O’Donnell Uses Palin Playbook

Like Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell is no fan of the press.

Or, at least two basic tenets thereof:  blame the press and limit access.

Via CNN:  O’Donnell complains of ‘character assassination’

At a candidate forum sponsored by a group of local Republicans, O’Donnell blamed her campaign’s recent troubles on unfair coverage in the “liberal media.”

“I’ve put my name on the line. And I’ve taken a lot of hits … a lot of character assassination,” O’Donnell said.

A local GOP leader moderated Wednesday night’s tightly controlled event, asking the candidate her positions on taxes, spending and the new health care law. O’Donnell did take a few questions from the audience. But she left the forum via a back door and did not stop for interviews with reporters.

O’Donnell has made fewer public appearances since her stunning Tea Party-backed win in the Republican primary three weeks ago.

There is a little doubt that O’Donnell has taken some heat for her past statements and behavior in the press.  However, the basis of said heat has not been without basis.  Whether we are talking about questions regarding campaign finance issues, issues about her educational history (see here and here), or her past musing on TV about dabbling in witchcraft or speeches in which she claimed special knowledge about Chinese plots, or any number of other topics, the bottom line is that O’Donnell has no one but herself to blame.

Like Palin and Sharron Angle, I find it problematic when persons seeking high office are unwilling to forthrightly deal with the public, and that includes answering difficult and/or embarrassing question in the press.  If one wants to be Vice President (or President) or a member of US Senate, this is hardly too much to ask.

And I am sure that some will respond with some charge that Democrats do it too.  I do agree that refusals by some candidates to appear on Fox News in the 2008 was problematic.  However, there is a difference between refusing to go one network and only appearing in friendly media venues (e.g., Palin and Angle in particular).

Beyond that, the issue is not the fact that the three politicians mentioned by name have an “R” after their names, but rather that the three of them are consciously pursuing a specific media strategy that I think is problematic.  Further, they all have said numerous things about which it is not unreasonable for the public to want clarification concerning.  Of course, for some people the fact that the three of them are Republicans will be enough to both defend their actions and assume that any critique leveled in their direction is simply one based in partisanship.

A lot of this, too, is a function of the new media environment in which we live where we both have more options that ever in terms of news content and delivery and yet it is possible for candidates to hide in their own safe and favored niches.  Likewise the proliferation of access (including the transformation, via the internet, of local media in national outlets) means we can all know when a candidate is hiding from the press moreso than was the case in the past.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, US Politics, ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    Well, I *kinda* agree. But this playbook says to act like a victim at all times. And Palin stole that playbook from the liberals. Heck, I lean a bit liberal but the constant victimhood thing is tiresome. It works for Palin and most of her fans, though, so it’ll work for O’Donnell.

    Oh, BTW, I don’t give a rat’s ass if a young person dabbles in witchcraft.

  2. JKB says:

    However, there is a difference between refusing to go one network and only appearing in friendly media venues (e.g., Palin and Angle in particular).

    So as long as the “unfriendly” media is only one venue it is okay to avoid but if not, you can’t?

    Why give partisan hacks ammunition when the interaction is of no value to you? And of course, why should a lowly senate candidate be held to a higher standard than the “press” held the current president?

  3. mantis says:

    So as long as the “unfriendly” media is only one venue it is okay to avoid but if not, you can’t?

    Well, it’s the difference between refusing to deal with a particular venue for a particular reason, and refusing to answer any difficult questions from anyone, anywhere. Do you really not see the difference?

    And of course, why should a lowly senate candidate be held to a higher standard than the “press” held the current president?

    Yeah, I remember how Obama wouldn’t do any interviews and ran away from press conferences during his campaign. Oh wait, that didn’t happen.

  4. Gerry W. says:

    Try belonging to Redstate.com or a Mark Levin site, even with a middle of the road agenda. They don’t want to hear anything but tax cuts, cut spending, more military, gun rights, the constitution, free market principles, and God and country. If you say anything outside of this agenda, then you are kicked off the site. Yeah, they talk about freedom, but who are they kidding? The left is bad enough, but I lost all respect for the right.

