By Kevin Zwick
There are certain things that you don’t say to a group of people if you want keep the peace. For instance, you don’t want to start a conversation with hardcore Red Sox fans by saying good things about the Yankees. Just like you don’t walk into a campaign office and begin to ask about controversial issues.
“Hi, my name is Kevin and I was wondering if I can speak to someone in charge.” The volunteers in the office looked puzzled. So I said, “I write for Marywood University’s school newspaper.”
One woman stood up and said, “Surely, I’ll go get him.” As she walked out, I began to look around the office at all the signs and posters, mostly homemade ones saying “Scranton Loves Hillary,” and “We Love You.” There was also was also the standard “Solutions for America” and “AFL/CIO Supports Clinton” posters.
“Here he is,” the woman said.
“Hi, my name is Kevin and I just wanted to ask you a few questions about the campaign.”
“Sure…Doug’s the name by the way,” he said as he shook my hand.
“Well, I just wanted to get your opinion about the issue with Chelsea and the question asked about the Lewinsky scandal.” Bad move.
The moment I said “Lewinsky,” the friendly smile on Doug’s face quickly turned to a confused, even angry look. It was like being at a bar where there are a lot of “regulars”, and a stranger walks in; the whole place goes silent and stares at the poor fellow. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the face of one of the volunteers, and I can tell he was thinking, “Did he just ask that?”
Some of the workers were looking at Doug, waiting for the response of their boss. “I have nothing to say about that,” he replied in a snappy manner.
“Excuse me?” I replied.
“I have no comment on that issue, that question should not even be asked,” he reinforced.
“Look,” I said, “I am not asking you the question that the kid asked Chelsea. I am asking how you think that confrontation will affect the campaign…or if you think the Republicans will use that confrontation against her if she makes it to the general election.”
“Well, I have no comment…no comment on an issue like that,” said Doug.
To be honest, his reaction threw me for a loop. I didn’t think a simple question like that could offend a person that has no relation to the Clintons. In Chelsea’s case, I could see why a question about the Monica Lewinsky scandal could invoke rage in a person. It is hard to live in the national spotlight, but it’s even harder when your father is being threatened with impeachment for a sex scandal. So when Chelsea refused to answer the question about the scandal, the national media was very kind to her, rebuking the people who kept asking her the question while on the stump for her mother.
“Here, you can call Frank Rothman. He is our national press contact,” said Doug. “He can give you the official press release from the campaign.”
“Thanks,” I replied. As I walked out of the office in the Ritz Theater Building in Downtown Scranton, I thought to myself, “Great, a national press contact. If I wanted an official press release I could watch CNN.” The reason I went there in the first place was to get a hometown opinion…an opinion from somebody that lives, works, and breathes in Northeast Pennsylvania.
So in the rules of un-bias political journalism, I walked down the block to the Oppenheim Building to ask questions at the Obama Campaign Office. To be fair, I asked questions about the Reverend Wright scandal.
“Oh, well, I can’t answer questions that will be printed because I am a paid campaign worker,” said the woman working at the desk. She was in the process of organizing people to go canvass neighborhoods in Scranton. “But I can put you in contact with volunteers so you can interview one of them.”
“Wow, thank you,” I replied graciously, after just being thrown under the bus by the Clinton office.
That was a massive change in attitude from one office to the other. I would have understood if the fellow in the Clinton Office said he couldn’t answer the question because he was a paid worker. The attitude in each office could be said to reflect the status of the campaign. Being in charge of an office of the scrambling Clinton campaign, whose lead in Pennsylvania dropped from 30% to 6% in just a few weeks, can have a negative effect on anybody’s mood. When a writer from a student newspaper walks into the office and starts asking “controversial questions,” some people under that kind of pressure just need to vent. The friendly attitude at the Obama office was one of confidence, even when someone walks into the office asking not-so-friendly questions. The workers in the Obama office simply shrugged it off, just as the candidate has done when confronted with the question in the national news.
In regards to the effect these issues will have on the future of both candidates, it is unclear. Obama has not been affected by the Reverend Wright scandal, since his poll numbers in Pennsylvania have been steadily increasing and closing in on Clinton’s lead, but don’t think you won’t see the issue resurface in the general election. I didn’t try to cause a ruckus in the Clinton office, because I thought I was asking an honest question. The people who asked Chelsea questions about the Lewinsky scandal were asking prying into the affects it has had on Hillary Clinton personally.
But in the case of the Lewinsky scandal, it would take a couple of low-rent Republicans like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly to use that as a talking point against Clinton and stoop that level.