ABC News says a Hillary staffer may have tried to plant another audience question at an campaign event just a day after an earlier accusation.
Geoff Mitchell, a minister who recently moved to Hamilton, Ill., from Iowa, told ABC News that he was approached this spring by Clinton's Iowa political director Chris Haylor to ask Clinton a question about war funding....
The Clinton campaign confirmed to ABC News that Clinton's staffer and Mitchell did speak about a possible Iraq question.
"Chris Haylor and Geoff Mitchell knew each other and they started talking and the subject of Iraq came up," Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said, "and Chris suggested that he ask a question about Iraq."
So is this something to get upset about?
It's possible the practice of planting campaign audience questions has been going on for a long time. It may never have been considered newsworthy until the plethora of New Media outlets increased competition for the "scoop" and undermined the gatekeeping functions which may have kept practices like this under wraps.
But what's the harm in it? Isn't the practice of planting questions simply a way of systematically pushing policy questions to the head of the queue so that the candidate can answer it before an audience? After all both the question and answer are delivered publicly. Who cares that it was set up behind the scenes?
What offense is taken will probably stem from the subtle dishonesty inherent in the manipulation of the situation. When one attends a politically rally, those at Nuremberg excepted, it is with the expectation that audience events are unscripted. Spontaneous. When an ordinary person comes to such a rally it is under the impression that he is on an equal footing with everyone else in the hall with respect to the persons onstage. What a shock to discover that some are more equal than others.
Since the bandwidth at campaign question and answers is limited -- only a few can be entertained -- an arrangement to plant questioners essentially steals bandwidth from the rest of the audience by reserving part of it to claques, who are engaged to loft a policy volleyball so the candidate can spike it.
Politics has always been a stage. Voters know this. But they are sometimes lulled into believing there are unrehearsed events. And it's understandable if they are disappointed to learn those events are rehearsed as well. Stalin once derided Trotsky as "a common, noisy champion with faked muscles", implying that his own political muscles were real. Among politicians, how are we to know?