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A Civics Leson with Your Waffle

May 5, 2008
A Civics Lesson with Your Waffle (Bob Franken)
@ 12:53 pm

There's something that's really been bugging me.

(Would you like to talk about it?
Yes, I would.)

It's that incident in Scranton, Pa., where Barack Obama was photo-opping his breakfast when a newsperson had the GALL to ask a question. Obama was NOT amused: "Why is it that, like, I can't just eat my waffle?"

Senator, if you don't want questions, then, like, eat your damned waffle, or croissant, or whatever, in, like, private. No self-respecting reporter should ever allow you to stage your campaign events without challenging you with questions. We're not here to promote your candidacy, but to cover it. At all times, we must retain the audacity of hoping we might actually discover something important about you beyond your ability to contrive. Got it?

You too, Hillary Clinton. It shouldn't be up to you to dismiss a journalist's inquiry as irrelevant. It's his or her job to decide what to ask; it's yours to answer. For that matter, if you’re going to send your adult daughter out on the trail, she should damned well have answers for the media, too.

John McCain, you can get testy with anyone you want because you don't like a particular topic. Too bad. Again: We ask, you answer. Got it?

Why my little tirade? There is this growing belief that journalistic skepticism should be replaced with sycophancy. While it is true that all sides have traditionally tried to intimidate reporters who challenge any party line, we seem to have regressed to the point that equally applied adversarial coverage is considered an intrusion.

Part of that, frankly, is because various news organizations have decided that marketing strategies dictate that they take sides, growing ratings or circulation by favoring one political group or the other. Another part is the power of the bloggers, who can and do brutalize anyone who strays from their particular agenda.

I've always been most comfortable if I've antagonized those involved in an issue. We should leave rooting for one side or the other to the sportscasters. So, Senator, if you find that harder to swallow than your waffle: too bad. Chew your food and then answer the question.


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