April 27, 2007

Should bloggers do these conference calls with candidates?

I'm in the middle of writing a very important blog post, which is to say, a blog post that I'm inspired to write, and we're coming up on the time for one of these conference calls I sometimes get invited to do. I usually blow them off, but I said I'd do this one, on the second inquiry, because it's John McCain. How can you not tap into a conference call with John McCain? You can ask him a question. Okay. Well. But the funny thing is: I've been thinking about it and I don't have a question. I mean, not a question I could ask him personally. And you can't exactly horse around. They say you're cantankerous. Are you too cantankerous to be President? To some extent, is cantankerousness a good thing in a President?

As you know, I'm big on the separation between blog and campaign. The bloggers are flattered by the appearance of access, and it must be worth it to the candidate to get publicity and a greater likelihood of favorable coverage. I resist all that, but I have called in. I'll let you know how it works out. I'm on music hold right now. The song: "I Think I'm Going Out of My Head."

ADDED: Now, we're in "listen only" mode, which means we're a captive audience for McCain's statement. He says he's going to be talking with bloggers like this every two weeks.

... He's just talking about where he's been, naming towns, and he declines to go on about any issues, saying he knows bloggers like to ask questions and goes right to the questions, which I appreciate.

... The first question is about going after bin Ladin, which McCain, of course, intends to do.

... The second question is about the bill on funding the war in Iraq. He says he'd veto it, not just because of the time limit, but because of the pork. "What does $25 million for peanut storage have to do with the war in Iraq?"

... Lorie Byrd compliments him for his form of expression, specifically the way he said "Lighten up and get a life." McCain says he's going to keep being himself and keep his sense of humor. He mentions having bloggers on the campaign bus. He's not going to blame the media if things don't go well for him.

... Ah. I got my question in just now, which was to invite him to talk about what sort of person he would put on the Supreme Court, and specifically if he would strengthen a conservative majority or if he would work with liberals and others who care about preserving the balance that we've had on the Court for so long. He said he wanted, above all, a person with "a proven record of strict construction." This is "probably a conservative position, but," he said, "I'm proud of that position." He wants judges who won't "legislate." Then, he added that "this is new" and something we may not have heard: he'd like someone who had not just judicial experience but also "some other life experiences," such as time in the military, in a corporation, or in a small business. He would like to see "not just vast judicial knowledge, but also knowledge of the world."

... Someone asks about the Electoral College and what new states could be put in play. He emphasizes California and also mentions Pennsylvania and New York. "We gotta put more states in play."

... Someone asks about taxes and I can't hear it, but I can hear the answer, which includes a description of how taxes are collected in Estonia. You go onto a website that informs you what you owe, and you click "yes" or "no." They have nearly 100% compliance. I liked that detail.

... These notes don't cover everything that was asked. He took a lot, answered them all seriously, and sounded sharp and serious and not pompous. Several times he finished the answer with "see my point?" All together, he spoke to us for more than half an hour, nearly all of it on the questions.

So, was I coopted?

21 comments:

LonewackoDotCom said...

I'd say there's usually a 1-to-1 correspondence between "the bloggers selected for conference calls and those selected to attend political conventions" and "those bloggers who won't make waves or ask difficult questions." If you want to break that correspondence, I'd suggest asking questions designed to reveal flaws in specific policies. Here's one for McCain.

Todd and in Charge said...

Well, he's got the lingo down.

I'll give him credit for being honest about his next Court appointment, but that doesn't sound so great to me. How about someone who was the victim of a tort and who had to rely on the legal system for relief?

Also, those strict constructionists read a new one into the 14th for the odd results-oriented outcome in Bush v. Gore.

rts said...

I saw this quote of yours in the National Journal and I know it's off topic but it cannot go unchallenged:

"Although she won't blame Clinton for Hamsher's blackface disgrace, Althouse criticized Clinton's decision to blog at Hamsher's site. "Firedoglake is a hardcore place, and Clinton doesn't belong there," Althouse said. She also scoffed at the suggestion that Clinton guest-blogged. 'The blog is publishing a press release.'"


Did you bother to read the FireDogLake post that Sen. Clinton posted? If you had done so you would see that Sen. Clinton actively participated in the forum answering questions presented to her by the FDL readers. This was no press release, rather Sen. Clinton had the courage to go to a blog that is not particularly friendly towards her.

Ann Althouse said...

rts: see if you can find the post that discusses that.

Nigel Kearney said...

Why does he want a judge with knowledge of the world if they aren't going to legislate?

Mike said...

I want to know what happens to an Estonian who clicks "No".

Anthony said...

I've thought about the whole blogger access question myself, though not exactly for myself, since I don't blog in that context.

On the one hand, one of blogging's primary strengths is that it brings non-professional journalists to the table. Meaning they aren't beholden to an employer that may have a particular agenda (I don't mean necessarily politically/partisan, but in their overall social and political roles).

OTOH, it also means they won't have access to persons of power from which to gather some form of first-hand information.

But then again, a blogger can blog on what they know best. They're usually heavily invested in their job or particular hobby and can speak knowledgeably on it, whereas a regular reporter wouldn't have that specialized knowledge.

Like Instapundit says, as much as they criticize the MSM, bloggers should not rejoice in the possible demise of print or television journalism. Bloggers aren't journalists, and vice versa. But they do provide the expertise and ability (and time) to correct, amplify, and extend what journalists provide.

So no, I don't think bloggers should try to become amateur journalists. But (most) journalists need to become WAY better journalists.

Thorley Winston said...

