Advertisement
Politics

The Shameless Dodging of Watchdogs

John McCain and Barack Obama won't hold a serious, full blown news conference until after the election.

Sure, there'll be some short appearances on cable news channels and the occasional Sunday talk show. There will be interviews with local and foreign reporters and Obama and McCain will take the occasional shouted question as they walk across a tarmac or toward their waiting motorcade.

In other words, they are both adapting for themselves the strategy the McCain camp has chosen for vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, answer questions only in tightly controlled or relatively low-risk situations.

Advertisement - Article continues below

(Obama running-mate Joe Biden, who has talked to reporters day-in, day-out for decades as a senator and has always been comfortable with the media, and meets and chats with traveling political reporters routinely. But he's not the guy at the top of the ticket and is a far better-known quantity than the relatively obscure Palin.)

There simply won't be anything like a lengthy press conference to answer detailed questions about where they stand on major policy questions, national and global developments or the conduct of their campaigns -- big questions whose answers have consequences for the country or reveal something about the candidate, not lipstick, be it on pigs or hockey moms.

There will be the debates, of course, and they will matter -- they may even determine the outcome of the election. But those are carefully prepared-for events usually involving only a handful of questioners who focus on big issues. News conferences are far more free-wheeling events involving many questioners who have their own areas of expertise and are generally skilled at asking questions. They can ask detailed follow-up questions about whether a tax cut proposal would be refundable or about the significance of recent troop movements by an unfriendly government in a shaky part of the world. Good reporters know a dodge or inconsistency when they see it and will find different ways to try to get at a topic until they either get a real answer or it is apparent that they won't get one at all, which often can be important information in and of itself.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

There was a time that constantly dodging reporters was a big risk for candidates. They looked as if they had something to hide. But these days if there is any profession in lower disregard that politics, it's journalism. And politicians use that -- play it to their advantage, actually -- as much as possible. Look at how the McCain camp portrayed reporters as bullies and tools of Democrats for asking questions about Palin or how Obama easily includes the media in his list of those playing politics as usual.

Of course the news media has its problems and makes massive, embarrassing blunders worthy of criticism. But like it or not, journalists are the only ones in a position to ask and get answers about things that matter on a regular and immediate basis. There is no other mechanism for holding candidates for or holders of public office accountable on a regular and immediate basis or for evaluating their judgment, experiences and abilities. When the country is making a decision about who to turn to in difficult and downright scary times, slipping the watchdogs is a bad and even shameful thing.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

7 Surprisingly Valuable Assets for a Happy Retirement
happy retirement

7 Surprisingly Valuable Assets for a Happy Retirement

If you want a long and fulfilling retirement, you need more than money. Here are the most valuable retirement assets to have (besides money), and how …
August 3, 2020
Retired? Good Luck Getting a Mortgage, Even If You’re Wealthy
mortgages

Retired? Good Luck Getting a Mortgage, Even If You’re Wealthy

One 70-year-old’s story highlights the challenges. Prepare for more paperwork and hoops to jump through than you could imagine.
August 2, 2020
Turning 60 in 2020? Expect Lower Social Security Benefits
Coronavirus and Your Money

Turning 60 in 2020? Expect Lower Social Security Benefits

When you file for Social Security, the amount you receive may be lower.
July 30, 2020

Recommended

Vote by Mail: A State-by-State Guide to Absentee Ballot Voting
Politics

Vote by Mail: A State-by-State Guide to Absentee Ballot Voting

With health authorities recommending people continue to social distance, the idea of voting by mail is becoming an increasingly hot topic.
August 4, 2020
Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans
taxes

Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans

With the economy in trouble, tax policy takes on added importance in the 2020 presidential election. So, let's take a look at what Joe Biden has said …
July 22, 2020
Answers to PPP Loan FAQs (Now That There's Fresh Funding for the Loans)
small business loans

Answers to PPP Loan FAQs (Now That There's Fresh Funding for the Loans)

Small business owners are getting another crack at Paycheck Protection Program loans. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the lo…
July 21, 2020
Travel Planning in the Time of Coronavirus
Travel

Travel Planning in the Time of Coronavirus

Insurance may not cover canceled vacations, but airlines and hotels may be flexible.
June 11, 2020