April 07, 2005

Unspinning McClellan

This article complains that Scott McClellan has stock responses to an awful lot of questions regarding Iraq and that he sticks to the script instead of letting himself make news by veering from administration position. In other words, he's doing his job and doing it the way he's supposed to.

Instead of bemoaning the fact, they might consider asking new questions that nobody has written a stock, scripted answer for. Here are five to start:

1. The world's underlying foreign policy assumption of national sovereignty was set in 1648 at the signing of the Peace of Westphalia. Tony Blair has explicitly called for us to move beyond Westphalia. Does the administration agree and when are we going to start the national conversation on what chucking aside 350 years of rules means?
2. Since the UN utterly depends on the mediating between sovereign nations, does Prime Minister Blair's (and the administration, if they've answered question 1 that way) "beyond Westphalian" talk utterly destroy the rationale for the UN as it is currently constituted? Is it time to do to the UN what happened to the League of Nations, cherry pick out the good parts and wrap them up in a superior framework? If not now, how bad do things have to get before it's time?
3. Lots of law enforcement agencies find that neighborhood watch programs can do wonders for crime rates of all types but that they work best when coordinated with the relevant law enforcement groups. What is administration policy on neighborhood watches and how would you plan on coordinating with volunteers if they wanted to set one up on our southern border?
4. What is administration policy on the admission of new territories and states to the United States?
5. What is the administration policy regarding the PRC's new anti-secession law were it to apply the law to Tibet, Xinhian or somewhere other than Taiwan?

It took 20 minutes thought to think up five questions that are unlikely to involve rote repetition of previous talking points. It wasn't that hard and given an hour that I don't have I could probably come up with another five. If I were doing this for a living I'd probably go through the federal code and come up with one per Title and rotate through them. I'd do that because I believe in informing people, not in taking part in a stylized kabuki interrogation.

I think that the press has created Scott McClellan, or at least his job description. If he had a wide variety of questions, he wouldn't be so drilled in repeating the same answers to the same questions over and over again. The public would be better informed, the chance of actually breaking news would be higher because no human being can be briefed on everything that the executive is doing. The government's grown too big for that.

The problem with my style would be that you wouldn't have so much "pack" journalism and that would mean that it wouldn't lend itself to partisan baiting and ideological combat but rather to really informing the public on a great deal more of what's going on. Wait a minute, that's a feature, not a bug.

Posted by TMLutas at April 7, 2005 10:40 AM