Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stonewalling the Media

As the Democrats await their fate in the upcoming election, there is one Senate race that even among all of the crazy races has perhaps captured the most attention. And that is the Nevada US Senate race between Democrat and Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.

Sure there are many other races where Tea Party candidates have adopted positions that are well out of the political mainstream (even for many Republicans!), but Sharron Angle is in a league of her own.

Brian Greenspun, the publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun in his editorial
Nevadans can show how smart we are (Or, by electing Sharron Angle, we can prove the reverse is true) sums up just a few of Angle’s provocative positions.
Angle would dismantle Social Security and Medicare, calling them biblical sins; do away with Veterans Affairs; not require insurance companies to pay for mammograms, and screenings for prostate and other cancers that we know can save lives with early detection; or refuse to require background checks for sex offenders. These are all norms of American daily living that people take for granted and expect that those who we elect won’t take them away. Angle would.

Even worse, she has stated publicly how she really feels about Nevadans crushed by this meltdown. She believes people who need unemployment benefits to keep their homes and food on their tables, until there are jobs to be had, are just spoiled!
The list goes on and on. There is her position that even women who are impregnated by rape or incest should not have access to abortion. And then there are her proposed Second Amendment “remedies” in response to actions by Congress she disapproves of. A little armed insurrection anybody?

But this is not about criticizing her ideas as strange as they may be to many of us. Elections are about competing ideas and candidates should air their different views to allow the voters to make their own informed choices.

But what angers me (and should anger you too) is the strategy of Angle (and many other Tea Partiers) of stonewalling the media when they try to do their job of asking follow-up questions of the candidates to defend their positions. Or as the Sun editorial puts it:
People’s right of access to information about their government is paramount. People who wish to seek and hold public office have no right to withhold themselves and their views from voters. Angle, obviously, disagrees with the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Founding Fathers who wrote it and the vast majority of Americans who live and die each day defending it.
Angle has been seen many times walking away from media questioners, but the latest is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me. Check out the video of the latest attempted interview of her in this link.
Reporters from the CBS and NBC affiliates surprised the tea party favorite at McCarran International Airport, where they asked her questions about national security and unemployment. Angle responded, "I will answer those questions when I am the senator."

Pressed further, she added, "The two wars that we are in right now are exactly what we are in."
How profound. This is more than just an isolated incident; it represents an attitude on her part. Appearing on conservative-friendly Fox News, she came out with a whopper that even left the Fox interviewer flabbergasted.
"We wanted [the press] to ask the questions we want to answer, so that they report the news the way we want it reported."
The strategy these candidates use is to put out some right-wing talking points (some say it's demagoguery) to fire up the base, but at the same time avoid answering questions by the media (except for friendly questioning on Fox) to explain or defend their positions.

For example, Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul cancelled a scheduled appearance on Meet the Press rather than explain his controversial remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Sarah Palin never appeared on any of the Sunday political talk shows during her VP run in 2008. It was only when ABC’s Charles Gibson asking her about the Bush Doctrine and CBS’s Katie Couric asked her about which newspapers she read that her lack of knowledge on the issues became painfully apparent. And then there was the recent infamous incident in Alaska where Republican Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller’s private security guards handcuffed a reporter for approaching the candidate with questions after a public town hall meeting.

One would think that when a candidate refuses to answer questions, the voters would respond by not voting for that person!
But Angle, Paul, and Miller all lead in the polls this weekend before the election so this basically dishonest strategy is apparently working. (But fortunately not for California GOP gubernatorial candidate
Meg Whitman.)

We shouldn’t let them get away with it!
It should stand to reason that if certain candidates are going through all of this trouble to avoid defending their positions, isn’t it reasonable to ask what they are hiding? Isn’t it possible that some of their extreme positions would be indefensible in the face of media scrutiny? And that they know it!

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