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Reporter does his job
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm not sure what the fuss was about this...
As the President and Karl Rove walked away from the lectern after their emotional announcement of Rove’s resignation, I yelled a question. “If he’s so smart, why did you lose Congress?”

The President, as usual, didn’t answer. That’s OK – he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to. But judging by some of the reaction, you’d think I had been shouting obscenities in church!

“Unprofessional;” “Inappropriate;” “Unbecoming;” “Doesn’t show much class;” “you are a total idiot;” “Shill for the liberal Democrats.”
...but the guy was just doing his job. Steve Benen is correct - this isn't about manners: "this notion that the White House press corps has to treat Bush and Rove with kid gloves, and with excessive deference, is misguided."

The press goes to the White House to ask questions and find out information, and the White House allows them there in order to distribute information (directly or indirectly). The two often have an adversarial relationship, and there's nothing wrong with that.

However, just as White House officials have an employee duty to represent the interests and role of the administration governing the Executive Branch, reporters should never subsume their interests and role to the White House.

Besides, we'd all be better off with a much more antagonistic press corps - one predisposed to skepticism...



 
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I don’t know it seemed unprofessional to me....what does it have to do with anything? Being polite is NOT subsuming the Press’ interest’s to the WHite house’s interests, it’s being polite. Was it an egregious faux pas, no, but was it a faux pas, yes, IMO. Do Tony Snow or Karl Rove get to hang outside of Dan Rather’s CBS offices and ask:
1) "What’s the frequency Kenneth?"; or
2) "If you’re so smart how come you couldn’t tell that they were ’Word 98’ documents?"

It’s unseemly. Had they said, "Are you going to work for Fred Thompson or ANY OTHER Republican candidate?" or "Will you be taking a hiatus from National Republican or Republican campaigns in general and if so for how long?" Those would have been relevant questions. It’s, to me, NOT THE QUESTIONING, it’s the QUESTION.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I agree with Joe. The premise of the question (Karl Rove’s intellect is the only cause of election wins for Republicans) is flawed.

What does Karl Rove have to do with the campaigns run by Republican congressmen?
 
Written By: A fine scotch
URL: http://
Expecting civil discourse from reporters isn’t requiring "excessive deference".
 
Written By: Jon Biggar
URL: http://
xkcd is one of the best comics ever...

The answer to the reporter’s question, btw, is "Because you people are so stupid!"
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Somebody tell Joe that Karl Rove and George W. Bush are government employees who theoretically work for us while Dan Rather was drawing checks from Viacom.
 
Written By: Oliver Willis
URL: http://www.oliverwillis.com
Do Tony Snow or Karl Rove get to hang outside of Dan Rather’s CBS offices and ask:
If they’re invited to the CBS offices, they can ask any question they like.
The premise of the question (Karl Rove’s intellect is the only cause of election wins for Republicans) is flawed.
I don’t think that was the premise. Rove had claimed Republicans were going to be OK, and he was wrong.
Rove’s miscalculations began well before election night. The polls and pundits pointed to a Democratic sweep, but Rove dismissed them all. In public, he predicted outright victory, flashing the V sign to reporters flying on Air Force One. He wasn’t just trying to psych out the media and the opposition. He believed his "metrics" were far superior to plain old polls. Two weeks before the elections, Rove showed NEWSWEEK his magic numbers: a series of graphs and bar charts that tallied early voting and voter outreach. Both were running far higher than in 2004. In fact, Rove thought the polls were obsolete because they relied on home telephones in an age of do-not-call lists and cell phones. Based on his models, he forecast a loss of 12 to 14 seats in the House—enough to hang on to the majority. Rove placed so much faith in his figures that, after the elections, he planned to convene a panel of Republican political scientists—to study just how wrong the polls were.
He miscalculated. It’s fair to ask why he didn’t deliver the results he’d claimed.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
It’s fair to ask why he didn’t deliver the results he’d claimed.
But that’s not what the reporter was doing. From the article:
The President, as usual, didn’t answer.
The reporter knew there would be no answer. So he was not asking to get an answer. He was posturing. That’s not what reporters are supposed to do, and his colleagues knew that.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
White House reporters have been more and more about posturing and less and less about seeking and reporting information for 30 years.

Here’s what it boils down to: Is any question by a reporter related to a public official’s duties or performance legitimate at any time, or should a reporter consider the environment he’s in?

The question is appropriate, but there are appropriate venues in which to pose it to both Rove and Bush. This wasn’t it.
 
Written By: DIffus
URL: http://
Bush and Rove aren’t the same sort of ’public official’ either.
Rove is no more than a hired gun and doesn’t answer to anybody but the President. Not the Senate, not the House, and certainly not the voters (unless of course he’s done something illegal while working for the Prez).

