Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Senate

Fer it before he wuz agin it

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Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush told Megyn Kelly on Fox News that he, along with many people in the Senate in 2001, would’ve done exactly what his brother, former President Bush did when confronted with 911; pursue a course of war.  That was certainly a clear answer.  But later, Mr. Bush, while being interviewed by Sean Hannity, said he didn’t understand the question as it was posed by Ms. Kelly, called it a” hypothetical” and said he didn’t know what he would’ve done.

Perhaps supporters of the war who are also Bush’s supporters put pressure on him to recant.  But his follow up is one of those things that make you go, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm …

But before it looks like this is bagging on Jeb Bush, consider:
– Theantimedia.org said Rand Paul was against the Drug War before he was for it
– The New American says General Norman Schwartzkopf was against the 1991 Gulf War before he was for it
– Twitchy.com says John Kerry was for the Iraq war before he was against it
– Fox News says former Senator and Presidential candidate John Edwards was for the war in Iraq before he was against it.
– The Daily Kos says Mitt Romney was for the Vietnam War before he was against it.
– Outside the Beltway says Senator John McCain was for trading taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Beau Bergdahl before he was against it
– Wizbangblog says former President Bill Clinton was for the war in Iraq before he was against it.
– Politicususa.com says Paul Ryan was for the war in Syria before he was against it
– Foreign Policy magazine says President Obama says he was against the authorization for the war before he was for it
– Politicalwire.com says former Vice President Dick Cheney was against the Iraq was before he was for it …

… and on and on.

Clearly, Mr. Bush doesn’t want to throw his brother under the bus for the 12-year Iraq War.  But you don’t hear Republicans speaking of George W. with the same reverence of Ronald Reagan.  That says something about how party faithful on the right see the Bush Doctrine.

The larger point is politicians change their minds for their own reasons like all of the rest of us.  Except when we do it, it isn’t necessarily a judgement on our character or mental faculties.  It won’t necessarily destroy our lives or give people license to judge us for the rest of our lives because we were human.

Interviewers need to bring up inconsistencies like this during subsequent interviews.  To not is to deny constituents, whether they’re listening to business leaders or politicians, the opportunity to truly understand their thought process.  And once recants like this are being discussed, the interviewer needs to press the question to the edge of journalistic decorum.

The Money is the Message?

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Mark Rubio

One of the reasons why people have a standing distaste for politicians is because of how they sometimes don’t clearly answer questions.  Case in point, Mark Rubio has written a book in which he talks about what America needs to do to help Americans recapture the American Dream.  The law says he, as a sitting Senator, can’t also run for the presidency.  So, he has to make a choice as to when he’ll choose which office he’ll officially seek.

Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell of CBS This Morning both asked Mr. Rubio when he’ll announce.  And he circled back to his book and how he spells his choice out there.  The anchors followed up with a simple question, namely, (paraphrasing) can’t you just say?  Again, he goes back to the book.  This is one of those times for reporters and the audience when you wonder what is more important to a politician; communicating a message important to their constituency or making money for themselves?  To be fair, Hilary Clinton has done this a number of times around her own book in interviews.

The established politician strategy when asked a question that is too direct is to continue talking in hopes that the listener or viewer will forget the question that was asked and instead, focus on their next golden utterance.  Time can limit how much time reporters, commentators, correspondents and anchors have to follow up on such dreck, but they need to as often as they can so the public knows the single-minded message isn’t floating free.

Written by Interviewer

January 13, 2015 at 00:00

Political Interviews

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I am engaged in another project to bring government to the people. I am inviting all candidates for office in Oregon for 2014 to talk to me about their candidacy and their goals if they are elected or reelected.  As of this writing, I’ve talked with three and 10 or so more have shown interest.  The interviews will be either about :30 or :60 minutes long depending mostly on how long we talk.  All interviews will be posted at the KBOO FM (http://kboo.fm/betweenus) website under my podcast, “Between Us”, which is a collection of interviews I’ve done with celebrities and regular people.  They will also be posted at my interview website, Conversus (http://www.convers.us/page4.archive.html).  In both places, visitors will also be able to read and print a transcript I created of the interview. 

Talking Points

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CBS

I just listened to and watched a CBS This Morning segment that included Gayle King, Nora O’Donnell and Anthony Mason. All three were interviewing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. They began by talking about how the Capitol Police, in light of the shooting and killing of a woman who attempted to break through Capitol barricades, are working without pay.

That quickly became a conversation about the government, and all three anchors were clearly channeling the Twitter hashtag #shutdown. They each peppered Ms. Pelosi with questions that had a distinctive grassroots flavor. Gayle, said the back and forth in Washington sounded like so much “white noise” to most people; a characterization that the minority leader pushed strongly back against, essentially saying that the issue is much deeper than the ideological fight that it appears to be.

Nora asked about the ability of both sides to negotiate, which cued Ms. Pelosi to lock into the Democratic talking points, repeating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s catchphrase, “They [Republicans] won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer”.

At this point in the deadlock, according to Pelosi, the Senate majority has voted four times in favor of the budget measures in the funding bill sent forward by majority House Republicans. But those measures are tied to the defunding of the Affordable Care Act, and apparently, the Democratic majority in the Senate considers that blackmail. Thus, they won’t approve that portion of the bill.

This isn’t a blog about politics, but about interviewing, and Gayle mentioned that Pelosi must know a lot about compromise since she has five children. Nora O’Donnell roughly shifted Pelosi to a quick overview of why she was in New York, which was to attend a conference supporting child care and equal pay for working women. I couldn’t tell if O’Donnell was trying to help the producer get out on time or if she was tired of hearing the minority leader spin. Either way, the segment ended on a note of congratulations for Ms. Pelosi who was celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary.

Interviews are supposed to have a point. As near as I could tell, the point from Ms. Pelosi’s view was to put forth the Democratic position and the point of the three anchors was to grill her as much as within morning TV decorum as possible. CBS has always struck me as the more liberal of the three traditional broadcast networks. To hear all three, Gayle, Nora and Anthony on the congresswoman “Murder Board” style warmed my heart because despite talking to one of the top Democrats in Congress, they were asking questions many Americans are asking.

Good job.

Written by Interviewer

October 5, 2013 at 01:00