Friday, September 26, 2008

On answering the question you want to answer

In the context of an unfavorable review of Palin's interview with Couric, one finds the text:

One of the first things taught to anyone – especially politicians – in addressing the media is not to answer the reporter’s question but to answer the question you want to answer. Sure, it is maddening to the viewers. Screams of “they’re not answering the questions” are hurled at the television. But there’s a reason for this. You can avoid the above.

It doesn’t have to be as nefarious as it sounds. Watch Joe Biden. He doesn’t have an answer to every question. But he’s been around long enough to know how to dance when he doesn’t have an answer and focus the issue on where he wants it focused. Even when he messes up, he does it with enough confidence that many times it’s overlooked.
[As an aside, patent attorneys might contemplate "how well" the approach of answering the question you want to answer plays with patent examiners. Yes, Mr. Lemley, there is such a thing as a final rejection.]

In Biden's interview with Couric on Monday, Sept. 22, Biden confidently spoke of President Franklin Roosevelt appearing on television to discuss the stock market crash in 1929. Either Couric didn't perceive the factual problem, or she decided to overlook it.

Jimmy Orr in the Christian Science Monitor hit Palin on the following exchange:

Palin: “He’s also known as a maverick though. Taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party.”

Couric: “I’m just going to ask one more time, not to belabor the point – specific example in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.”

Palin: “I’ll try to find you some, and I’ll bring ‘em to ya.”

Which is worse: not knowing something, but promising to get the information, or simply making something up?

As an aside, did Couric ask Biden for examples of of his own pushing for more bank regulation? Could he have given SPECIFIC examples? Would he have included counter-examples? Biden did look pretty good on "Meet the Press" in handling Brokaw's question about MBNA, but that was more because of Brokaw's ineptitude than Biden's skill. Brokaw did identify a specific bill (apparently from a Delaware newspaper), but Biden knew more about it than Brokaw did, and Biden did a masterful job of focussing on Biden's issues. Brokaw was left without anything to say, mainly because of Brokaw's lack of knowledge.

Of what McCain tried to do on regulation, in a commentary by Kevin Hassett , one has the text:

What happened next was extraordinary. For the first time in history, a serious Fannie and Freddie reform bill was passed by the Senate Banking Committee. The bill gave a regulator power to crack down, and would have required the companies to eliminate their investments in risky assets.

Different World

If that bill had become law, then the world today would be different. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, a blizzard of terrible mortgage paper fluttered out of the Fannie and Freddie clouds, burying many of our oldest and most venerable institutions. Without their checkbooks keeping the market liquid and buying up excess supply, the market would likely have not existed.

But the bill didn't become law, for a simple reason: Democrats opposed it on a party-line vote in the committee, signaling that this would be a partisan issue. Republicans, tied in knots by the tight Democratic opposition, couldn't even get the Senate to vote on the matter.


Now that the collapse has occurred, the roadblock built by Senate Democrats in 2005 is unforgivable. Many who opposed the bill doubtlessly did so for honorable reasons. Fannie and Freddie provided mounds of materials defending their practices. Perhaps some found their propaganda convincing.

But we now know that many of the senators who protected Fannie and Freddie, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd, have received mind-boggling levels of financial support from them over the years.

Throughout his political career, Obama has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, second only to Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, who received more than $165,000.

Clinton, the 12th-ranked recipient of Fannie and Freddie PAC and employee contributions, has received more than $75,000 from the two enterprises and their employees. The private profit found its way back to the senators who killed the fix.

There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for this crisis. A look back at the story of 2005 makes the answer pretty clear.

Oh, and there is one little footnote to the story that's worth keeping in mind while Democrats point fingers between now and Nov. 4: Senator John McCain was one of the three cosponsors of S.190, the bill that would have averted this mess.


Blogger Obey Truth said...

You say the world would be different if the 2005 bill (S.190) had been passed. That shows an awful lot of confidence in a government that has consistently failed us for the past 8 years. 2 Parts wishful thinking, 1 part partisanship, 1 part guesswork.

10:23 AM  

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