Sweet catch by Dan Riehl. I wanted to cut the video of her asking her question but CNN came back late from commercial and cut to Chris Dodd already beginning his answer. Here’s the transcript; Blitzer introduces her as an “undecided voter” and it sounds like the onscreen graphic mentioned something about her belonging to a church. And … that’s it. The question: Is this the same LaShannon Spencer who served as the Arkansas Democrats’ director of political affairs in 2003? Here’s a photo from four years ago. Annnnnd here’s a screencap from last night. The hair’s different but those glasses sure look familiar:
This isn’t the only questioner whose background CNN chose to omit, either. I can give them a pass on another one Dan dug up just because you can’t expect them to know everything about a questioner’s history. But how about a questioner who’s appeared on their own network previously in his official role as leader of an interest group? Think that might be worth a mention? Eric Scheie is all over it. If Fox News tried passing off a local community leader who’d been on the network before in a quasi-expert capacity as some “random” Joe Citizen pitching special-interest softballs at a Republican debate, the nutroots supernova would be visible from the Andromeda galaxy. As it is, they’ll very feebly feign ignorance as to why we should care.
Here’s the video of Khalid Khan — and yes, it’s the same guy. According to the woman who got stuck with the dopey “diamonds or pearls” question, the question about Yucca Mountain that she wanted to ask “was APPROVED by CNN days in advance.” If CNN knew “days in advance” what the questions would be — and more importantly, who the questioners were — why didn’t they do a cursory background check to see whether, oh, let’s say, any of them had worked for the Democratic Party before or had appeared on their own network as a spokesman for an interest group?
Update: Given the fact that most of the people there were Democrats and most of the viewers knew it, what’s the big deal about CNN not identifying Spencer’s work history? Well, after the revelation about Hillary using plants (which CNN helped expose), you’d think the network’s audience might want to know who among the questioners has had a paid, formal relationship with the party. At the very least, Spencer is less likely to ask a tough question than the average Democrat lest it burn any bridges for her professionally, and even in a format as moronic as this, where the same softballs are pitched that were pitched at the last debate and the one before, basic journalistic integrity should require flagging possible cases of compromised motives. Like I said in the comments, if some former GOP state party official was allowed, without being identified, to crap out a gimme question about the Second Amendment at a Republican debate sponsored by Fox, you’d never hear the end of it. Olbermann would devote whole episodes of “Countdown” to it.
I went back to the beginning of the debate to see how Blitzer introduced the format. Did he offer any details on who’d be doing the questioning? Why, yes. After mentioning that the debate was sponsored by the national party — something likely understood by most viewers as a mere formality — he described them as “ordinary people, undecided voters.” Note: not even “undecided Democrats.” Just undecided.
Update: Even Kos thinks CNN did a crappy job of identifying where people’s loyalties lied.
Update: And right on cue, the left wonders what the big deal is. Like I said in the earlier update, the big deal (and it’s not a “big” deal) is that people watching the debates assume the questioners have no agendas. If there’s some reason to think that they do, that fact should simply be disclosed and the problem is solved. I repeat, let Fox try something like this vis-a-vis Republicans and see what happens.
Update: What’s especially stupid about all this is that the sheer volume of debates has given the candidates ample opportunity to stake out their positions on most issues. 99 out of every 100 people watching at this point are doing so only for the theater of it, to see who stumbles, who loses his cool, who takes a shot at who, etc. The questions are sufficiently repetitive by now that they might as well have party officials asking them. In which case, why not just identify them as such?