Planting Paranoia

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 13:07

There are good reasons to be paranoid after seven years of the Bush administration. Questions for pres conferences are frequently screened beforehand. Pundits are paid off to shill for Bush administration policy without revealing it. Every single federal agency has produced fake news programs that do not acknowledge they were produced by the government. Jeff Gannon was allowed in as a member of the White House press corps. Questions from "real people" in Bush's "town halls" are also scripted and staged. Other federal agencies also hold fake press conferences. To top it off, while the Bush administration regularly rolls out image protection that long ago crossed the line deep into propaganda territory, they are listening to all of your phone calls without warrants, and punishing companies that don't go along with their plan to do so. And this all comes from a President who was took office on a stolen election, and has decided that he can declare American citizens enemy combatants if he so wishes. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but given the last seven years I can understand the sentiment.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, even if I sympathize with the sentiment behind it after seven years of Bush. And it is in the context of the Bush administration's propagandistic efforts to "reach out" to the public that the following news could be really, really bad for the Clinton campaign:

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:

Chris Bowers :: Planting Paranoia

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Planting Paranoia | 25 comments
Call me paranoid but at this point it is all seeming like kabuki (0.00 / 0)
I am further along the path to giving up on this "republic".  I doubt the ability of any of us to truly pull the curtain away and reveal the venerable oz behind the curtain but I think he is there.  Is it one man and one mind?  No, but it is a multitude of the like minded goaded and driven by the same principle, not patriots but profiteers.  As a business man and an entrepreneur I have always been disgusted by the idea you go into business to make money, if so be a counterfeiter, you make money to stay in business, anything else strips the free market of its freedom and turns our nation into a fascist state.  It is the MBA culture of which our Dear Leader is a clear example that continues to drag us deeper into the abyss from which I fear we shall not recover.  Transperency and heart are the essence of what we need in a leader now, though I fear that will not happen and instead someone will be packaged and sold to us like any other bill of goods.

Not the worst political stunt America's seen! (0.00 / 0)
Politicians do everything they can to fix the message that's received by voters.

They lie by omission, create deliberately misleading impressions, use surrogates to go further than they can, cultivate media contacts (including proprietors!).

Why is planting questions so much worse than all that? (Let alone voting for illegal wars and other admitted trivia...)

The folks weren't paid for asking the questions, weren't (so far as I know) offered inducements, and weren't threatened if they said, No thanks.

Plus - doesn't Sixpack think this sort of shenanigan is more or less universal amongst pols?

Do we have evidence that he would view planting of questions (as opposed to other hi-jinks) as particularly reprehensible?

And - is it only Hill?

Because of the context (0.00 / 0)
Events like these are supposedly packed with "real people" asking real, impromptu questions. Because of that context, this is a lot worse than the other things you listed.

I can see how intense image cultivation would lead some staffers to not see a line here, but that is telling in and of itself.

[ Parent ]
Not sure there's a bright line here (0.00 / 0)
What if she called audience members who were known to her (or her people) as being supporters?

What if she bussed in supporters, to improve the odds of a softball?

Or chose the venue or time specifically to help in the process of packing the place with her people?

Is it any worse than a fake vox-pop in a campaign ad?

Or photo-op featuring the candidate doing some dirty labor - or half an hour of posing with a shovel -  to show he's a man of the people?

[ Parent ]
Does a stunt have to be the 'worst' (0.00 / 0)
in order to be awful?

Politicians do -not- do everything they can to fix the message that's received by voters--and even if they did, that doesn't make it legitimate.

Saying, 'they also lie by ommission' strikes as just completely beside the point. Akin to saying, 'well, everyone takes money from lobbyists, so what's wrong with taking money frm Jack Abramoff? Exactly like that, in fact.

And the fact that 'Sixpack' expects this sort of shenanigan makes it -worse-. Thre's this creeping degradation of our political culture that accellerated beyond belief under Bush, adn this sorta thing both fosters and excuses it.

