Thursday, September 08, 2011

Tracey Cline: Durham's Rick Perry?

One of the most extraordinary videos of a politician I have ever seen was this interview of Gov. Rick Perry.

Asked a simple question, Perry not merely was unable to provide a coherent response, but he couldn’t intellectually engage with (or even process) data that contradicted his pre-ordained belief. It was almost as if Perry thought the interviewer was speaking Hebrew.

Listening to Cline’s July 2011 discussion with N&O journalists reminded me of the Perry interview. Cline’s chief complaint—which she also expressed several times in e-mails to the N&O—involved a claim that in March 2011 articles about the Derrick Allen case, the N&O hadn’t revealed that the state had turned over bench notes regarding SBI testing to the defense.

This complaint would have been serious, if true. But not only had N&O articles mentioned the fact twice, N&O staffers read to Cline, during their meeting, the relevant sections from the paper’s stories. Much like Perry in the abstinence clip, Cline reacted as if her interviewers were speaking a foreign language (except for when she said she had no complaint about Judge Orlando Hudson making the same alleged error of which she was accusing the N&O). She repeatedly pressed the N&O reporters and editors to see her point of view. They confessed they were unable to do so—and understandably, since Cline’s “view” was incomprehensible. Here’s the section of the interview:

Based on this . . . reasoning . . . Cline concluded that the “Twisted Truth” series had done her a grave “injustice.” She penned a rambling e-mail demanding that the N&O send reporter Andrew Curliss, plus the paper’s editors, to a Cline-arranged “town hall,” at which she would invite “the victims in the crimes of alleged misconduct,” representatives from the DPD, and local politicians. (In other words, she planned to arrange a Cline political rally.) The N&O editors declined, but expressed a willingness to have Curliss appear alongside her in a neutral forum, such as a moderated discussion by the WUNC public radio station. Cline didn’t indicate any interest in such an option.


Marshall said...

My takeaway is that you don't like Rick Perry. I played the tape and I think the governor was responsive and his replies were honest and heartfelt -- and on point.

The interviewer was asking a loaded question. Let me rephrase the question and Perry's answer:

Q. Do you think the current sex education program, emphasizing abstinence, is an effective use of tax dollars and should be continued given that Texas' rate of teenage pregnancy is the third highest in the country?

A. Abstinence works -- I know it from my own experience. If we're not teaching it effectively, we should improve our programs. It's just not right to teach how to perform safe sex in the alternative. A better question would be how we measure the effectiveness of the program.

How do you think Obama would do if he were ever asked hard questions about his ideology or his governing philosophy and how well things have worked out (so far) -- and he didn't have a teleprompter from which he could read his answers.?

KC Johnson said...

To the 10.48:

I presume, then, by the standards you have outlined in your reply, that you also found Cline's response honest, heartfelt, and on-point.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? You're trying to draw a line between a slippery DA and a state governor giving an incoherent answer to an interview question to prove that the latter is an idiot because the former is dishonest? You're usually better than this.

KC Johnson said...

To the 10.45:

I was doing no such thing, and never made any claim resembling such a link in this post. This post had nothing to do, one way or the other, with the question of whether Cline is dishonest, and focused solely on how she (and Perry) processed information.

In both instances, interviewers presented a political official with factual information that contradicted the policymaker's preferred viewpoint. Usually, of course, politicians of all types respond to such questions by either deflecting them or offering essentially meaningless talking points. But Perry and Cline, as the post observes, seemed unable, intellectually, to even engage with data that contradicted their viewpoint. This type of problem is quite rare among politicians-indeed, as I noted in the post, the Perry performance was quite extraordinary for a high-ranking politician--and, with regard to Cline, this seeming inability to process contradictory data would raise grave doubts about her qualifications for her job.

Anonymous said...


"One of the most extraordinary videos of a politician I have ever seen "

I gather you haven't viewed videos of Joe Biden.

Ken - Dallas

Anonymous said...

Perry did let an innocent man get executed by the State of Texas. Talk about your ability to process contradictory data.

I think Cline and Perry are both dumb, dangerous and lazy, but Cline is only potentially harmful to people who live in or drive through Durham County.

Anonymous said...

To Marshall, you failed to mention steroids. Perry talked about steroids a good bit in his ... uh ... response, but you failed to mention it even once.

Wasn't Perry's point about steroids that funding a wasteful program is bad? Didn't that just make the questioner's point?

You can attempt to reconstruct The Hair's speeches all day long, but he's still gonna be dumb at the end of the rodeo. (Dangerous too, and that's the worst possible combination).