A message to new-kids-on-the-block candidates thinking they can avoid a questioning press and get away with it: you probably can. For now. Take sanctuary at Fox and its like and follow the talking-point road to Congress. Frankly, campaigning politicians have been doing so for eons—though the refusal to even take the questions is something that feels new—and voters don’t seem to mind that the real press isn’t able to get in your way. I guess they trust us as little as they trust you.
But there will come a time when, if you win, your constituents will begin to expect results; they will expect you to deliver on the promises you made at highly staged, meticulously orchestrated press-free town halls all across your states. Just ask the president. Then, they will expect a vigorous press to push back, questioning you on the very past you’re creating for yourself this election cycle. You may wish you had had some practice now.
What can we do besides hide out in middle school hallways and ambush politicians? Besides diligently showing up at press conferences in Nevada only to have our questions ignored and events cut short? Besides waiting for some turn in the tide?
An inverse “Fairness Doctrine” isn’t looking like a bad idea—one in which candidates have to spend as much time and energy answering tough questions from more mainstream outlets as they do now taking soft-ball questions from soft-ball allies. You want to run for office with little experience and a graveyard full of skeletons just dying to get out of your closet: fine. But you will at least have to face questions about what’s inside.
It sounds a little like a pressman’s pipe dream, sure. But arresting an editor sounded like a candidate’s pipe dream once upon a time.
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