Asking candidates the hard questions – or not |

Asking candidates the hard questions – or not

AP photo President Bush stops to greet three women in Richland Center, Wisc. They were clearly more interested to talk to than intrepid Vail Daily reporter Randy Wyrick, who was ignored by the administration.

EAGLE-VAIL – Getting to ask a presidential candidate a direct question is a little like a Hindu getting to heaven: It takes at least seven lifetimes and you may never reach Nirvana.But as the guardians of the Public’s Right to Know (to know what?), we asked our questions, sending them along to President Dubya and Senator Snowboard, or at least their agents and angels.So far, we’ve been left sitting by the phone.Regular civilians don’t get to pose direct questions to presidential candidates unless you’re a member of the White House press corps, that herd of human sheep who follows along with the presidential campaigns across “battleground” states, and dutifully record and report each candidate’s momentous statements, which pretty much consist of, “A vote for me, is a vote for me!”This year, battleground states are mostly in the Midwest, where campaigners are searching for undecided voters who don’t claim an unnatural attraction to farm animals – if he farm animals are also registered to vote, however, those voters are fair game. They’re only exhibiting a legitimate lifestyle choice.It’s in these battleground states that candidates will “pull out all the stops.” They’ll woo voters by outlining their domestic policies and demonstrating they are Regular Guys by going goose hunting (possibly John Kerry’s “Michael Dukakis” moment), and getting all sweaty while clearing brush from the family ranch.It’s in these battleground states that President Dubya and Senator Snowboard were stumping when we posed our questions. It’s much like life: Lots of questions, few clear answers. We only had one of the former for each candidate. We received none of the latter.Searching for Senator SnowboardThe first number we reached in our Kerry Quest was not in service. For a multi-billionaire man of the people, it was an unfortunate start.We decided to stop shooting in the dark and shoot at Lawrence Pacheco, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall’s press secretary and go-to guy. Udall is our congressman and a dandy fellow, even if he is from The Peoples Republic of Boulder. As you recall, Udall unofficially and unintentionally endorsed the “Wyrick: Wy Not” Senate campaign when, admiring our custom made cowboy boots, he said, “Nice boots!”We didn’t hear back from Lawrence, which is unusual because he’s usually pretty talkative. However, we can understand his reluctance to ask Rep. Udall to directly address our Kerry Question. Mr. Udall, whose 2nd Congressional District includes most of the best ski resorts in this spiral arm of the universe, apparently embraces the philosophy that you don’t ask a man where he skis and snowboards. If it’s Vail, he’ll tell you. If it’s not, he’ll be embarrassed.

As a Democrat, Mr. Udall simply cannot go around embarrassing Senator Snowboard. If the senator doesn’t make it to the Oval Office, Udall still has to deal with him on issues pressing and important to the American people – like whether the Boston Red Sox will re-sign their star pitcher. Or how Kerry has certain medical conditions in common with Bill Clinton – Clinton underwent successful heart bypass surgery, while Kerry seems to have undergone successful charisma bypass surgery.After finding official channels closed, we tried the local route and bothered Deb “Our Favorite Democrat” Marquez, local Democrat deity and newly anointed member of the Democratic National Committee. Why Deb? First, we have her cell phone number. But more important, of all the members of the Democratic National Committee, she serves the finest Mexican food, which is vital when you’re trying to wield political influence.We’ve asked Deb some incredible questions over the years, and she usually manages to treat our inquiries with the dignity they deserve.In keeping with that philosophy, she handed us off to former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, a DNC Grand Imperial Poobah. Hizzonner got famous for wearing running shoes while successfully running for mayor of Denver, and is one of the DNC vice chairs.This, we figured, was a direct pipeline to Senator Snowboard and getting our question answered. As it turned out, we posed our question not to Hizzoner, but to Debbie Brovsky of the Webb Group International at 2:07 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 21.Thus far, no reply has walked our way.So we tried another local avenue. Edwards business guy Josh Lautenberg is the beloved son of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, who was here a week or so ago to visit his grandchildren and Josh (in that order, just ask any grandparent), and to rally the local Democratic troops to the Kerry cause.Josh, who loves an in-depth query, tolerated ours anyway and sent us along to Kerry’s Colorado campaign chairwoman, Mary Ellen Yates, who got huge bonus points for actually answering her own phone after our call was transferred by an energetic young woman named something like Gidget, which would indicate that Gidget’s parents were hippies watching television when she was conceived.We told Mary Ellen that Senator Frank sent us (actually is was Josh, but like dealing with The Lord, you can go through the son to get to the father). Senator Frank had just spent several hours a couple days prior with the faithful at the state Kerry headquarters in Denver, which is not as good as going to a Broncos game, but better than detention in the principal’s office.Mary Ellen is apparently accustomed to dealing with several weighty matters simultaneously, so given the gravity of our question she didn’t seem to know just what to do except to snicker and send us along to Steve Haro, Colorado Senator Snowboard for President communications king.Steve was polite and kept us at arm’s length, which is usually the same way people treat flu patients. Our question went to him at 10:42 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 21.Like the flu vaccine, there seems to be a shortage of answers.In order to be an Equal Opportunity Offender, we decided to bother the Republicans for a while.

