DAVID ROSMAN: How to tell whether a politician is trying to snow you

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:24 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 9, 2011

COLUMBIA — Snow: With more than enough of the white stuff so far this winter, we’re all screaming “Enough already!”

But wait, there’s more. I’m not talking about real snow. I’m taking about the “Cumulus-Politicianus” clouds enveloping over our great halls of government and places where public debate takes place.

Sen. Claire McCaskill held her town hall meeting here this past week. After listening to her respond to questions from the audience and journalists, I was reminded of a quote from President Woodrow Wilson that essentially went: “Every impromptu speech I have given was carefully prepared.”

Although the questions were randomly chosen by an audience member who, presumably, would never ever vote for McCaskill, they were predictable. So were some of her responses. Some felt like we were being snowed.

This was not a campaign stop, which was made obvious by her direct answers to budget questions, including one from the Missouri Association for Community Action whose members, like our own Central Missouri Community Action, will see major hits to its federal funding. There was no plowing, just words of caution to drive carefully in the slush. The majority seemed to believe that McCaskill was being painfully honest.

Yet her responses concerning energy independence, veteran benefits and medical coverage, financial hits to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Wall Street brigands running free seemed to be carefully prepared. Even her reply to Hamid El-Tayash — organizer of Columbia’s free Libya movement and owner of Campus Eastern Foods — concerning the U.S. response to the Libyan crisis seemed too practiced and elusive.

Most everyone I spoke to seemed satisfied that the senator was being honest and forthright. Yes, there was some snow, but overall it was mostly minor flurries. But even flurries can prove dangerous in the right or, if you will, the wrong conditions.

Friday’s snow came in the form of the Columbia City Council candidate forum hosted by the Muleskinners. Candidates Helen Anthony and Glen Ehrhardt for the Fifth Ward’s open seat and Fred Schmidt, Pam Forbes and Mitch Richards for the First’s participated. Darrell Foster had a conflict; he did not show and did not send a surrogate. (Not a good thing, by the way.) The conversation was enlightening, but there were warnings of an upcoming blizzard. What did one have to look for?

Avoidance: Did the candidate seem to avoid answering questions, even indirectly? I heard that tactic a few times during the one-hour forum. Two candidates attempted to snow the audience with federal issues, without relating them directly back to the city. This may start an avalanche of mistrust in their campaigns.

Deer in headlights: What does the candidate really know? One candidate looked like that poor doomed deer during the Q-and-A session. She really could not answer the questions posed to the candidates, leaving no tracks in the snow back to the field of safety.

Digging out:  The infamous “I don’t know the answer but I will give you one anyway” snow storm. I heard three candidates trying to find their way out their personal blizzards of political nonsense.

Fear mongering: Safety issues are always prevalent in a political campaign. However, when a candidate overemphasizes the need for more cops because our city is a dangerous place, or that our civil rights are being destroyed because the citizens voted for more surveillance cameras downtown, ice has formed under the snow. These are slippery-slope arguments.

“You may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” There is a controversy over who said this — P.T. Barnum or Abraham Lincoln — but the idea holds true. Voters know the difference if they are not stuck head-first in the snow drifts.

My suggestion: good sunglasses, warm boots and a bigger shovel.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at and New York Journal of Books.

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Ellis Smith March 2, 2011 | 4:59 a.m.

This is WAY too complicated! If the politician's mouth is open and words are issuing from it you've got at least a minor amount of snow - perhaps even a blizzard.

And this year across our fair country we're running out of funds for snow removal. You can read about that in this [sort of] daily newspaper.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 2, 2011 | 9:45 a.m.

Seems lke Rosman is blowing snow by not calling canidates out by name and with exact quotes...

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 2, 2011 | 12:08 p.m.

"Digging out: The infamous “I don’t know the answer but I will give you one anyway”"

... resembles the "I don't have a damn thing to say but I'm going to write an article anyway".

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 2, 2011 | 8:14 p.m.

