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“Off the record” is over, as Obama skirmish shows 4/15/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in OffTheRecord.

In the immortal lyrics of Martha and the Vandellas, “Got nowhere to run to, baby, Nowhere to hide.” The first Presidential Primary under the glare of the Internet is illuminating places we had never seen before, and penetrating spaces candidates previously thought were private. It started three months ago in South Carolina, when Bill Clinton implied that Obama was simply another black candidate, no more viable than Jesse Jackson, mistakenly thinking his words would not reach and alienate black voters. A few weeks later, a then-adviser to Obama called Hillary a “monster,” mistakenly thinking that her on-the-fly request for being “off the record” would be honored by a British journalist and, in any event, inaccessible to Americans. One week after that, the Internet gave us a glimpse of another previously private space, Obama’s church, where we watched the disturbing rantings of his minister.

Now we are learning the futility of candidates being candid, even at fundraisers in front of friendly donors, reporters, and bloggers. Mayhill Fowler decided that her responsibilities as a “citizen journalist” for Jay Rosen’s OffTheBus.net project superseded her support for Obama. But let’s be honest — implicit and explicit agreements to be “off the record” have always stunk to high hell. It is a form of collusion between reporter and reported at the expense of the public. So, take it away, Martha: “Everywhere I go, Your face I see, Every step I take, You take with me.” Something to keep in mind for candidates who can no longer shake the gaze of the public.


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