Pestering the presidentWhen riding to the rescue of Colorado’s Body Politic, it sometimes seems you can’t fall off your horse without landing on a couple Republicans.We figured getting Dubya on the horn should be as uncomplicated as the plot line of a John Wayne movie.We are “Us,” they are “them,” and we shall not rest until they are vanquished and our quest is completed.Don Quixote said the same kind of stuff when he was tilting at windmills, too.Lucky for us, Colorado has a couple GOP senators, at least for now – Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Wayne Allard. It’s true Wayne can be a little vanilla, but like President Dubya, his opponents have been underestimating him all his life and all he ever does is win.Angela de Rocha, Allard’s communications queen, innocently wandered into the Vail Daily offices one sunny afternoon in search of coffee and conversation. She got both.With most of the adult supervision off pursuing either the Seven Habits of Success or the Seven Deadly Sins – we’re never sure which – Angela was left with us. Not an enviable situation for someone of her dignity and demeanor.After catching us up on who inside the Beltway is under investigation (almost everyone), and who should be (everyone else), we explained to her our quest – to ask President Dubya our simple question.She nodded, the same way you nod when your 3 year old proudly demonstrates to you how the kid up the street taught him to perform armpit farts, and you’re not sure whether to praise his new physical skill or smack the top of his head off.Angela, though, apparently realized that Colorado is still a purple state – being fought over and not solidly in either candidate’s political goodie bag, and that even something like this might be good for a couple votes, or at least a couple laughs. She said she might be able to help get us pointed in the right direction (politically and metaphorically) and scurried on her way to talk to Journalists with a Capital J, instead of us.The next day, a delightful young man named Danny Diaz with the Bush campaign left a voicemail message, saying he had talked to Angela and that he understood we had a question. Actually, we have several questions, but only one for the president.So we got Danny on the phone and explained our quest.

It went sort of like this:Danny: Who are you again?Us: We’re with the Vail Daily, in the center of a purple state, and we have a question for His Honor the President.Danny: Huh?Us: We have question we’d like to ask him. It’s not complicated. It’s not about foreign policy or anything like that. We’re not going to ask him to spell anything or name foreign capitals.Danny’s in New Mexico, another purple state. He allowed that he doesn’t actually have direct access to President Dubya, so he kicked us upstairs to Jeff Sadosky, the southwestern United States coordinator for the Bush campaign. Jeff’s in charge of turning the Rocky Mountains red. On the electoral map, red is President Dubya, blue is Senator Snowboard.”Submit it by e-mail to me,” said Jeff, He said if it’s just one question, we should be able to get a response.Let the record show that at 9:52 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 21, we asked President Dubya, through Jeff, our multiple choice question:(1) Are you coming to visit the land of your father’s investment?(2) Or what?Jeff cleared his throat slightly, seemed to purse his lips to drive away a smirk and said, “You know, during the last two weeks of a campaign, time gets pretty tough to come by. Still, if it’s only one question there might be a chance.”While In Jeff We Trust, we decided to hedge our bets a little and try Colorado’s Dubya contingent. We reminded them we’re a battleground state, which didn’t exactly make them push the big red button and stop the presses.Nicole Andrews, spokesperson for the Colorado campaign, quickly got on the phone to field our request. Because we are professional journalists and are in the truth-telling business, we told her who we are and that we wanted to ask the president a simple question. Then we told her our question.It was a little like she was juggling bowling balls for a living and we tossed a rotting casaba melon into the act.

Like the political traffic cop she sometimes must be, Nicole suggested we try an alternate route. She gave us a phone number for Carolyn Williams.We dialed it and got Carolyn Williams’ voicemail. Carolyn’s with the Federal Victory Team in Denver, so we left her a message in which, since we’re in the truth-telling business, we should admit we might have fudged the facts a little bit.We said something like, “Hi, my name is Yogi and I’m a 5 year old Nepalese boy. My mom and dad and sister just brought me here from Nepal, and I’m glad to be in America. I’d love it if you could visit my school. I have an American flag and I’d like to wave it at the president.”The part about Yogi being adopted and brought to America is true. The part about him personally leaving the message might be a bit of a stretch, or a complete fabrication. But since I’m his dad, we figured he left it vicariously. Parents often live out their fantasies through their children, and this is what he really wanted. It’s high time to let a kid live out a fantasy through his parents.We’re certain Yogi would have asked to meet the president if he knew who, or what the president was. Actually, his English skills are still pretty much limited to “No, Dad cannot have a motorcycle,” so we might be paraphrasing.Still, with winter coming on hard, he’s happy to be living indoors with plenty to eat in America. Even if that was all he had going for him – and it isn’t – he’s better off most of the rest of the world.Question for President Dubya”Your father was one of the original Vail investors, yet you’ve never visited us, when so many other Texans make the trek. We love it when company comes. When can we expect to see you?” Question for Senator Snowboard”Why do you snowboard/ski at that silly Idaho hill when you could be here?”Assistant Managing Editor Randy Wyrick can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 615, or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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