Published June 21, 2007
One of my basic tenets of life is that when you listen long enough to politicians you will hear them tell the truth. Listening to many people who offer themselves for public office you discover they are all over the map with their answers. Depending on the group to whom they are speaking they have a ready scripted answer to the questions posed to them. Listening long enough, however, one can uncover deeply held truths. An example of truth coming out was unveiled in news reports telling us that recently Howard Dean, the head of the Democrat Party, announced the best way to get the truth from politicians is to ?“...bar the press.”
The report said that Dean was speaking to a group of Mortgage Bankers and the statement came up that too many candidates offer only sound bites and not straightforward answers to questions. Dean then replied, “I suggest you have candidates in to meetings like this and bar the press.” He went on to say that, “The media has been reduced to info-tainment.” Politicians seem to have a fear that their words will be twisted for the sake of headlines, according to Howard Dean.
Many of us remember the 2004, rant followed by a loud scream from Dean when he came in third in the Iowa caucuses. The clip of the scream was shown many times around the world in the days following Dean’s crash and burn in Iowa. Apparently Dean is still hurting from the image many have of him as a result of loosing his cool during that post election news conference in Iowa. The day following Dean’s proposal to the Mortgage Bankers of a bar-the-press meeting, eight of the candidates running for the nomination to be president on the Democrat ticket met in Orangeburg, South Carolina, for what was reported to be a debate.
The day following the debate many pundits were trying to sell to the public the idea that there had been a winner of the debate. Anyone who knows anything about these types of public media events knows that the main issue for all eight of the people in this staged event was not to look bad. The tightly scripted answers of all the people on the stage that Thursday night were very obvious. All of the candidates have media advisors helping them to know how to package their campaign to the American public. Not only do candidates rely upon their campaign speeches but all of them have websites where they post certain statements and even have position papers posted on what they believe are the vital issues of the campaign. If we are to believe that the only way we are to receive real truthful answers to questions is to bar the press then why are the candidates wasting all their money on media advisors?
Should we be thinking that candidates are truthful and honest only when the microphones are turned off? Rather than having less press I am an advocate for more press coverage. Believing in free speech and freedom of the press, the light of public awareness needs to be shining upon all gatherings of politicians. Likewise, it is necessary to be able to hear the candidates as they express themselves on any and every subject that is pertinent to the campaign. It seems that Howard Dean was telling the truth when he lobbied for less press and not more. We now have uncovered the deep feeling of his life when he states the only way to “hear anybody’s true views; you cannot do it in the same room as the press.” The true views are what the public needs to know.
To suggest that lack of press coverage will bring out the real person and the real views is to let us know that the public image they are portraying to us is not genuine and real. There is a great fear on my part that with lack of press coverage we would have even more dishonesty and untruthfulness fostered on the public at large. To all the candidates I say, “open up,” let us know who you are, what you think and where you are going to lead us when and if you are elected to a place of public trust. To the press I say, “Stay after them, don’t let up and don’t allow yourself to be locked out.” We need more public disclosure not less.
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