There have been mixed reviews about last week's Rock the Vote debate broadcast on CNN where young people supposedly were able to speak directly to the candidates about their issues. Well, according to a few, the thing was rigged.
Take Alexandra Trustman, a Brown University student, who has been getting hammered at school for her question about what kinds of computers the candidates used. Trustman responded with a column in the Brown Daily Herald, attempting to clear the air: ["Don't shoot the messenger"]. I am publishing the entire post here because the link seems to be having some problems:
Don't Shoot the Messenger By Alexandra Trustman
I'm writing in response to the Daily Jolt forums, the student dialogue and The Herald representation of me and my question at CNN's Rock the Vote. I'm extremely disappointed in the student body's reaction, especially because they weren't privy to the circumstances under which I had to ask the question, a situation that occurs daily in the media.
To clear things up, I was called the morning of the event and asked by the executive producer of the show if I would ask a question at the forum. I was told the question would probably be something about Macs or PCs, but that, once I arrived in Boston, we could amend what I would ask. Immediately, confused by the question's relevance as well, I tried to think about ways to make it seem applicable. I thought perhaps CNN's aim in wanting the candidates to answer their computer preference was really a way to breach the topic of technology. So, I constructed a much more relevant question, about how, if elected, the candidates would use technology in their administrations.
Once in Boston I was handed a note card with the Macs or PCs version of Clinton's boxers or briefs question. After reading it, I told the executive producer that I didn't see the question's relevance and had thought of one that I would like to ask instead. He took a look at my question and told me I couldn't ask it because it wasn't light-hearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions - mine was to be one of the questions on the less serious side. The show's host wanted the Macs or PCs question asked, not because he was wondering about the candidates' views of technology, but because he thought it would be a good opportunity for the candidates to relate to a younger audience - hence the 18- to 31-year-old audience of Rock the Vote. At this point it was clear to me that the question would be asked regardless of whether I was the person to ask it.
I had to make the decision whether to actively participate in Rock the Vote by asking a question that wasn't mine and wasn't representative of me as a Brown student, or to sit in the stands uninvolved. The executive producer had asked and wanted me to pose the question, so being someone who doesn't like to go back on her word, as a favor to him I went ahead, hoping that if CNN wanted the question asked there must be a reason. Loyalty to my commitment and the opportunity to be involved in Rock the Vote outweighed any criticism I thought would come from the question. Granted, I wish I had been able to ask something else, but when put into perspective, there are many questions I could have asked that would have yielded a much more negative response. It's not as if what I said was inappropriate or politically incorrect. As the New York Times put it, Rock the Vote was "intended by its organizers to offer a somewhat offbeat view of the candidates by having them answer questions from young voters. And there were, indeed, the offbeat questions, like whether the candidates ... preferred PCs to Macs."
It's unfortunate that the candidates were unable to take advantage of the question to try to relate to the young viewers by extrapolating their answers. In effect they missed the opportunity to reveal an aspect of their offbeat, youthful side. Those who criticized the question didn't take into account why CNN might have wanted it asked - what's more, they didn't hesitate to judge me for asking a question I couldn't change. I would have hoped that such a liberal student body, from a school that in the very school catalog advocates intellectual freedom, would have reserved judgment on a situation and person it knew little if nothing about. Not one person bothered to inquire or find out the truth about the incident. No one even asked me to write this opinions column. My side was left completely unrepresented and was as a consequence misrepresented.
At a school where we pride ourselves on open mindedness and good journalism, I would have expected that before being criticized, both sides of the story would be presented, if not for the professionalism of the Brown Daily Herald, then perhaps for the respect of a fellow student.
A few quick things. First, if she were really embarrassed by the question, she shouldn't have asked it. In the end, individuals are responsible for their actions. Second, live television is what pranks are for. She could have easily ignored the prepared question and asked her own technology question or another one. What was she worried about? It isn't like security was going to come over and kick her out. Well, maybe if she said "Baba Booey." But because Trustman followed the rules, she has to take a little heat for her actions. Imagine the praise she would have received had she asked her more complicated technology question. I can hear the New York Times now: Wow, a serious question, how did that get by?
Then, there is Alethea Pieters - a campaign aide for Boston City Council twerp Mike Ross - who, after a busy day of working the polls helping Mikey trounce Mission Hill activist Carmen Torres, asked the party question and then received a profile from Mark Jurkowitz in the Boston Globe: ["She's not afraid to question 'party' politics"].
Tee hee. Tee hee. "I don't know which one I would want to party with. But Joe[Lieberman] picked me, so I guess I should party with him." Tee hee. Tee hee.Oh man ... What is most pathetic about all of this is that CNN doesn't think young people can have a serious discussion about issues or even try to have a discussion about serious issues. In Boston, there are tons of young people who have a better grasp of global and domestic policies and concerns than most of the candidates! There are some serious young people in that town. Why couldn't they ask their own questions, whether serious or light?
Then, there is the Rock the Vote organization itself. A supposed non-partisan group which helped get Bill Clinton elected to two terms by registering and urging young people to vote via PSA ads [most young conservatives already vote so they didn't need much encouraging]. Strangely missing was the Rock the Vote 2000 effort - which could have buoyed the campaigns of Al Gore or - gasp - Ralph Nader! Well, they couldn't do that because Rock the Vote is funded and run by liberal Democrats, many of whom are from the music industry - hence, the hand in hand effort with MTV. And, as Jello Biafra so eloquently stated on his last spoken word CD, they all remembered what Gore's wife Tipper put the industry through during the PMRC fundamentalist years when Al was a young buck conservative southern senator. There would be no rockin' of the vote for him or Nader.
I saw the debate on rebroadcast Sunday. And what struck me was how Hollywood it all seemed - the beautiful smiling faces in the crowd, not a scar or ounce of body fat on them, perfectly tailored, many of them probably very well educated with the token retail stiff or auto mechanic, being manipulated to talk down to the young people watching. Pathetic.
AP: Rummy wants more ground troops in Iraq
C-SPAN is reporting that Donald Rumsfeld is saying that if the generals want more ground troops in Iraq, he will make the suggestion to the president. Happy Veterans Day.
Poll numbers from Delaware!
I have been searching for months for some poll numbers from Delaware, an early primary. Here is what Mason-Dixon is reporting from yesterday: Joe Lieberman has 19 percent, Howard Dean has 15, Dick Gephardt is at 12 percent, Wesley Clark comes in at 10 percent, and John Kerry has 8 percent.