Global warming seems to have let the media down. Hurricane season is almost over, and despite the predictions of all the experts back in 2005, we’ve seen a distinct lack of storms for reporters to stand out in.
Luckily, though, there have been plenty of windstorms out in Iowa as the 2008 presidential race rolls on.
Hillary Clinton touched off one tempest recently, when college student Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff told CNN that the Clinton campaign had scripted her question at a town hall meeting. She was told to ask the senator, “As a young person, I’m worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?”
It’s tempting to say that Mrs. Clinton aims to “cool the rhetoric” by deciding what questions she’s asked, but of course the senator’s staff said she didn’t know anything about this. “This is not acceptable campaign process moving forward,” Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said. “We’ve taken steps to ensure that it never happens again.”
But the problem here isn’t that one town hall meeting was scripted; it’s that the entire primary process is. These meetings don’t give voters a real chance to question candidates, and the televised “debates” are even worse. It’s possible to watch a two-hour exchange and come away less informed than when you started watching.
Here’s a handy guide to use the next time you’re watching a Democratic debate. The host will ask a question. Maybe it’s about Iraq. Or the budget. Or climate change. Frankly, the topic doesn’t matter. No matter what the question is, the response is prescripted.
First, the candidate will complement the questioner. “That’s an important question for our nation, and I’m glad you asked it.” Then throw in a gratuitous mention of a key Democratic interest group. “And I’d like to thank [public sector unions, teachers, whomever] for their critical leadership on this issue.” Over the ensuing applause, the candidate will yell, “America needs [blank]!” Louder cheering will follow.
Next, it’s time to denounce George W. Bush as a complete failure on this, and all other, issues. “George W. Bush has failed to lead, and I will.” Finally, he/she’ll say it’s time for “leadership and real change” on this issue, and claim to be the only candidate who can deliver that change. At this point, the candidate’s two minutes are up, and the host moves on to the next question. It’s all heat and no light.