UPDATE: We’ve chosen and submitted six questions from among those suggested here and via email. We hope to have the opportunity to do this again, so please continue to leave suggestions should you have any. I’ve asked Dave Almacy, the White House spokesman who agreed to answer your questions, when we can expect to receive the answers and I’ll pass that along as soon as he lets me know. We’ll announce the questions and answers in a separate post.
Note: this item has been retitled and extensively revised. To see the original version, click here.
If you’ve ever watched a White House press briefing, you’ve probably felt the sensation of drowning in tepid gruel. It can be an extremely frustrating experience and it led me to try, in the wake of the Guckert/Gannon scandal, to place my own unfettered correspondent in the briefing room. In early 2005, I managed to pester the White House press office into providing BTC News contributor — now BTC News White House correspondent — Eric Brewer with semi-regular access to the White House press briefings held by then-press secretary Scott McClellan.
Eric has done a great job under difficult circumstances (you can read his dispatches from the press room here) with both McClellan and Tony Snow, but he’s only one guy, he has a real job and he can’t be there every day. So I asked our press office contact, who is now an official spokesman, if he would field questions submitted by our readers. He agreed to do that on the record, and I’m here to ask you to ask the White House the questions institutional reporters should ask but don’t.
You can leave your questions in the comments on this post. We don’t censor comments so you’re of course free to say and ask anything you like, but keep in mind that we won’t be passing along any profanities.
Also keep in mind that the spokesman’s two-fold job is to place whatever information he provides in the most positive light, and to directly or indirectly avoid answering questions to which the answers might reflect poorly on the administration. The interlocutor’s job is to find a way around that. Our goal has always been to ask fact-based questions that are worded in a way that makes non-answers or non-denials significant, as when Eric invited Scott McClellan to repudiate the Downing Street Memos and Scott wouldn’t do it. Those are the kinds of solid questions we’ll be looking for from readers.
In some ways the process is reminiscent of Kremlin-watching in the glory days of the Cold War: you can often learn as much or more from what isn’t said as from what is, and there’s always hope for an occasional glitch in the fog machine. That last is unlikely since the Q&A in this instance will be via unspontaneous email, but the format also offers us all the opportunity to craft air-tight questions.
I’ve posted the call for questions elsewhere, and gotten feedback to the tune of “what’s the point? They won’t answer.” But the point is to get the questions on the record, whether they’re substantively answered or not, and to disseminate the responses or lack of them. It’s an opportunity for people who aren’t members of the journalistic tribe to put vital questions to the people who run the country. And because BTC News is a Google News source, you have the opportunity to ask questions that will be seen by people who would otherwise not be exposed to them.
We think that’s a worthy cause, and I hope you’ll participate to whatever extent you can. There are a lot of good questions floating around out there, and it’s time some of them got used.
This is a liberal blog, and the majority of our readers are liberals, but we’re open to questions from any point on the political arc so long as they’re substantive and articulate.
Give it a shot: the results might surprise us all.
NOTE: Please provide a first name and hometown, and your country if other than the US. If you would like to use your full name but don’t wish to post it here, you may send your questions to “email@example.com” without the quotation marks.