And 'everyone does it!' isn't an excuse after third grade.

And, finally, this friggin site is so damn slow I cannot believe I still comment here. Two of my favorite bloggers write here, and I'm done commenting. 

Tear down that Video Wall!

I'll Say It (0.00 / 0)
You are simply naive.

The postmodern lesson that the left seems unable to cope with is that the narrative can be more important than facts and that the left must spend more time on managing the narrative.

This is not a huge scandal, but it is a reinforcement of the narrative of Hillary Clinton as a cold and calculating politico, something that her opponents in the primaries (and in the general election, if she gets that far) would be smart to utilize.

This is nothing new.  In the '90s, I was once at a Bill Clinton campaign event where some workers were tasked with standing behind the metal detectors and confiscating anti-Clinton signs that the Secret Service was not supposed to touch while others were given the job of shouting down any protesters that might erupt. 

Campaign events have always been managed events.  Given the mischief that opposing campaigns, pranksters, and various disgruntled protesters are capable of sowing, not managing your events opens the door to the sort of PR gaffes that can get blown up by the media and sink a campaign.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

Speaking of Conspiracies: Is the girl herself a plant? (0.00 / 0)
This has me spooked as well. And given all I know about Clinton I am willing to believe this planting of questions happened as detailed.

But in hopes of hanging on to the shreds of my optimism that Clinton could be different etc.... Is there any chance this girl is a young replublican or the daughter of a republican and is making this all up?

I am not asking to argue this-- I am honestly asking if anyone had looked into that possibility. 

We won the Battle. Now the Real Fight for Change Begins. Join and fight for progressive change.  

Why not? (0.00 / 0)
At this stage, it seems possible everyone is a plant.

[ Parent ]
Silent Swiftboating (0.00 / 0)

We won the Battle. Now the Real Fight for Change Begins. Join and fight for progressive change.  

[ Parent ]
It's just exasperating (0.00 / 0)
I'm with you - it's a horrible mistake and gives us a very unpleasant look into the candidate and the campaign but what's worse is that it won't affect her standing as front runner for the primaries but will come back to haunt her in the general. 

Why can't these people do the right thing ever?

Accountability (0.00 / 0)
Somebody needs to be held accountable for the planted question episode.  One of the worst thing about the Bush Administration has been W's policy of loyalty over accountability.  It seems like no one ever loses thier job for making really huge mistakes.  Whenever somebody does get blamed, its just the low level people who suffer and get scapegoated.

Unlike Bush administration mistakes, nobody got killed because of the planted question.  It's also pretty clear though not yet provable that this has been a practice, not a one time episode, of the Clinton Campasin.  Whomever is the highest ranking staffer who knew about planted questions should resign from the campaign ASAP.  If the candidate knew anything, she should fess up, apologize, and move on.  Otherwise, this thing could snowball & drip, drip, drip...

They All Do It. (0.00 / 0)
Nothing to see here, people.  Move along.

no, I disagree (0.00 / 0)
I have been to many candidate events in Iowa. They take questions on all kinds of subjects. Many questioners raise  uncomfortable topics, and many make rambling statements that barely have a question in them. I do not believe that every campaign is screening questioners in advance.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
hope (4.00 / 1)
Your reaction--and the general reaction across the board--gives me hope. Hope that people really do want transparency in government and they might be willing to vote for someone who promises that.

Maybe we are moving away from an era. IMO the standard response to an allegation of planting would typically be: "Oh everyone does that, its no big deal...why don't you all focus on something more important?" Maybe, just maybe this won't fly any longer. Let's hope.

You're just pretending to be shocked (0.00 / 0)

When all it takes is one small slip of the tongue, of miscalculated, off-the-cuff, response to cause the front-runner to "stumble" - why would any serious candidate leave questioning to chance and randomness?

Caution is necessary - hell, its logical!  The questioners only have to be successful ONCE, a top-tier Presidential Candidate has to be successful EVERY TIME.