So I wonder what David thinks of Obama's speeches leading up the election? Of course if he was ever asked a real question by anyone other than Bill O he might not have found the race so easy to win.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman March 3, 2011 | 8:18 p.m.

I love you all for thinking that I am more of an incompentent fool than I really am. However, I do believe Allaire, Sharrock and Schultz take a page from W.C. Field's book - "Hell, I never vote for anybody, I always vote against." You have never said a nice thing about anyone, as far as I can tell.

My preference is Will Rogers: "So let's be honest with ourselves and not take ourselves too serious, and never condemn the other fellow for doing what we are doing every day, only in a different way." You are taking yourselves way too seriously.

I think Samuel Clemens had the most appropriate advice for you. "All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure to follow."

Allow me to close this with John 8:7 "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

I believe your personal blizards are more like studio snow, meaningless and luke warm.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 3, 2011 | 8:49 p.m.

That was a very nice thing for you to say. But I wasn't blowing snow. That's for prostitutes. And politicians. And journalists.

But I like this success thing. So where do I find some ignorance? Oh wait!!! I'm looking at it. Why do you think I make the comments that I do?

And no. I wasn't throwing stones at her. I was throwing paper airplanes at an instructor (you) for my own petty amusement. So come on. Be honest. You really didn't have anything to say when you wrote the assignment, but you completed your paper anyway. Why not be proud of that?

(Report Comment)
Yves Montclear March 3, 2011 | 11:01 p.m.

Mr. Rosman, unless you are getting paid for each 'comment' to any article you write, don't try to wit or wine, much less reason, with these people you have mentioned.

There needs to be a big, flashing header above the 'Latest Comments' section here, in large font type, that says: Please Don't Feed The Trolls!

I won't deny they are educated, generally their posts read well. And I'll fight for their right to post anything they want here.

Are they a joke, unto themselves? I'll leave lines like that to Fields, Rodgers, Twain, and Rosman.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 4, 2011 | 6:06 a.m.


In your post of March 3, 2011 at 8:18 pm you did not include my name with those of Allaire, Sharrock and Schultz.

An oversight perhaps?

As I posted several months ago, "If you can't stand the heat, it's time to get out of the kitchen." [Attributed to Harry Truman.]

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 4, 2011 | 8:34 a.m.

Well David I will say thank you. Thank you for writing opinion articles that I do not agree with so that I may comment on a Blog. A blog which generates hit counts which raises the Missourians Google ranking. Actually I asked a question which technically since you do blog could answer. What do you think of the president who claimed he was going to be the most transparent president ever? Is he really being as transparent as he could be? I would bet a dollar to a donut that says he has done less press interviews than Bush. I will say that he does a better job of snowing the press. Bush did bumble things a lot and I wasn't always impressed by the way he spoke. I do agree with Karl a lot but I haven't thanked him on a Blog. I do it in person when I see him. I guess my beef is with editors who I know to be bias writing articles in which I know and the people should know are opinion pieces. However, there are people out there who think that the printed word is some kind of gospel and do not think critically about it. So when I see these types of pieces it is my hope that by playing the devils advocate that I can at least give them another viewpoint.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 4, 2011 | 9:11 a.m.

There are differences between running for President and BEING President.

O'Bummer did a masterful job of running for President, one of the best jobs in modern history.

I for one would prefer to see the results of a full 4-year term before making a performance judgement. There's a tendency to leap to the conclusion that the person is flawed (which may be) and overlook the possibility the real problem is that the system is flawed.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 4, 2011 | 4:44 p.m.

I just wish he would speak to the people more and have more town hall meetings.

(Report Comment)
Marina Shane March 4, 2011 | 5:14 p.m.

Whether you voted for President Obama or not, please respect the office of the President. I wish my fellow Americans could keep to issues, and refrain from using personal derrogatory remarks about our President. It's one thing to disagree with policy, it's another to call our own President derrogatory names.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 4, 2011 | 10:22 p.m.

Marina, have you kept that advice with Dubya?

(Report Comment)
Marina Shane March 5, 2011 | 1:47 p.m.

