.

Posted by: Tyro on July 8, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I work in Investor Relations and my firm provides, among other services, conference calls for public companies' Quarterly earnings calls. These are closely watched events of very high importance to a company. A standard feature of nearly every call we produce is an online Q&A management tool that allows the VIP/Chairperson to view who's on the call and manage that queue by literally bumping callers up, down, or simply out of the question queue. It's routine for corporate executives and their handlers to bump hostile analysts and other unfriendlies, not letting them know they've been bumped, but then simply directing the Operator to announce "...there are no more questions at this time. This concludes today's conference call...".

It's all very stage-managed for proper optics, so it wouldn't surprise me a bit to learn that campaigns are using these tools as well.

Posted by: James on July 8, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Dial "L" for L-O-S-E-R!!!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 8, 2008 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

I want to understand precisely, how being caged for five years, entitles John McCain to the keys to the Oval Office....

Those captives who were just freed in Colombia after being captives for six years - well, hell, they must be qualified to be Pope!

Posted by: Terrence Titwiggle on July 8, 2008 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

OK so David Corn can't ask McCain a question.

But who can? Who's pitching these softballs are any among the media elite and if so WTF are they?

...the rest of the story, please.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on July 8, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK


My friends, I hate our freedom.

Posted by: John McCain on July 8, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK
Wrong. Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski defeated the Soviet Union

Wrong. The Soviet leadership, starting at least as far back as Stalin, defeated the Soviet Union by engaging in an attempt to beat the West, which started out miles ahead and could obviously keep that advantage, in a military spending competition. All the succession of Western leaders, in the US and other Western nations, did was manage to fail to make enough catastrophic errors in judgement to entirely forfeit that enormous advantage in initial conditions.

Arguing over which single US President deserves credit for defeating the Soviet Union is fundamentally misguided.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 8, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

That's right, C.M. The Soviets defeated themselves (and that's not said facetiously).

Posted by: Vincent on July 8, 2008 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

If McCain is elected, are we going to have to build a cage in the Oval Office, so that he feels right at home? Since being caged for five years is his strongest qualification to be president, we want him to feel at home, right. Should we plant some bamboo too?

Posted by: Terrence Titwiggle on July 8, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

blue girl, good to see you again.

Posted by: keith g on July 8, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

If McCain cant handle the tough questions now whats he going to do when the phone rings at 4am?

Heh.

Posted by: Jet on July 8, 2008 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

All the succession of Western leaders, in the US and other Western nations, did was manage to fail to make enough catastrophic errors in judgement to entirely forfeit that enormous advantage in initial conditions.

Well, if managing to fail to make enough catastrophic errors in judgement to entirely forfeit that enormous advantage in initial conditions was what was needed, all I can say is thank god George W. Bush wasn't president at the time, or we'd all be speaking Russian and enjoying socialized medicine right now.....

Posted by: Stefan on July 8, 2008 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I find it very hypocritical that the very same people who smeared McCains service, they said he had a screw loose from being tortured, now want to uphold his being a POW as a heroic deed.

There is no doubt that McCain has ssuffers from PTSD.

Posted by: on July 8, 2008 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

To clarify: I meant the C word, the one they don't call their wives.

Condoleezza?

Posted by: junebug on July 8, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

I would be VERY surprised if all modern presidential campaigns don't do this. It seems like something you learn in Public Relations 101. Imagine the Obama campaign having to give Fox News, the Washington Times, and the Wall St. Journal the same shot at posing questions as other news outlets. They would lose control of the message, and waste precious media time, and campaigns hate to do that. As much as I think that John McCain is a goober, I don't think this is compelling proof of that.

Posted by: doktorwise on July 8, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Condoleezza?

Well, her "husband" calls her that, doesn't he? Whenever he's not calling her whatever gross, patronizing nick he's given her.

Ugh, now I'm quivering with revulsion.

Posted by: shortstop on July 8, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Imagine the Obama campaign having to give Fox News, the Washington Times, and the Wall St. Journal the same shot at posing questions as other news outlets. They would lose control of the message, and waste precious media time, and campaigns hate to do that.

I feel fairly certain that were the Obama campaign doing what McCain's people are apparently doing, we'd be hearing about it at some length and volume.

Posted by: shortstop on July 8, 2008 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Orange Crush nailed it.

What regularly-excluded reporters need to do is start passing themselves off as representing Fox News. Hell, claim their names are Roger Ailes, even Rupert himself.

A front-page NYT or WaPo story asking how Mr. Straight Talk came to be afraid of tough questions and uses screening to ensure he only gets softballs lobbed his way would be nice. But unlikely.

Posted by: Auto on July 8, 2008 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

It seems likely that other journalists are paying the price for Corn's behavior on campaign conference calls.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on July 8, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Corn's behavior

Asking substantive questions of presidential candidates is considered impolite and antisocial by Republicans.

Posted by: Brojo on July 8, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

This is just a newer technology stuff of the sort of thing Richard Nixon debuted for his 1968 campaign with the help of Roger Ailes. Yes, that Roger Ailes.

