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I’m no big fan of Katie Couric (see my article of one year ago, “Katie Couric At One Year; Somebody Fire Her” for a nuanced perspective), but I’m especially not a fan when I see someone who has an upside-down journalistic sensibility. You’re supposed to question authority and get an understanding of the common life. A side by side comparison of these interviews shows quite a bit of respect for authority, and a bucket of contempt for common life.
One could not glean from the questions Couric offers that she has any sense of perspective. Citizen-politicians’ stock in trade is more character and aptitude than expertise and political clout. Couric’s used to establishment types. But they’re different animals that should be handled differently, just as it would be strange to ask a man what it’s like to be a woman.
Obama’s been treated as a citizen-politician, for example, but as David Freddoso’s book has shown, he’s far more establishment. If the interviews he’s done treated him that way, he might have fared worse, as he would have had to address the small bits of his career that have raised eyebrows, from Jeremiah Wright onward.
George W. Bush was pitched as a citizen-politician, but the son of a dynastic political family is no such creature. Clinton, in all his conniving and Machiavellian devices, might be considered one. Reagan, whose career was made elsewhere from politics, might be too.
Citizen-politicians are different from populists. They serve because they have a vision, but they understand the limitations of public office. They can be jarring to elites because they lack expertise and provincially (but most times wholesomely) tend to prefer to stay away from the leisure activities of the powerful.
SOMETIMES elites can favor the citizen-politician or the common man image. Thomas Jefferson certainly did, as did Andrew Jackson. When politicians run for office, they go out of their way to show us how they’re just one of us. Jon Grinspan, in an article in the October issue of The American Spectator, discusses how William Henry Harrison defeated Martin Van Buren by deploying hard cider to the masses to show just how down to earth he could be.
It’s puzzling to see, however, that the moment a person does walk onto the stage with that genuine, down-to-earth flair, she’s dismissed as gimmicky and stupid. This is probably because those speaking to her haven’t really tried to talk to someone like her in years. Katie Couric, who is a sort of common fun girly-girl caught up in this thing called a news show, reveals that sensibility when she shrinks from every opportunity to challenge Joe Biden.
When you interview such a person, obviously you don’t do so with a feather duster for a microphone. But if you’re really after the measure of the man (so to speak), you don’t look to nail her on foreign policy stuff that no reasonable person would expect her to know as an Alaskan governor. Would you do that with Bill Clinton in 1992? Would you flunk him if he didn’t have as firm a grasp? One looking for a better sense would ask about past experiences, and allow the audience to glean from the candidate’s past judgment what that candidate might do in the future. Interviews have become an absurd exercise in careerist gotcha moments — they serve more of a political purpose than they do give voters an opportunity to flesh out the views of a candidate.
Hence a senator of 35 years can assert nonsense and avoid a criticism Couric lobbed at Palin, that she was “not always responsive when asked questions,” and sometimes slipping back to talking points. Really, Katie? Hooey. Senator Biden is a politician, as is Governor Palin, and he certainly slips back to talking points because he is a politician. Start with any phrase that begins with, “I’m the guy who…” and you have yourself a talking point. Memorize that.
THE REASON Governor Palin has performed badly up until last night is, by all accounts, because she’s been cramming for a test. What is revealing is not that she had to study, but that her advisers were bulls-eye correct that reporters would quiz her rather than interview her. I would like to think that the idea of “letting Sarah be Sarah” is probably the best strategy (and Thursday night’s debate is a perfect argument for it), but the advisers she has are bright people, particularly aware of how reporters behave. If you put Sarah Palin in an interview with Katie Couric, Couric’s going to use it as an opportunity to show how she’s probably more qualified to be the veep choice. That would be silly, of course, because as it is, she’s barely qualified to be the anchor on CBS. Heck, look at this:p> object width=”425” height=”344”> param name=”movie” value= “http://www.youtube.com/v/A0xvmYwOwkU&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&fs=1”> param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”> embed src= “http://www.youtube.com/v/A0xvmYwOwkU&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&fs=1” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”true” width= “425” height=”344”>
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online