I feel the need to blow off more steam built up while thinking of the two questions I mentioned below. First, let’s look at Terry Moran’s question again.
Q Scott, these are remarkable scenes we’re witnessing in Beirut. Is this a domino falling? Does this show the President’s strategy is vindicated and confirmed and right?
He could easily have asked Scottie for the president’s opinion, an open-ended question is not necessarily bad. Something like, “Scott, these are remarkable scenes we’re witnessing in Beirut. What does the president think of the developments in Lebanon?”
Then if Scott wants to tip the dominoes over (nice metaphor there, Terry), he is free to do so. But a real journalist would not supply Scottie with the president’s opinion.
Now here’s Helen Thomas. Follow her questioning (Note: it’s never One-and-Done with Helen) and keep in mind the idea of an adversarial press corps.
Q Has the President ever issued an order against torture of prisoners? And do we still send prisoners to Syria to be tortured?
There you have two questions of fact, posed to allow a simple yes or no answer and based on a current topic of discussion.
Scottie’s answer – not a smple yes or no, or even an answer at all.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has stated publicly that we do not condone torture and that he would never authorize the use of torture. He has made that —
Scottie did not answer the question, so Helen repeats it.
Q But has he issued an order?
MR. McCLELLAN: — statement very publicly, and he’s made it clear to everybody in the government that we do not torture.
Scottie still won’t address the question of a specific order from the president, clinging to the “public statements” and dreaming of Bulldogs.
Helen has the grace to accept Scottie’s answer at face value, but wonders why the president’s clear statements seem to have no effect.
Q Well, why do we still hear these stories then?
MR. McCLELLAN: If there are allegations of wrongdoing, then the President expects those allegations to be fully investigated and if there is actual wrongdoing that occurs, then people need to be held to account. The President has made that very clear.
The Law-n-Oder President answer riles her, so Helen goes back to the yes-or-no question about a specific fact.
Q Well, do you deny that we still send prisoners to other countries to be tortured? Is that a denial?
MR. McCLELLAN: Judge Gonzales testified previously that we have an obligation not to render people to countries that we know would torture them.
Scottie makes the mistake of citing Abu Gonzales’ testimony, which Helen can recite from memory.
Q He did not rule out torture.
And it’s Good-bye Scottie.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, David.
There. Relations between the press and our government should be adversarial, it’s really not that hard. Democracy cannot survive without it.