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Stirring politics

By Staff | Dec 19, 2007

Estherville is famous for two things: Coining the term “blizzard” and the meteorite that fell north of town.

Those of us who were born and raised here, and many who are transplants, will tell you a few other stories that might have put the Emmet County community on the map a few times, but really those are the two events that put Estherville on the map.

Well, now there’s a third event–one that many of you might not have heard about yet even though it happened this past Sunday.

You can read elsewhere on this page about Estherville Lincoln Central High School senior and school newspaper editor Jim Mohler’s stance on 2008 presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois).

Mohler wrote that piece for the Daily News following his attendance–with his mother–at the senator’s event at the Regional Wellness Center in Estherville. It was intended to be a supplement for staff writer Michael Tidemann’s story on the event that appeared in the Tuesday edition.

Due to space limitations, it did not appear with that story; however, I also wanted to let you in on the story that unfolded following the Obama visit.

“Teen Reporter Causes Stir at Obama Event”–those are the words I read in the blogosphere at “http://www.cbsnews.com”>www.cbsnews.com on Monday evening.

I already knew the story, as I had heard it from Daily News publisher Glen Caron on Sunday night when he called me. As I started reading CBS News’ Maria Gavrilovic’s blog under the political section of the national news outlet’s Web site I was a little confused at first since the dateline on Ms. Gavrilovic’s blog was “SPIRIT LAKE,” but she’s not from around here. After all, I wouldn’t expect her to check her sources and get the correct community’s name in the first paragraph.

Anyway, to make a long story short, Mohler got to ask Obama a question during his Estherville stop. According to campaign sources Gavrilovic uses in her blog, that’s apparently an atypical happening at the senator’s events. After all, why would he want to answer the questions of the people he’s hoping will vote for him? Especially since he allowed several others to ask questions during the course of the event.

A photograph by Tidemann that appeared in the paper showed Obama answering a question from the crowd. Tidemann himself, as seen in the Tuesday edition of the Daily News, even got an opportunity to speak with the candidate following the event.

What caused the “
stir,” in Gavrilovic’s words?

Mohler is an Obama supporter and his mother is a campaign volunteer.

The national media broke the story about the Hillary Clinton campaign planting people in her audiences to ask questions a few months ago and, in this instance, that “
stir” our CBS News friend was talking about was Mohler.

It seems that because he had a good question to ask the candidate, that he was writing something for his hometown newspaper and that he has volunteer ties to the Obama campaign that the national media once again took their eternal quest to sensationalize the news to the uuber limit and accused Mohler of being a plant.

Mohler’s question, which doesn’t surprise me at all because he is an intelligent and in-the-know student, revolved around the current $97,000 cap on taxes and if there is something the United States can do to make billionaires like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates pay taxes on more than just that limit and lower taxes for the middle class.

According to Gavrilovic’s blog, it was a topic that Obama had spoken about earlier in the day and Mohler told her later Sunday evening, via a telephone conversation, that his family is in the middle class which has a concern over the issue.

That’s why he asked the question. It was on his own accord; he doesn’t even write anything about that question in his story on this page.

As to our CBS News friend’s question to the Pepper editor if anyone else approached him to ask a question, Mohler replied, “
No. I was wondering about taxes as a person in the middle class.

Gavrilovic’s Obama campaign source told her with all the sensitivity surrounding the 2008 presidential campaign, the senator’s choice in answering Mohler’s question might not have been his first, but the high school student raised his hand and Obama “
didn’t know.

Didn’t know what? That Mohler has volunteer ties to the campaign? That the local community’s newspaper thought it would be nice to include the opinion of a younger voter in its coverage of the 2008 elections and asked the editor of the local high school’s newspaper to submit something as a supplement to a staff writer’s piece?

Or that there really is no harm in your common, everyday person asking a presidential candidate a question without having to raise suspicion that there’s something fishy about the situation?

My point is the national news media seems to have a different sense of the word “
news.” On the same hand, presidential candidates, no matter how popular they are or what jobs they hold, should be willing to answer any question a person–attending an open, public meeting–asks them on the spot.

If they don’t want to answer our questions, they should make their events invite-only. Then they’d never have to worry about the general public’s opinions and comments on the issues important to the people of the United States of America.

And it doesn’t matter who you are. If you ask a candidate a question, you deserve an answer.

As for campaigns planting people in the audience to ask the candiate a question, some of us here at the Daily News don’t even consider that to be harmful. If you, as a candidate, want to talk about issues other people aren’t asking about, why not have someone ask?

The farce that has become the political process in this country over the last decade is what disillusions so many, especially people between the ages of 18-30–the group which both Mohler and I fall into.

Not only have the 20-some candidates involved on both sides of the aisle been campaigning for at least the last year, issues like this make a person wonder if all this talk of “
change” and a better future is a bunch of bull. It just seems like each and every candidate is in it for themselves.

So to all 2008 presidential candidates, if you open a meeting to the public expect to get questions from those in attendance. If you don’t want to answer them, please let us know in advance.

Also let the local media know if you’re not going to answer any questions so we don’t have to chase you around when you don’t want anyone to see you anyway.

And to the national media–you seriously need some help if all you have to right about “
From the Road” is the fact that an 18-year-old, first-time voter who happens to have ties to volunteers of a campaign wants to ask a question because it’s an issue that will affect him and his family for years to come.

At least it’s better than writing about plants in the audience.