  5. Wayne says:

    Re “Yeah, I remember how Obama wouldn’t do any interviews and ran away from press conferences during his campaign. Oh wait, that didn’t happen”

    Yes he did. The only interviews he gave was to friendly the press and even then the campaign put in a great deal of controls.

    Why should O’Donnell repeat the same answers to the same questions so the MSM will have “new footage” to try keep the distracting story alive?

    Is there anything more to be said or cover about a brief interest in witchcraft while in Highs School?

    The MSM didn’t go into depth about Obama’s drug use and that is a hell a lot more relevant.

  6. mantis says:

    Yes he did. The only interviews he gave was to friendly the press and even then the campaign put in a great deal of controls.

    You can invent your own history if you want, but that doesn’t mean the actual history never happened.

    Why should O’Donnell repeat the same answers to the same questions so the MSM will have “new footage” to try keep the distracting story alive?

    Actually, she doesn’t answer questions at all. And apparently she has no opinions on matters which will certainly come up if she were a Senator, like climate change.

    Is there anything more to be said or cover about a brief interest in witchcraft while in Highs School?

    No, but there are many, many other questions for O’Donnell that are very pertinent to the job she seeks. She refuses to answer them.

    The MSM didn’t go into depth about Obama’s drug use and that is a hell a lot more relevant.

    I see. “What my candidate did when she was young is irrelevant, but what your candidate did when he was young is super-important, because IOKIYAR.”

  7. Alex Knapp says:

    Wayne,

    Yes he did. The only interviews he gave was to friendly the press and even then the campaign put in a great deal of controls.

    Bill O’Reilly was friendly press for Obama?

  8. Wayne says:

    He was in that interview and Obama only did it once. If once count then O’Donnell more than did her fair share.

    Liberals are always trying to redo history. Look at Carter, Barney Franks and Mantis.

  9. Mercer says:

    I think it is strange that O’Donnell is taking up this strategy when she has appeared frequently on the media in the past. She has been a media personality for a long time and does not have much money. I think she should take advantage of her media experience and good looks to get all the free media she can – like Huckabee did when he ran for president.

  10. Gerry W. says:

    These people are forming their own clique and nothing else matters. Look at Fox and it is always the same people with the same message. Hannity, Huckabee, Gingrich, Palin, O’Donnell, Malkin, and all the other right wing politicians. Same message-cut spending and have more tax cuts. Nothing else matters. And also attack attack. In the end, they have no answers. It is all ideology. They are right wing nuts with the same robotic and hypnotic resonance. And with this attitude, it is ruining the country and the middle class.

  11. Gerry W. says:

    Also to add. These people don’t hear anyone. They have their world and that is all they need. And people will follow maybe because the democrats have no answers either. Anyway, I think we are heading to dangerous territory in politics. The biggest example was President Bush. It was tax cuts and that is all that mattered. For him, deficits did not matter, wars was not paid for. But he “stayed the course” and listened to God to enter the war with Iraq. I lost all respect for republicans to have seen this. It shows, and pardon me, that Hitlers can come from anywhere. I understand the fear of big government, but I also fear a bunch of nuts.

  12. tom p says:

    “It shows, and pardon me, that Hitlers can come from anywhere.”

    Huh?

  13. Gerry W. says:

    The way I see it, the republican party is a party of ideology. And they will drive that ideology until the middle class is ruined. They will preach free market principles or God and country and it has nothing to do with running the country and the middle class suffers. So far, I see nothing that they will do but make the rich richer. Their policies ignore the middle class. It will either be a party for the rich or a theocracy. Either way we lose. They keep driving the same ideology and make people believe it. The right wing runs around like robots, gives hypnotic speeches and ideologies with simplistic answers. Which just continues to ruin the country.

    We see this with Bush on Iraq, and we see it with the Palins and all the other characters on the right.
    http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/lies/video.html

  14. anjin-san says:

    > Obama’s drug use and that is a hell a lot more relevant.

