On Friday, the Jack Kingston For Senate campaign held a meet and greet at Rocco’s pub. And like most political events in Pickens County, it was almost exclusively attended by campaign staff, other politicians and a handful of loyal party members - except there was this one creepy looking guy who hovered around with a video camera.
As the Progress attendees were chatting with Kingston on compelling topics of national significance such as where he had lunch that day, the video guy moved in closer to catch every word of this. When asked who he was, Kingston, an affable congressman from the Savannah area, answered for him.
The guy was a “tracker,” someone who is paid by political rivals to follow him around and record every thing he says in hopes that he shoots himself in the foot, figuratively.
The congressman and the tracker then had a quick exchange that revealed the tracker is paid by a liberal PAC (political action committee). The tracker replied that Kingston should know all about trackers because the PACs that support him also use them.
Kingston then challenged the tracker over how much he is paid, to which the tracker said the people paying him didn’t want him to give out that information.
To which the Progress editor said that must be the most boring job in the world.
It really must be a horrible way to earn a living, recording nothing but small talk all day in hopes that some candidate will lose focus and say something like he enjoyed the barbecue in Ellijay.
The comment would then re-surface later that day on partisan websites stating that Kingston no longer supports south Georgia barbecue.
According to a column on trackers in the New York Times, Kingston may be annoyed by someone constantly sticking a camera in his face, but he should also be flattered: someone out there views him worthy to watch. The NY Times columnist Gail Collins joked, “I’ll bet there are borderline candidates out there who hire someone to pose as a tracker just so people will think they’re being taken seriously.”
Collins also noted that in the old days, politicians refused to give stump speeches if they thought any reporters were on-hand as it was unseemly to have someone write down what you said in impromptu meetings.
This recording of every comment isn’t really fair, nor is it a good way to judge a person’s character or intelligence. Think how many times during a day you say something that doesn’t come out right or, frankly, did come out as you were thinking it, but wished you hadn’t verbalized it?
President Obama is known among Washington press corps for being particularly guarded, pausing before saying anything and speaking in full paragraphs so his comments are hard to pull out of context.
Having an ample supply of witty retorts that don’t offend any group is a great skill, but it has more to do with stand-up routines than balancing a budget or passing legislation. President Lyndon Johnson was known to let fly a blue streak in front of the press on many subjects, but his foul language was never reported. And listeners were shocked to hear the cussing in the Oval Office when Nixon decided to have a recording system installed.
But were voters (and the country as a whole) any worse off not knowing that four-letter words abounded in government conversations?
On the other hand, reporters in the press pool intentionally ignored JFK’s womanizing. Today, the thought that such behavior went un-reported is also unsettling.
Something is clearly wrong with the way candidates campaign and voters respond. This is the one time that voters have all the access they want to government. Rarely, however, do we see political events attended by any members of the public at large. We noted at several campaign events in the last cycle that not a single person not affiliated with a campaign, the local party, or local officials were present.
So the idea that the public is out there chomping at the bit for unfiltered information from/on candidates is regrettably, not accurate.
There needs to be a change in both how campaigns operate and how voters find out who to vote for, but we’re pretty sure it doesn’t start with a guy with a video camera.