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Hey Oliver, whilst you’re being stupid, I mean being Kryptonite for the Stupid, read what I wrote...it’s not that they were questioned, it’s the questions...There are a lot of questions I think it’s perfectly OK to ask, even a variant of how did you lose Congress?
"If he’s so smart, why did you lose Congress?"

This one is unprofessional. Why not ask if Rove is a child molestor, too? Or asking if Karl is drinking whisky for breakfast? They are all questions, but are they appropriate questions?

How about this Oliver, is it OK if Ann Coulter asks Hillary, "If you’re the smartest womon in the world, how come you cost the Democrats the 1994 election with your health care plans?"
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I’m sorry, but that wasn’t a question, it was a heckle, and I’m amazed that you don’t recognize the difference.

Journalists are supposed to ask questions which will illuminate a situation, not for the sole purpose of embarassing the target.

I cannot believe that this was intended as anything but an expression of animosity toward the administration.
 
Written By: bud
URL: http://
Billy: "The reporter knew there would be no answer. So he was not asking to get an answer. He was posturing."

So if a reporter knows he (or she) isn’t going to get a straight answer, he is posturing I f asking anyway?

Come on, obviously a reporter can ask a question like that, if you don’t like scrutiny (posturing as one might call it) stay out of politics…
 
Written By: Jon Herstad
URL: http://idioten.blogspot.com
So if a reporter knows he (or she) isn’t going to get a straight answer, he is posturing I f asking anyway?
If a reporter is not seeking information, then he/she is posturing. I realize many reporters think that’s their job. I don’t. If they want to posture, they have editorial pages for that.

Can they ask questions like that? Sure. Do the politicians have to put up with seeing those questions asked? Of course, but they have the right to treat those questions with the contempt they deserve.

Just because a journalist can do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. As his colleagues realized, and apparently you and Jon don’t. This reporter thought it was more important to get a jab in at Rove than to show any class. His privilege, but he’s exposed himself as a lout.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
It was a stupid question. It wasn’t Rove’s job to win a bunch of Congressional races, and even if it was, he did a hell of a job of that in 2002 and 2004 - not to mention winning all four of the elections it clearly was his job to help Bush win. Even Barry Bonds on steroids (but I repeat myself) doesn’t homer every time.
I don’t think that was the premise. Rove had claimed Republicans were going to be OK, and he was wrong.
I don’t think that was the thrust of the question at all, but if it was, Plante is an even bigger idiot than I thought. For one thing, the smartest person in the world can’t predict every election accurately. For another, a Presidential advisor shouldn’t do that even if he can, except maybe in private (and, to the extent it will serve no purpose but to depress the guy you’re working for, maybe not even then). Suppose Rove really did see the writing on the wall prior to the 2006 election. WTF would he have accomplished by acknowledging this publicly?
 
Written By: Xrlq
URL: http://xrlq.com/
The reporter knew there would be no answer. So he was not asking to get an answer. He was posturing.
I’m not blessed with psychic insight into the reporters brain, so I won’t speculate on what his personal motivations might have been. Or on what they were when he did the same thing to Clinton and got a response.

Though, in light of the fact that the reporter had personal experience with a President answering a question when one might assume the President might not answer, you might want to reconsider whether you have a good fix on what the reporter does and does not "know". The things you assume you, but not "Herstad] and Jon", "realize"...do not appear to be much more than your own prejudices.

 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
"If he’s so smart, why did you lose Congress?"

Is that how you would phrase a question that you really want answered? Or is it basically saying, "Rove is not smart" in a question format.

Think about how you would use that question in real life...almost always in a way that the other person will shut up and be silenced.

"If you’re so smart, why don’t you fix it?"

Now, that said, the reporter is hoping to get some sort of reaction (maybe even have Bush lose his cool!) and I guess that’s acceptable...except when your peers don’t like what you did, you have to wonder if the tone/environment was wrong in our culture.

Or would it be cool for me to show up for a fancy dinner in flip flops? Why not? Flip flops protect my feet (their job) just as well as dress shoes, no?



 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Oh, please. That was not a real question, it was a smar*ass remark, and I know smart*ss remarks. No answer was expected. How long would it take to answer that question accurately, anyway? Certainly a lot more time than was available. Joe is absolutely correct when he says that doing ones job in a professional, thorough, and competent manner does not preclude common courtesy. Furthermore, what kind of dumb*ss would pose a ’question’ like that and actually expect an answer? If I were him I would not count on any favorable treatment from this administration, ever. Plante has his moment of fame and satisfaction, and now he can look forward to being ignored until the next administration takes office. Stupid and self-destructive, if nothing else.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Oh, please. That was not a real question, it was a smar*ass remark, and I know smart*ss remarks.
Maybe not, tim. Apparently we have to be psychic to do that.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
I’m not blessed with psychic insight into the reporters brain, so I won’t speculate on what his personal motivations might have been.
But last I checked you were pretty good at sniffing out BS. In fact, hasn’t that been the primary goal of your last several posts?