    Obama smoked pot in high school in the 70’s. Which makes him a normal member of my generation. Raises a lot less questions in my mind then someone participating in some kind of satanic blood ritual.

  15. […] me @ OTB:  O’Donnell Uses Palin Playbook addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poliblogger.com%2F%3Fp%3D19420'; addthis_title = […]

  16. Max Lybbert says:

    I do agree that refusals by some candidates to appear on Fox News in the 2008 was problematic. However, there is a difference between refusing to go one network and only appearing in friendly media venues

    There’s a difference between a Democrat that refuses to appear on Fox News and a Republicn who refuses to appear on unfriendly media venues?

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    Democrats who didn’t appear on Fox News appeared on MSNBC, CNN, and otehr “Democrat friendly venues. By and large, Fox News is the only media venue that isn’t Democrat friendly. And that is exactly the reason given for not appearing on Fox News.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. …

  17. Max Lybbert says:

    I should probably say for the record that I don’t blame the candidates for the failures of the free press; I blame the press for failing to do its job.

  18. @Max: One thing that torpedoes your theory is that Democrats in 2008 did not uniformly and totally boycott Fox.

    Beyond that, the notion that the the entire media world sans Fox treats all Democrats the way that Hannity and friends treat Palin is ludicrous.

    Further, it isn’t like Democrats don’t appear on Fox or that Republicans only get attacked by the rest of the media.

    The Palin/Angle/O’Donnell approach to the media says a whole lot more about them than it does about the press.

  19. Max Lybbert says:

    > One thing that torpedoes your theory is that Democrats in 2008 did not uniformly and totally boycott Fox.

    And Republicans haven’t uniformly and totally boycotted MSNBC. I don’t see how that’s a winning argument. Democrats who did boycott Fox News did so because they considered the place less-friendly than other venues. By the way, the fact that Democrats have been in a war with Fox News for several years doesn’t make O’Donnell’s refusal to appear in less-than-friendly venues a good idea.

    > the notion that the the entire media world sans Fox treats all Democrats the way that Hannity and friends treat Palin is ludicrous.

    I’m not sure I see the logic behind this statement. Are you suggesting that there are only two ways to treat political candidates: super friendly with massages offered during commercial breaks on the one hand, and bulldog grilling on the other? That would be ludicrous.

    > Further, it isn’t like Democrats don’t appear on Fox …

    You’ve conceded that there was a boycott, i.e., that some Democrats don’t appear on Fox. The fact that some Democrats do appear doesn’t say anything about the ones that don’t.

    > [it isn’t like] Republicans only get attacked by the rest of the media.

    While I’m not sure how to read this sentence (“not only Republicans get attacked by the rest of the media” vs. “the rest of the media doesn’t only attack Republicans” vs. “Fox (i.e., ‘not the rest of the media’) also attacks Republicans”), again, I’m not sure what it says about Democrats who specifically avoid Fox because they think Fox is slanted against them.

    So, to clarify: I can’t really blame politicians who only go on shows that function like Entertainment Tonight: shows that avoid asking tough questions with the expectation that they’ll get more access to the politician. Of course, those shows don’t do much for the health of the democracy. However, if there were no such shows, politicians would be have to either not do interviews or subject themselves to actual scrutiny. Right now they have the option of ding fluff interviews in media-friendly places. Some politicians subject themselves to scrutiny, but that doesn’t say anything meaningful about those that don’t.

  20. And Republicans haven’t uniformly and totally boycotted MSNBC

    Nor did I say that they were. Note the specific examples are: Palin, O’Donnell and Angle who have all pursued a similar media strategy.

    You are treating my position as something that it isn’t.

  21. Max Lybbert says:

    You wrote:

    One thing that torpedoes your theory is that Democrats in 2008 did not uniformly and totally boycott Fox..

    I wrote:

    And Republicans haven’t uniformly and totally boycotted MSNBC.

