Yesterday I started classifying the questions that Kerry O’Brien asked the candidates in his final interview with them. Kerry’s got a well deserved reputation as a pretty tough interviewer – I’ve seen him do a good job. But all his hard questions were really driven by the way the campaign was going. His hard questions to Rudd were Howard talking points – and his hard questions to Howard were Rudd talking points.
He showed no initiative whatever. What would be wrong with an interviewer ‘setting the agenda’ based on any number of criteria. Like:
- where they think the candidates are being least candid
- where they think their policy weaknesses are – or their opponents strengths
- where the public might be most interested in the contrast between the parties (I’m talking of policies here).
Would that really be so hard? Would it bore the pants of the audience? With a bit of effort I can’t see why it should.
Now Paul Krugman has put it well on his own blog – the relevant post is reproduced below the fold.
A thought about political discourse
A meta-thought inspired by the Social Security craziness:
Faced with a major public issue, such as the future of Social Security, one might think that the crucial thing would be to ascertain the facts. If I say there is no crisis, and you think there is, well, produce the evidence that shows that my arithmetic is wrong not something I once said that you think proves that Ive changed my mind. Making this a game of gotcha is just childish.
But heres the thing: this childishness infects a lot of political discourse. Think about what passes for a tough question on the Sunday talk shows. Its not Senator Bomfog you say X, but the statistics show that its actually Y. How can you explain this discrepancy? In fact, Ive never seen that happen. In political reporting, being wrong means, at most, that your claims are in dispute.
No, what actually passes for tough questioning is Senator Bomfog, you say X but last year you said Y. Arent you flip-flopping?
Like I said, its childish and destructive.
Postscript: Similar issues are explored in this post on the current media etiquette (if you could call it that) of what questions to ask.