The fact is that the guy wasn’t "doing his job" unless his job was to insult people. The question he asked assumed a fact not in evidence and was not at all designed to elicit an answer. It was an obvious dig, and an unprofessional one at that. You don’t need to be Creskin to figure that out, Jon.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
He wasn’t asking a question. He was heckling. Heckling at the White House is unprofessional. It would be unprofessional to heckle Clinton, and it is unprofessional to heckle Bush. Since he claims to have heckled Reagan and Clinton, it looks like he has been lacking in professionalism for a while.
 
Written By: Phelps
URL: http://phelps.donotremove.net
How about this Oliver, is it OK if Ann Coulter asks Hillary, "If you’re the smartest womon in the world, how come you cost the Democrats the 1994 election with your health care plans?"
Taking out the idea of Ann Coulter being a journalist, yes, the question is legit especially if Sen. Clinton had pushed the idea of her being the smartest woman in the world. Certainly the second part of the question is totally legit because she is a U.S. senator and works for us and is currently running for president. If Sen. Clinton can’t take a tough question because a journalist offended tender sensibilities, she isn’t qualified to be president.

This is what you guys don’t seem to get. Government officials work for us, it’s not feasible for us to individually ask them these questions, so the media is - in theory - supposed to ask them the tough questions. It is because of the reaction seen here where anything less than "how are you so awesome, President Bush" is seen as mean, unprofessional, partisan, etc. why the press is so damn toothless nowadays.
 
Written By: Oliver Willis
URL: http://www.oliverwillis.com
Was the question meant as a polemic comment? Probably, but I still don’t get the objection. Sure the question was ridicules in the sense that a lot of other guys played much more significant parts in the election defeat e.g. DeLay, Foley, Abramoff and others. But when the president is cheering Rove (the Architect) I think it is completely fine for the reporter to ask the question, as it is for Bush and Rove to ignore it.
 
Written By: Jon Herstad
URL: http://idioten.blogspot.com
"
If he’s so smart, why did you lose Congress?"
No. It is more a taunt than a question.

At best, it is an incredibly poorly phrased question
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
After reading the discussion here, I have come to the conclusion—for which I’m sure you all were on the edge of your seats waiting—that it was a classless dig, inappropriate to the event and under those circumstances a heckle.

Had a reporter done the same to Hillary or Bill I would have laughed and applauded. Therefore, classless heckling of admistration officials and wannabe’s—our employees, as Filet-O-Fish points out—is a duty henceforth.

That is all.
 
Written By: spongeworthy
URL: http://
How would you answer a question prefaced with "If you’re so smart?"

Put another way, would the question have had a better chance of a response without the preface?

Anyone asking such a question reveals a professionally fatal lack of manners and intelligence. It’s wrong to put up with boors like this, period - at any time, in any profession. The White House should inform his employer that he will not be called on in any press conference given by this administration. It’s never too late to teach manners.

Absent the snide comment, the question was legitimate - just not very enlightening. Suppose Rove knew that the GOP were toast on election eve. Is he supposed to tell the volunteers all is lost, go home, see you in two years? Turn a loss into a rout?
 
Written By: MarkD
URL: http://
"...it’s not feasible for us to individually ask them these questions, so the media is - in theory - supposed to ask them the tough questions"

Oh, right! Now I get it. I hadn’t realized that, thanks for clearing that up. I now realize why Plante used a taunt I first heard in the fifth grade. He did it for us, and of course, the children.


"As the President and Karl Rove walked away from the lectern after their emotional announcement of Rove’s resignation, I yelled a question."

It was an announcement, not a press conference. It was over. Evidently no questions, from anyone, were taken. If Plante did indeed think he was going to get the President to return to the microphone and answer after such a snotty, childish, and disrespectfully phrased "question", he is too dumb to tie his own shoes, and certainly too dumb to pay any attention to.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
They finally found someone dumber than Sam Donaldson. At least Sam would have been smart enough to preface it with "Mr. President..."
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
There can genuinely be differences of opinion about this, I think.

But, for once, I see where Billy Hollis is coming from.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I yelled a question. “If he’s so smart, why did you lose Congress?”

If you’re so smart, why did you yell a question at their retreating backs? If you’re so smart, why couldn’t you ask it while they were still facing you and open to answering? If you’re so smart, why didn’t your erudite and insightful query get an answer? If you’re so smart, why is it Couric and not you in the big chair?

Give up? It’s because you’re a pompous a$$hole.
 
Written By: Hogarth
URL: http://

 
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