    I am unable to see how the fact there are Democrats willing to be interviewed by Fox News torpedoes my theory any more than the fact that there are Republicans willing to be interviewed by MSNBC says anything about O’Donnell or Palin. Likewise, I don’t see why the fact that there are Republicans willing to be interviewed by MSNBC, CNN,, et al. would prove anything about whether MSNBC, CNN, et al. have biased reporting.

    Hopefully this will be more coherent than my previous comment. When you wrote “I do agree that refusals by some candidates to appear on Fox News in the 2008 was problematic” I assumed (1) you conceded that some candidates refused to appear on Fox News 2008, and (2) you considered that problematic. I pointed out that, just as Fox News is viewed as Republican friendly, the most venues other than Fox News are seen as Democrat-friendly. We can argue if those venues are biased, but that argument would have to be based on whether anybody’s been able to detect a bias in their reporting, not on lists of who refuses to appear/agrees to appear on the venues.

    the notion that the the entire media world sans Fox treats all Democrats the way that Hannity and friends treat Palin is ludicrous.

    Will you concede that there are different levels of (political side)-friendly? That is, that calling MSNBC biased does not necessarily mean that politicians that appear get some kind of spa treatment? Or claiming that Fox News is biased suggests that Democrats who appear on Fox have their entire lives dredged up for some kind of “gotcha journalism”? That bias is a continuum, and can involve, say, a willingness by a network to not ask tough questions or to “unask” questions if things appear to be going in the wrong direction ( http://beldar.blogs.com/beldarblog/2008/04/obama-still-smo.html : “You can almost hear the tiny gears in Matthews’ tiny mind turning — ‘Oh my God, I’ve actually asked a hardball question that demands a specific answer that might be embarrassing! Verbal grenade! Must smother it with my own body and blather so no one will notice and the candidate doesn’t have to answer!'”).

  22. There are no doubt that there are some venues more friendly than others (and it varies also by politicians—who they are, what they’ve said, etc).

    But you are still missing my point. I was not arguing about all Reps (or Dems) or about the meia writ large.

    Palin. Angle. O’Donnell.

  23. Max Lybbert says:

    I think I’m getting lost in the weeds here.

    First, as to Palin, Angle, O’Donnell: I can’t blame then for seeking out friendly venues. Borrowing a term from you, I would consider this problematic.

    Let me hone in on one paragraph from the original post.

    And I am sure that some will respond with some charge that Democrats do it too.

    From a logical point of view, saying “the other side did it too” isn’t really a defense. I only posted my first comment because the original post brought the point up and I actually did think it was funny.

    I do agree that refusals by some candidates to appear on Fox News in the 2008 was problematic.

    I think we agree here.

    However, there is a difference between refusing to go one network and only appearing in friendly media venues (e.g., Palin and Angle in particular).

    Instead of arguing over theoretical points, let’s ask the obvious question: was there any politician who refused to appear on Fox News who was asked a probing, uncomfortable question at a different venue? I can’t think of any. Partly because their refusal to go on Fox News sent a pretty clear message that the politician didn’t like freewheeling interviews. Partly because the venues where those politicians did appear were more friendly toward the politicians in question. In other words, they didn’t just refuse to appear on one network, all available evidence suggests they did only appear in friendly media venues.

    And, frankly, I can’t blame them. Having that option open is problematic, but I believe the fault lies at the feet of the media who play along with fluff interviews. The option should be between giving probing interviews or not getting their message out at all. Instead they have the Entertainment Tonight option: to have pliable reporters willing to avoid any off-limits question conduct the interviews.

  24. Max,

    I appreciate the attempt at reasonable dialog. I think, however, we may have to agree to disagree at this point in the interest of time.

    The bottom line is that yes, I have seen Democrats and Republicans both being asked real question in a variety of venues. However, I think that Palin, et al. in particular have pursued a problematic campaign strategy in which they limit their media exposure exclusively or almost exclusively to only very friendly (indeed, often infotainment-oriented) media outlets. Indeed, at the moment Sarah Palin’s job is to appear only on such outlets.