Tuesday, November 13, 2007


It’s so much neater if a politician can control a Q and A by planting the questions beforehand. Otherwise some wise guy in the audience is going to try to trip the speaker by asking embarrassing questions on topics about which the candidate has given no thought. People in the audience can derail the whole process and get on their own agenda, so why should a speaker give up control of the situation?

That is what someone on Mrs. Clinton’s staff thought when the candidate was speaking in Iowa last week. When Senator Clinton was speaking at Grinnell College in Iowa, a staffer prompted a college student to ask a question about global warming. When word of the planted question got out, Clinton claimed that she had no idea that the question had come from her own staff. She further stated that it was against her campaign’s policy to do such a thing. The whole thing calls to mind the recent “news conference” where the FEMA deputy director answered “questions” that had been distributed by his own staff. One of Mrs. Clinton’s opponents, John Edwards, criticized the event and compared it to methods used by George Bush.

Another Clinton opponent, Dr. Carl Perrin, sees nothing wrong with planting questions ahead of time. “I don’t know how times,” he says, “I’ve been giving a fascinating lecture on some really interesting topic like the great English vowel when some wise ass asks a question to throw me off the topic. Or they’ll say, ‘Professor Perrin, is this going to be on the test?’ It’s a lot better if you know what they’re going to ask ahead of time.”

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