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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Suspicion is the beginning of wisdom, and of madness" -- Mason Cooley

James Lindgren strikes me as a somewhat suspicious guy -- suspicious of others, that is; I'm not saying I find him suspicious.  For instance, when the President-elect's office states that the President-elect had no contacts with Gov. Blagojevich or his staff over the Senate appointment, and that his staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or staff over the appointment, Jim writes, "Would it have killed them to admit that there were contacts between the Obama staff and Blagojevich and his staff . . . , but these contacts were not inappropriate?"  I thought that was such an admission, in pretty plain terms, but . . . suspicion!  When not all the details he wants are forthcoming, in large part because the U.S. Attorney has requested Obama's circumspection -- when, as one of Jim's commenters says, Obama pledges "to disclose as much information as he can without violating the prosecution's requests for cooperation" -- Jim manages to use variations on the word "stonewalling" twice in two sentences.  (And adds in the comments that he is surely not suggesting that Obama is stonewalling -- heaven forfend! -- just that we'll know by next week whether he is stonewalling.  Ah.)

Well, that's fine.  Suspicion strikes me as a questionable virtue -- Joseph Addison wrote that "Suspicion is not less an enemy to virtue than to happiness; he that is already corrupt is naturally suspicious, and he that becomes suspicious will quickly be corrupt" -- but skepticism strikes me as an excellent quality, with respect to Obama as much as any other leader, and perhaps Jim is trying for skepticism.

In any event, let me allay one of his suspicions.  In one of his multiple recent posts on the topic, he writes, about Obama's recent press conference:

Obama had a prepared list of news reporters and he read their names from his list when calling on them; in at least two cases, Obama seemed not to know where they were in the room. I wonder whether this was agreed on with the particular reporters ahead of time, including what they were allowed to ask about.

Well, the answer to this one is: no.  At this level, reporters are not selected ahead of time, and will most certainly not agree to limitations on what they are allowed to ask at a press conference.  That doesn't mean the person taking the questions can't game the system at all -- he may well know what particular reporters are likely to ask about.  But there's no conspiracy here.  For all the usual online knocks on the mainstream press, those of us who have worked at this level and have some real-world experience can assure you that some relevant norms apply.  (Incidentally, Jim shut down comments on this post, writing, "That such an innocuous post could generate such a response is disappointing."  Given the general tenor of his posts, the ungrounded nature of his speculation in this particular post, and the heated nature of the comments to most of his posts, it doesn't actually strike me as surprising.)             

Posted by Paul Horwitz on December 16, 2008 at 12:30 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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Paul, what are you hiding?

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Dec 16, 2008 5:45:24 PM

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