Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

January 27, 2004

by J

Sawyer Interview Deconstructed

While it appears that Dean got a lot of mileage out of the Diane Sawyer interview, as Jon Stewart pointed out, Sawyer's line of questioning was pretty nasty. The fact that the Deans handled it beautifully shouldn't let Sawyer off the hook. An article at the LA Times by Alexander Stille explains how the questioning was presumptuous and negative.
Out of the 96 questions that Sawyer asked, 90 were about personality and temperament and only six were even vaguely about issues; virtually all 96 were hostile and negative. Thirty-six were about Dean's supposedly out-of-control Iowa concession speech, his alleged bad temper and the loss of momentum of his campaign. ("So did you lose your temper at [your son's] hockey game?") The 10-second yell in his Iowa concession speech was replayed three times during the interview, along with riffs by David Letterman and Jay Leno. ("How does it feel, to be the object of all these jokes?")

Twenty questions were about Judy Dean's absence from the campaign, which appeared to fault her for failing to stand by her man while at the same time criticizing the couple's decision to be interviewed together. ("Is it because it's a troubled time and and the juggernaut has hit some pothole?") Twenty-one questions were about their family life, which all had a decidedly negative cast. ("Religion, first of all, ever a problem? Jewish? Christian?") All the questions to Judy Dean had a shockingly sexist subtext, about her clothes and hair and whether or not she was ready for the prime-time spotlight. She was made to seem like an un-American weirdo for failing to watch her husband on TV, for failing to have cable and for receiving rhododendron plants for her birthday. ("Not exactly romantic ")
That "not exactly romantic" crack really, really ticked me off. First of all, rhododendrons produce beautiful flowers! Second, "romantic" is in the eye of the beholder and who the hell is Diane Sawyer to suggest that she knows Judy Dean better than her husband does?

But, good for the Deans for putting up with the garbage gracefully and the campaign was apparently happy about the way it came across, since they distributed tens of thousands of copies in New Hampshire.
Posted by J at January 27, 2004 06:48 PM

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