Get with the pogrom!  We're in control.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

It can't be that big a scandal (0.00 / 0)
if the breathless question of the day is "Why won't John Edwards commit to supporting Hillary if she's the nominee?"

Obviously some quarters have concluded her inevitability.

That actually supports the idea that its got legs. (0.00 / 0)
Asking for a pledge to support the front runner should the front runner gain the nomination is a tactic held in reserve by a front-runner, exactly in order to disrupt this kind of story that threatens to have legs.

The story itself got a brief exposure. Then additional people came forward saying they had asked planted questions, giving it additional legs and prompting the interview. Then the interview reveals this was not an off the cuff suggestion but taken from a page of eight desired questions.

Someone else coming forward saying that they had been read a question off some paper is all it needs to get into tomorrow's news cycles, and then the debate hits on Thursday ... and if the media wants to portray the debate as "Hillary's troubles continue", all it takes is the desire to do so.

[ Parent ]
This whole episode bothers me on so many levels (0.00 / 0)
It promotes cynicism in the electorate, it devalues the process,it is manipulative and the worst defense I have seen from her supporters is the "they all do it" defense.

No they don't.

A campaign that engages in this tactic does so to control; why do they need control?

Control is usually in response to fear.

What does she have to fear from average voters? I've seen every candidate running for President on the Democratic side. Every one has been subject to a few off the wall questions. Most often it is not the question that intrigues me, if it somewhat wacky, or challenging, it is the candidate's response to the wacky, challenging question I am looking for when it occurs. Those with self -confidence take "all comers". It is easily discernable to anyone watching whether the candidate "handled" the question.

I am surmising that the Clinton campaign does not have confidence in her ability to handle the wacky and challenging questions with aplomb - why else would a campaign go to these lengths to shield her, coddle and cocoon her?

They care about controlling something, and as any psyc 101 class would tell you, efforts to control are really about fear.

The end result is that elaborate facade the campaign has built up to this point about "projecting strength" is just that-- a facade.

She doesn't have the confidence to go into a room with random voters and handle the questions that will come at her.

That's what these elaborate "planting" episodes( plus avoidance of taking any questions at all) has told me.

Will Hillary Clinton Meet Voters Without Pre-Conditions? (4.00 / 2)
To put it another way.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
basic advance (4.00 / 1)
I haven't seen the TV coverage, but being scandalized over event management sounds to me like so much pearl clutching. The comparison to Bush events, with their free speech zones and campaign workers impersonating secret service people and ejecting potential critics, is really overwrought.  Or is everyone here really a political neophyte?

It's unfortunate... (4.00 / 1)
... that Sen. Clinton has abandoned her 'conversation' with the American people.

Though this might explain why she thought Tim Russert's questions were so unfair.

They do not 'all do it....' and the people...` (0.00 / 0)
...know this. I take grievous exception with your statement:

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 naive 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.

The actions of Hillary Clinton's campaign to not define our republic. Have a little more faith in the people.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

It's the global warming and energy! (0.00 / 0)
So aside from all the paranoia- anyone mad that the freaking frontrunner can't tell you why her energy plan is better than everyone elses'? Are you kidding me? She does not have 3-4 talking points on why her plan is THE plan to end all plans? Good to know the future of the free world knows her stuff on global warming.

Who is with me?

We won the Battle. Now the Real Fight for Change Begins. Join and fight for progressive change.  

I want to stress that when I say that you all are ... (4.00 / 1)
... Jerome Armstrong, I mean that Jerome Armstrong left you his logins when he want off adventure touring in South America, for you to use when you want to say something "Jerome Armstrongish" without the flack you would catch for doing it under your own names.

So, no dark conspiracy at all, but rather an essential safety valve, that in case it is not clear, I strongly support.

I don't think this matters. (0.00 / 0)
I don't think it's important.  I am not a Hillary supporter, but I really think this is trivial.

However, I would like to echo the commenter who says this site is atrociously slow.

Planting Paranoia | 25 comments

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