Yes, I have. Do I agree with all the decisions our Presidents have made in the past.... NO. Do I dishonor the office of the President.... NO. Whether I voted for them or not, makes no difference. Just like whether I agree with wars or not, I always respect our military. The President, like him or not, is the leader of that military. Whether I like the policies or not, name calling is wrong & does more disservice to an arguement then credit.

(Report Comment)
Jim Jones March 7, 2011 | 9:14 a.m.

Reading Mr. Rosman's article, I was hearing good natured ribbing in it and was reminded of the old joke about football and politics having things in common - you have to be smart enough to play the game, but dumb enough to take it seriously.

And then I started reading the comments and it really does show that when it comes to politics, people don't play nicely together anymore. Why has politics gotten so nasty? Why does it seem impossible to have a civilized conversation when it comes to politics. Why do people feel it necessary to 'dis' their political opponents?

I guess that Will Rogers had a point when he commented that the more he saw of people the more he liked dogs.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 7, 2011 | 11:37 a.m.

Jim J. - "Why has politics gotten so nasty?"

In my opinion, here is your answer. Politics used to be a joke. Folks in many, many cases voted for the one they thought would win, simply so they could deem themselves "on the winning side". This feeling was easy, because everyone "knew" both parties had the best interest of America and Americans at heart, just different ways to achieve the goal. This is no longer the case. Now one party's goal is to change America fundamentally from the bottom up with little or no concern for the people. This does and should cause far more difference in the discourse of today.

I know what you meant by "dis",but respect is not in it. "Destroy" political opponents is more in use today. 60 frivolous law suits against S. Palin. W. Bush can't visit a country because of the threat of arrest and prosecution for the Iraq War. Etc. Etc. This is why,"when it comes to politics, people don't play nicely together anymore."

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 7, 2011 | 12:47 p.m.

If you were to consult a professor of American history at MU he or she might tell you that politics has ALWAYS been pretty much as rank as it now is, indeed nore rank. The difference is that we now have "instant" means of disseminating and exchanging opinions. Also, expression of opinion can now be voiced anonymously, but to the entire world (or as much of the entire world as cares to read and debate).

Not all opinions are of course voiced anonymously. Here at the Missourian one must by rule sign one's real name to them, but it's clear that some are not obeying that rule: they sign A name, but not their real one. There's reason to believe one individual is posting under at least TWO assumed names. :)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 7, 2011 | 2:09 p.m.

FChristian: "Why has politics gotten so nasty?"

I dunno. All I'm sure of is that I didn't start it.

Ellis is right, tho....politics today is tame compared to many events of the past. The only real difference is the "instantaneous-ness" of information. Way-back-when, it took days, weeks, or months for info to filter back into the hinterlands...and it took on several variations in route. Heck, they even had duels.......

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 7, 2011 | 3:07 p.m.

Ellis - I would agree that "politicians" have always behaved badly to each other. Slander, fist fights etc. But by and large the people viewed this, mainly from afar,as part of the "joke" of our politics. I believe the thought, that to defeat an opponent at the polls was not enough, that total destruction, finances, reputation, etc of anyone in the way, began at the time of the Clinton administration, WH Travel Office manager, Bil Dale, Paula Jones (branded "trailer trash" by J. Carville thus the media), etc. Locally, MO, the creator of the Hancock Amendment", loved by conservatives, despised by liberals, tried another protection of tax payer money called "Hancock II", but an all out blitzkrieg from the D' Governors office contributed to its defeat. Blatant abuse of use of MO governmental money,time and supplies was to be easily proven. Mr. Hancock filed complaint under our election laws, but soon sent a letter to his volunteers advising that he had suddenly been inundated with law suits of every description from all over the State of MO, so many that to defend them all would risk his financial stability and he therefore, was withdrawing his MO suit as well as any future participation in MO politics.

I do not believe these actions to be "old hat", but believe actions like these are of great danger to our political process by causing the honest officials we all want to run, to retreat because of the threat of a society in which the winners take control and shoot the losers. Too far out?

(Report Comment)

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