As John Dickerson writes in Slate, “The 41st president’s run-in with Ponytail Guy left such a mark that it haunted his son throughout his campaigns”:
I remember watching a town hall during the 2000 campaign in which George W. Bush consistently refused to call on a man waving from the middle of the crowd like he was trying to flag a rescue plane. Bush pretended not to see him but let on afterwards that he’d seen him and avoided calling on him for fear of creating a moment. In 1996, when Bob Dole was given the chance to attack Clinton’s character in a town-hall debate, he demurred, saying the debate should be about the issues.
This year’s campaign shows how partisans on both sides go after the journalists who ask questions they don’t like. During the Democratic primaries, Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, and George Stephanopoulos were all savaged for the questions they asked and how they asked them. Last week, Gwen Ifill was attacked for a book she hasn’t written about a subject she isn’t addressing. [Say what?–Ed]
“Real” people (by which I mean people who don’t do this for a living) who are asking the questions may be harder to rough up. Or maybe not. On Tuesday night, if Son of Ponytail Guy asks a question, he can rest assured that he will receive a thorough going-over in the blogosphere. So I suggest all prospective questioners Google themselves, make sure they’re on good terms with their co-workers, and wipe clean their Facebook page. If they don’t–or even if they do–they could become the story very quickly.
Indeed–Michelle Malkin suggests that bloggers carefully check the flora and fauna in the bleachers of tonight’s town hall debate. Specifically, the wide array of plant life that’s likely to be sprouting up amidst the whichy thickets of the audience.