Should the U.S. press corps ‘shove it’?

by Gloria Feldt on July 31st, 2012
in Election Watch, Leadership, Politico Arena, Power and tagged , , , , , ,

Mitt Romney’s traveling press secretary lost his cool with reporters covering the candidate’s overseas trip. Aide Rick Gorka told reporters to “kiss my ass” and “shove it” after they shouted questions at Romney during his visit to Pilsudski Square, near the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“Kiss my ass; this is a holy site for the Polish people,” said Gorka to reporters. “Show some respect.” Gorka then told a reporter to “shove it.” The aide later called members of the press to apologize, calling his actions “inappropriate.” Romney has not held a media availability for his traveling press corps since taking three questions outside 10 Downing Street in London last Thursday.

The Politico Arena question for today was: Was this an instance of aggressive reporters overstepping their bounds? Or do presidential candidates need to be more accessible to media outlets?

My take is this:

It’s easy to say there is blame on both sides. And there is. No press aide can ever afford to be rude or obscene in his or her attempts, however frustrating, to get the media to focus on the candidate’s preferred issues. Getting any campaign’s messages out requires a constant dance with the press in a rapacious news cycle always pleading to be fed. When there is no substance, style inevitably becomes the focus of media attention. The right will squeal allegations that it’s all because of the “liberal media,” but really it has more to do with boredom on a slow news day coupled with an inaccessible candidate who becomes more media-shy the more these incidents happen.

All that said, I can’t help but feel sorry for Gorka. He has the impossible task of defining a deliberately indefinable candidate. No wonder Romney keeps stubbing his toe on public discourse. He has no idea who he is, so how can he authentically empathize with others when talking with them? His trifecta of gaffes this week, stretching from London to Jerusalem on a globe hopping trip concocted to show the world he is prepared to lead foreign policy, has made him look like a buffoon once again. If I were Gorka, I’d be uttering all kinds of choice words right now. Apparently he forgot the cardinal rule of keeping his frustration within the confines of the campaign while keeping his public face cheery at all times.

An excerpt from this article ran in the Politico Arena. Here is a link to my response to the Arena question.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

3 Responses to Should the U.S. press corps ‘shove it’?

  1. Aletha says:

    “defining a deliberately indefinable candidate…” Oh, the irony. I think you are aware similar observations have been made about the President, who promised to make signing the Freedom of Choice Act his first act as President, only to clarify that it was not his highest priority and letting it disappear from his agenda, replacing that promise with a promise to ensure there would be no deviation from the Hyde Amendment. He also promised to study and roll back unwarranted extensions of executive power seized by his predecessor, but this constitutional scholar decided there was nothing to roll back, rather executive power needed to be extended further. He ran as the peace candidate and turned out to be as hawkish as anyone; his environmental record is also all over the map. What does it say about our political process when both candidates are so slippery? Is having some principles besides political expediency too radical for US politics?

    Speaking of definitions, whatever does the Tea Party have to do with being radical? I know it is popular in the mainstream to conflate radical with extreme, reactionary, or out of the mainstream, but this only goes to show how constrained the thinking is within the mainstream, that anything outside of conventional wisdom must be denigrated with this awful word, radical. That is one term I will continue to fight to reclaim.

  2. Gloria Feldt says:

    Aletha, I actually had a similar thought about Obama when I was writing this, and as you know have been critical of his leadership many times on the issues you raised. But that wasn’t the point of this question. I stand by what I said about media and politicians in the post.

    You have a good semantic point about the word “radical.” On reflection “extreme” would have been a better choice. I often find myself saying I have become more radical with age and experience. And Cruz has little of either of those!

  3. Aletha says:

    The partisan press seems oblivious to how their comments about one candidate could apply to the other. I suppose I see that because I look for it, but it annoys me. I know you are not oblivious, and the similarity with Obama is a tangent. I think the press treats our politicians far too well; politicians should all be cornered about everything they say and do, but they serve the same masters as the press, so those questions will not be asked, except perhaps by radicals like me, off the radar. It may seem odd, since the media has ruined many politicians, but usually that follows from a scandal of a different sort than the picture mass media paints of business as usual, which is the real scandal to my eyes.

    Getting any campaign’s messages out requires a constant dance with the press in a rapacious news cycle always pleading to be fed. When there is no substance, style inevitably becomes the focus of media attention.

    If politics has to come down to style, Obama will win hands down, but there are complicating factors the media cannot control. If the economy gets worse and Romney can tag that on Obama, Romney has a chance. If Obama cannot motivate his base to vote, Romney has a chance. I think Obama will have both problems, but he may well manage to scrape by. He should count his lucky stars his opposition is so dismal, though the other Republicans might have been weaker opponents.

    Mass media attention is ravenous, but highly selective of what it considers newsworthy. This has given politicians the luxury of their theatrics; they know within certain boundaries, they may be called on it or not, but not in a way that threatens their mass media monopoly. Promoting business as usual is their job; they battle over issues like abortion and gay marriage that should be no business of meddlesome bureaucrats, and their different ideas on how to promote business. The mass media preoccupation with style when a woman is running goes on overdrive.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

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