Here's my take on Plant-gate:
In Newton, Iowa last week, at a town hall meeting after Sen. Clinton rolled out her global warming policy, an aide approached a member of the audience and suggested that she ask Clinton a question about global warming. The staffer, being helpful, provided the suggested text. Clinton called on the audience member during her Q and A, was asked the question, and gave a standard response.
During the past six months, Clinton has probably been asked (more than) a 1,000 questions by different Democratic voters. Two of them are known to have been planted. And with a half a week of harsh, local press coverage, exactly zero others have stepped forward to say that they, too, were similarly coached.
But even if 18 more come forward – 20 out of 1,000, say, 98% of the questions posed to Clinton were legitimate and authentic.
All of this is to say that the staff member's gambit was probably not part of a grand strategy that’s existed since the start of the campaign. If it was, that strategy failed miserably!
Clinton advisers and aides have acknowledged that one of the nagging problems Clinton faces in Iowa is that the local coverage of her visits often depart from the reasons behind her visits.
The Clinton campaign won’t comment about such things, but it’s reasonable to assume that word filtered down to aides that, as much as possible, events needed to be more tightly controlled to forestall the unforeseen. It's also unlikely that those instructions included a command to plant questions.
Trust your candidate, Roger Simon advises. It is among the fundamental lessons that senior staff members must learn. They see their task as controlling the environment around the candidate, controlling what the candidate says, controlling what the candidate wears, controlling the media, controlling the crowds, controlling the questions. Often, that control leads to the opposite: it produces an environment so artificial that the mischievous imp of the unforeseen pops up and wiggles his tongue.
The last thing Clinton needed last week – a week where her credibility was challenged -- was the suggestion that even some of her senior staffers do not trust her to answer questions.
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