Wednesday, November 14, 2007


UPDATES: The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder responds:

...Sounds like a planted question, indeed. But it probably wasn't a Clinton plant -- the question was probably crafted by one of the innumerable outside interest groups who are funding issue advocacy campaigns in the early primary and caucus states...

UPDATE 2: On Thursday afternoon I spoke by phone with both of the young women in the YouTube clips.

Roya Soleimani, who asked about Iran, called me after speaking with Clinton's New Hampshire staff today. She said her question was authentic and she attended several campaign events in New Hampshire as a volunteer for a project associated with ABC News. "It was a completely self-generated question because I wanted to know what her position on foreign policy with Iran," she said, adding "I can unequivocally say that I had not discussed the question, or any of my policy areas of interest with the campaign in advance." Soleimani, a 22-year-old events manager in Washington, D.C., says she currently supports Clinton.

Jo Jensen says she did not speak with any Clinton staff today, but there is a reason her question looked practiced. As Executive Director for Students for Saving Social Security, Jensen has personally asked six candidates about Social Security. The 22-year-old posts the results at the organization's YouTube account, SecureOurFuture, which currently features the question from the Salem event. Jensen, who is undecided, says her question "absolutely was not planted." She added that she was excited about the Salem Town Hall. "The Clinton event was the first one they let me in to. Usually they're invite-only and they don't have students that are allowed to go," she said.

In this case, the questions raised on YouTube were largely answered on YouTube. But Clinton's rivals think they can squeeze more out of the story. At 2:30pm today, the Edwards Campaign sent out a press release announcing a new web campaign,, inviting web activists to "plant" their own questions for Clinton, and a new YouTube attack ad about the "Politics of Planting." Today the Obama Campaign piled on that point, saying Clinton's immigration record makes it "easier to understand why the Clinton campaign would rather plant their questions than answer them." As I previously noted in this space, Clinton does deserve credit for personally denouncing the fake questions. Tonight, all eyes will be on her to see how she answers the real ones.

Ari Melber (The Nation):
As Hillary Clinton aims to regain momentum in tonight's presidential debate, new videos have surfaced on YouTube with young voters asking her questions that are similar to the fake question posed by a Grinnell college student last week.
There is no direct indication that the new footage, apparently taken from an October 16 event at a high school in Salem, New Hampshire, demonstrates any concerted effort by the Clinton Campaign to plant questions. (The campaign's media and Internet staff did not immediately respond to requests from The Nation for comment.) But in an era where web videos can spread fast and shape the views of activists and voters, the clips may feed the narrative that Clinton's tightly-run campaign is shielding her from voters' scrutiny.

One clip features a young woman wearing a Hillary sticker, who notes she is at her second Clinton event of the day before asking (see video) her question. "As an Iranian American female, I would like to know your take on the stance you would have in your administration with dealing with Iran, and, what you think we could do to help, as you said, change America's reputation in the world, and how we can better improve relations and prevent a war or military confrontation," she said.

Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff, the Grinnell student who read a planted question provided by the Clinton Campaign last week, said (see video), "As a young person I'm worried about the long term effects of global warming, how does your plan combat climate change?" Gallo-Chasanoff later told reporters that a Clinton staffer had a printed list of about eight questions, with one "planned specifically for a college student." She added, "It said 'college student' in brackets and then the question."

The other YouTube clip, which appears to be from the same Salem event, features a young woman asking about Social Security. "Hi, my question is about Social Security reform, and I'm glad you mentioned it today. And, I'm asking because I feel like my generation has given up hope that we're going to receive a Social Security check when we retire. So, with the current state. And I want to know, as president, what's your specific plan to fix Social Security for my generation? Specifically, would you protect the Social Security trust fund, that's running a surplus right now– but right now Congress can dip its hand into it and spend on other programs that has nothing to do with Social Security."

The YouTube clips, which were posted Wednesday night under the account meldoecase, include Clinton's answers to both questions.

One way for the Clinton Campaign to address questions about the new clips would be to release the original list of fake questions. Then voters could see for themselves what other topics were proposed for planting, and confirm that last week's plants were an isolated incident.

Howie P.S.: Ari was on The Young Turks this morning and he reminded us that Bush has been planting questions and requiring "tickets" for admission, as a way of controlling the questions, for years.

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