They would film "town hall" meetings with Nixon, handpicking people to ask questions, put them in front of a shill audience, edit it afterwards. Reporters didn't get to go in the room, they could watch on a monitor though.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on July 8, 2008 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK
Well, if managing to fail to make enough catastrophic errors in judgement to entirely forfeit that enormous advantage in initial conditions was what was needed, all I can say is thank god George W. Bush wasn't president at the time, or we'd all be speaking Russian and enjoying socialized medicine right now.....

Hey, but those are the good (or at least, in the case of speaking Russian, neutral) points of a Soviet takeover. The bad points are that we'd be suffering under an oppressive regime that stomped on the rights considered by the founders of this country to be inalienable and enshrined in our Constitution, engaged in massive spying on its citizens in the name of security, suppressed facts and science to serve the propaganda interests of the ruling elite, detained "enemies of the state", foreign and domestic, without due process and subjected them to show trials, imposed systems of controls on internal travel based on secret determination of the security authorities that the subjects could not review, challenge, or even know the rules behind, ...


Okay, I think I see why you pointed to "speaking Russian and enjoying socialized medicine."

Posted by: cmdicely on July 8, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Keith G. Hope you've been well. I don't have much time to comment much any more, but I do periodically skim the threads.

*****

The Soviet Union collapsed under it's own weight - Carter gets credit for SALT II and the resulting treaty. Reagan hastened the demise by getting into a fool-hardy spending war that had it continued much longer had the potential to bring our economy to, well, something resembling this.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on July 8, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK


Okay, I think I see why you pointed to "speaking Russian and enjoying socialized medicine."

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love it when Dicely puts on the snark hat. It's simply sublime. Thanks for the smile.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on July 8, 2008 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

That was good, wasn't it?

Posted by: Stefan on July 8, 2008 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

So McCain, like fellow 'fraidy-cats Bush, Cheney, and Limbaugh, only takes screened questions.

McSame.

Posted by: sally on July 8, 2008 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect one important factor in the Soviet Union's defeat of itself was the leadership's penchant for purging the mid-level management (civilian and military) of competent truth-tellers and replacing them with political hacks who toed the party line.

I thank the Gnarled Oak Deity that I live in a country where shit like that would never happen.

Posted by: thersites on July 8, 2008 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect one important factor in the Soviet Union's defeat of itself was the leadership's penchant for purging the mid-level management (civilian and military) of competent truth-tellers and replacing them with political hacks who toed the party line.

Well, that and the total replacement of reality with ideology, and ignoring inconvenient scientific facts for politically palatable fairy stories. Plus, the wholesale manipulation of economic statistics and the rampant cronyism at the top.

Glad we dodged that bullet!

Posted by: ericblair on July 8, 2008 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone please explain to me how toward the beginning of the comments section, MHR just leaves an asterisk for a comment yet succeeding comments are directed at MHR addressing topics as though MHR had said something more substantive than an asterisk?

Is this a running gag?

Posted by: newbie on July 9, 2008 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

It's a known troll, Newbie. Regularly drops in and spews unbacked 'information' or heckles other comments...hasn't said anything remotely reality-based since I started lurking this place.
[and I've been here for a quick minute]

Welcome BTW

Posted by: Cognitive Dissident on July 9, 2008 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Cognitive Dissident.

Then, if I have this right, MHR didn't actually say anything except asterisk. The responses to MHR's asterisk are just grab-bag counter-points to points the commenter assumed MHR would have made since MHR is previously known as a troll.

Odd but interesting.

Posted by: newbie on July 9, 2008 at 3:04 AM | PERMALINK

Then, if I have this right, MHR didn't actually say anything except asterisk. The responses to MHR's asterisk are just grab-bag counter-points to points the commenter assumed MHR would have made since MHR is previously known as a troll.

No, the mods just delete mhr's rants, but not always before other commentors decide to have some fun with them.

Posted by: Gregory on July 9, 2008 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK

Heh, I have a sneaky scheme to propose: Have the "good" Roger Ailes of the blog http://www.rogerailes.blogspot.com/ call in to McCain's operation, and just call himself "Roger Ailes" of course.

Posted by: Neil B on July 9, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Wrong. Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski defeated the Soviet Union ..."

I've read a very cogent explanation of how Eastern Europe defeated the Soviet Union. Wish I could remember where and the details. Seems to me it was the President of Hungary, or something like that. It was a soft rebellion against Soviet domination.

Anyway, my point is that there were a number of pieces that lead to the fall of the the USSR and to point to ANY American administration as the sole defeater of the USSR is simplistic.

This reminds me of all the American talk of how WE defeated Hitler, when the biggest contribution to his defeat, whether we like it or not, was the incredible military response of the Soviet Union. Look sometime at the men and materiel the Nazis spent on the Eastern Front and you'll see what I mean. It was a struggle for the West to preserve any part of Germany from the Russians.

Americans are so self-centered in our view of history.

Believe it or not, it's NOT all about US.

Posted by: Cal Gal on July 9, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK
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