I continue to scratch my head over the Clinton campaign’s attempt to plant a friendly question with a college student, during a recent candidate Q&A session in Iowa. Given that the campaign is greatly concerned with demonstrating that its candidate is neither calculating nor rehearsed, this strikes me as a pretty significant blunder by the Clinton staff. In addition to the issues it raises for Hillary Clinton personally, the episode brings unwelcome comparisons to President Bush’s tightly controlled public engagements, events renown for their carefully vetted guest lists and softball questions.
The episode also raises a bigger issue for me, not just about the tactics of the Clinton campaign, but about the relationship between candidates and voters, more generally. As technological advances like digital media and the internet have allowed local retail politics to play instantaneously to a worldwide audience, campaigns have scrambled (sometimes with great difficulty) to maintain control of their candidate’s message and appearance. As a result, they attempt to use local citizens as extras, scripted to perform in predictable ways for a broader audience.
While I understand the desire of the Clinton campaign to put its candidate’s best foot forward, control strategies like the planted question do not foster the free exchange of ideas between candidate and voter, which is the democratic essence of our presidential selection process.
Posted On: 11-15-2007 16:04:01 by Mica Stark
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