MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Ron Paul campaign’s “media advisory” schedule stated that the congressman would be having “having breakfast” this morning at Moe Joe’s Family Restaurant in Manchester from 8:45 am to 9:45 am. One might have expected to encounter a scene in which Paul set about greeting prospective voters over coffee and eggs. In reality, the candidate stayed at Moe Joe’s for approximately five minutes. The reason for his speedy exit, one photographer relayed to me, was that an aide deemed the situation “too dangerous” on account of the chaotic swarm of reporters who flooded the premises. Disgruntled media were left to settle for interviewing restaurant-goers about their preferences in tomorrow’s primary.
This morning’s events turned out to be an emblem for the overall inanity of campaign-trail reporting, as I’ve observed it thus far in New Hampshire: journalists fly into Manchester from Washington and New York for the quadrennial ritual; there they gossip with other journalists, write color pieces on campaign minutiae, and occasionally feign interest in the consequences of the election. Big name reporters often do not even bother with local color. At a “press avail” after one of Newt Gingrich’s events last week, for instance, Mark Halperin of Time chose to query the candidate as follows: “Use your political experience, and explain… Play out after New Hampshire. How do you stop Governor Romney, with so many opponents in the race?”
Contrast this line of questioning with that of Nicole Brant, an “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” participant, who attended the same event. She waited to shake hands with Gingrich, then asked him about the influence of corporate money in politics. (I attempted to record the question, but Gingrich’s domineering bodymen made this difficult.) I heard Gingrich state that he favored disallowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from lobbying members Congress and recommend that the young woman read Federalist 10 for a fuller articulation of his view on money in politics.
Recalling that Gingrich himself was paid $1.6 million by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer “strategic advice” as an “historian,” I thought I would follow up on Brant’s question. If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had been barred from lobbying at the time he was offering the entities “strategic advice,” would this have precluded Gingrich from receiving such a lucrative payout?
“No, because I didn’t do any lobbying,” he told me. “As I have made clear, and I think everybody understands—the only time I talked to Congress about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the New York Times reported in July of 2008—I said ‘vote against giving them money.’ Which is the opposite of what you would’ve expected.”
Another journalist asked Gingrich whether he felt there was overlap between his view on money and politics and that of Occupy Wall Street. Gingrich said there was “probably some,” in the following sense: “I think a representative system ought to have people in it who are middle class and who work hard, and who aren’t necessarily rich. I think our current electoral process is increasingly biased toward the very wealthy.”
The Mark Halperins of the national press could learn a thing or two from the Occupy movement.