The college student who says she was told what question to ask at one of Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign events told CNN Monday that she wasn't the only one at the event who was a plant and said "voters have the right to know what really happened."
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff, a 19-year-old sophomore at Grinnell College in Iowa - whose story in her campus newspaper has now been widely circulated - said that giving anyone specific questions to ask is "dishonest," and the whole incident has given her a negative outlook on politics.
"I sort of thought about it, and I said 'Yeah, can I ask how her energy plan compares to the other candidates' energy plans?'" Gallo-Chasanoff said Monday night.
"'I don't think that's a good idea," the staffer said, according to Gallo-Chasanoff, "because I don't know how familiar she is with their plans."
He then opened a binder to a page that, according to Gallo-Chasanoff, had about eight questions on it.
"The top one was planned specifically for a college student," she added. " It said 'college student' in brackets and then the question."
Topping that sheet of paper was the following: "As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?"
This is bad. This is a real scandal. This is Bush-esque. Seven years ago, I probably wouldn't have believed a student making allegations like this, but I now I do. And this statement of plausible deniability from a Clinton staffer on the incident doesn't inspire me with a lot of confidence:
But the Clinton campaign also denied the practice of planting. "It's not a practice of our campaign to ask people to ask specific questions," said Mark Daley, Clinton's Iowa Communications Director. Daley said that when an event is focusing on a specific topic, such as health care or Iraq, "people are encouraged to ask questions in these regards," but denied that they are given specific questions.
But when directly asked if his statements meant that planting does not occur in the Hillary campaign, Daley could only say, "to the best of my knowledge."
"[Planting] is not something that is encouraged in our campaign," he said.
Not something that is "encouraged?" This reads to me as though Daley knew this was going on, and wanted to be in a position where the campaign didn't lie about it before the truth came out. And has there been any reason to doubt Gallo-Casanoff's reporting of her experiences so far?
Let me be completely blunt for a moment. First, I don't want to believe that stories like this are true. Perhaps I am simply naïve about our country, but this is the sort of thing that gives me less confidence in the republic, and I don't want to feel that way. Second, as a figures of some public visibility, prominent bloggers such as myself have been accused of a myriad number of schemes like this. We are regularly accused of being paid off by campaigns, of being paid off by the DLC, of conspiring to not write about 2004 election irregularities, of not endorsing candidates out of fear of losing traffic and / or some sort of conspiracy, of all being Jerome Armstrong, and various other sundry acts. When I ran the liberal blog advertising network and running for Democratic Party office, I was accused of all sorts of conspiracies, including by reporters in supposedly trustworthy magazines. What really irritates me about these accusations is how frequently the people making them assume they know what I am thinking, and what my motivations are as a person. However, I have also resigned myself that it comes with the territory in being even a somewhat prominent public figure, especially in an era where so much has happened to justify paranoia.
The real potential problem facing the Clinton campaign as a result of this story is that it is acting utterly tone-deaf to the desires of Americans for change from the opaque, propagandistic Bush era. This is a time when calls for transparency in the next administrations will be at a greater level than in some time. Planting questions on multiple occasions will cause significantly increased doubts about your campaign even if these are only isolated incidents. Clinton should know this herself, since five weeks ago she accused someone asking her a question of being a plant:
"Well, let me thank you for the question, but let me tell you that the premise of the question is wrong and I'll be happy to explain that to you," Clinton began.
She offered a detailed description of the resolution, which she said stressed robust diplomacy that could lead to imposing sanctions against Iran, and then pointedly said to Rolph that her view wasn't in "what you read to me, that somebody obviously sent to you."
If even Hillary Clinton is feeling a creeping sense of paranoia, her campaign should know not to give people more reason to think that way. However, now they have done just that, and count me among the spooked. Here is a video of the student being interviewed on the subject: