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John V. Santore Headshot

How Not to Ask an Important Question

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This recent video of Debbie Wasserman Schultz failing to address a question concerning the White House's "kill list" is getting attention. The question was posed by Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange.org following the second presidential debate:

Glenn Greenwald (whose commentary is often greatly valuable) wrote about the exchange, declaring that it demonstrated the Congresswoman's "remarkable, unfathomable ignorance."

The issue is clear: The video implies that this high-ranking Democrat is totally unaware of a significant White House program that has been public knowledge for months thanks to the reporting of Jo Becker and Scott Shane at The New York Times.

If that's the case, it's indefensible. This program deserves far more scrutiny, and the fact that it has been such a non-issue during the presidential campaign is highly problematic. Any member of Congress who doesn't know about it isn't doing their job.

That said, this video is an example of bad journalism. Rudkowski offered no context for his question. Instead, he walked up to an official conducting a bunch of interviews, asked her to comment on the president's "kill list," and then, by way of clarification, said, "Obama has a secret kill list which he has used to assassinate people all over the world."

Wasserman Schultz replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about," and walked away. "Of course you don't," Rudkowski said sarcastically.

It would have been extremely easy for Rudkowski to explain that he was referring to the White House's drone program. It would have been very easy for him to reference Anwar al-Aulaqi or Samir Khan or Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi. Basic logic dictates that if you ask somebody a question, especially a question about an important or complex topic, you should make sure the person you're talking to understands that question. If you don't do this, you're setting the interview subject up to look ill-informed, which is intellectually dishonest and deceptive. Because Rudkowski didn't do this, his video actually reveals nothing about what Wasserman Schultz knows, or doesn't know, about the White House's drone program.

I don't know anything about Rudkoswki, and I don't want to impugn his integrity. I applaud the fact that he's raising the issues he's raising. But this video makes him look like he hoped for a non-answer from Wasserman Schultz, and that he got exactly what he wanted.

On her end, Wasserman Schultz should now offer a public statement explaining the extent of her knowledge of the White House's drone program, and answering the more legitimate part of Rudkowski's question: Should Mitt Romney be trusted with this same power?