Why does he want a judge with knowledge of the world if they aren't going to legislate?

Probably because much of what federal judges do doesn’t involve high profile cases involving topics like abortion or religion but things like administrative law, antitrust, and other dry topics. Having a judge with a practical knowledge of these areas might lead to them making better decisions when it comes to weighing evidence, applying balancing tests and the like than a judge who has to approach those issues with no practical experience in those areas.

The other reason might be as a dig against having too many academics in the judiciary. During the Harriet Miers nomination one of the points made by some of her defenders was that the Supreme Court has nine justices who can give you ten opinions on a single case which makes the law difficult to understand not only for the 300 million plus laypeople who have to follow it, but also for those who work in the legal profession. McCain might be suggesting that someone with a more real-world as opposed to an academic background might be less inclined to try to get creative with their decisions and more inclined to make the law more easy to understand and predictable.

AJ Lynch said...

Mike:

That was a good one- the poor Estonian who clicks "no" on his tax return.

And 100% tax compliance?? in Estonia. or anywhere?

That sounds like a way too rosy description of their tax collection system.

Jacob said...

I don't think it's 100% but I remember reading about it before and it's really high. I don't know what happens if you hit "no" though. Something lingering, with boiling oil in it, I fancy.

Mark said...

Althouse was sucked into the McCain vortex!

Revenant said...

If you click "no" you have to do more paperwork to explain why the figure is wrong.

Patrick said...

More comments on the McCain call here.

Simon said...

"Then, he added that 'this is new' and something we may not have heard: he'd like someone who had not just judicial experience but also 'some other life experiences,' such as time in the military, in a corporation, or in a small business. He would like to see 'not just vast judicial knowledge, but also knowledge of the world.'"

Hmm. Perhaps someone who's worked in the executive department (DoJ, perhaps), been a federal judge, and perhaps been corporate counsel to a megacorp - say, Boeing, perhaps? ;)



Todd and in Charge said...
"I'll give him credit for being honest about his next Court appointment, but that doesn't sound so great to me. How about someone who was the victim of a tort and who had to rely on the legal system for relief?"

How does having been a victim qualify a person to pass on ERISA, the bankrupcy code and all the myriad technical matters that actually fill the court's docket, rather than the politically exciting cases the media focuses on?


"Also, those strict constructionists read a new one into the 14th for the odd results-oriented outcome in Bush v. Gore."

That opinion was Kennedy and O'Connor's doing, and they aren't strict constructionists. Scalia and Thomas aren't strict constructionists either, and although I suspect they were dubious about the Equal Protection argument (cf. Vieth v. Jubelirer), what would you have had them do? While those "three Justices did not ... disassociate themselves from the per curiam opinion," and although "one might imagine their having a certain distaste for it both because of its haziness and because of its reliance on a nontextual exposition of individual rights," nevertheless, "[w]ithout their votes, the per curiam opinion had only four votes, at most, and only two votes with respect to the remedy and much of the equal protection analysis. Thus, without the added votes of the Justices who joined the concurring opinion, the lack of support for the per curiam opinion would have increased the vulnerability of the Court as it determined the outcome of the election[:] ... imagine if the Court’s critics had been able to say that the Court gave the presidency to Bush citing two completely different reasons, both of which were rejected by a majority of the Justices!" Althouse, The Authoritative Lawsaying Power of the State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court, 61 Md. L. Rev. 508, 554-5 (2002). You should consider that there were, in fact, potentially messier outcomes of that case. Moreover, it's easy to be snarky after the fact, but as Ann's pointed out, "[e]veryone who talks about Bush v. Gore without admitting that they are engaged in the same kind of cloaking [of language] and advancing of personally preferred ends is still an active participant in that larger display." Id. at 575.

AJ Lynch said...

Bloggers at conference calls? Idon't see a problem with it. Most bloggers will be impartial and mainly report the event more accurately than MSM but some will be sucked into the pol's vortex which btw is far less powerful than the Althouse model.

Heck, the MSM does it all the time They sit in on conference calls arranged by pols and/or special interest groups (lobbies) such as Fenton Comunications.

Mark Daniels said...

I think it's cool that McCain talked with bloggers in this format.

It's not necessary for questioners to engage in gotcha queries in order to evoke information. For example, I think that your question about the Supreme Court and the one on taxes evoked worthwhile responses.

Although I only get about 800 hits a day on my main blog and therefore might not be able to deliver a significant enough audience, I'd be happy to be part of a teleconference with McCain, his GOP rivals, and any of the Democratic candidates as well. I don't think that I would be co-opted by such an experience.

Give the McCain camp credit for understanding the growing significance of blogging as part of political discussion in this country.

Mark Daniels

Meade said...

Mark said...
Althouse was sucked into the McCain vortex!

Hilarious:

As you know, I'm big on the separation between blog and campaign. The bloggers are flattered by the appearance of access, and it must be worth it to the candidate to get publicity and a greater likelihood of favorable coverage. I resist all that, but I have called in. let you know how it works out. I'm on music hold right now. The song: "I Think I'm Going Out of My Head."

Gary Carson said...

I keep waiting for someone to ask him about the drug war and to explain why his wife shouldn't be in prison.

Too many jims said...

I wonder if McCain supports the 18% VAT that they have in Estonia (in addition to their income tax). VAT, now that is a tax that is pretty easy to administer and has a very high compliance rate.

rts said...

http://beltwayblogroll.nationaljournal.com/archives/2007/04/hillary_and_ham.php

Ann Althouse said...

rts: I mean see if you can find MY post that discusses that and put your comments where they belong!