Recently, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if the fundraising prowess of two ambassadorial nominees was the reason Obama nominated them. He said no. Then he was asked if their fundraising played in a part of the decision, and his response was, “Frankly, I was not part of this decision-making process.”
Many commentators, including the Obama-friendly Jon Stewart, ripped apart this response as pathetic.
So what should Earnest have said? If he had answered “Of course they were picked as a payback for raising gobs of money, just as a huge proportion of all ambassadors have been selected for a hundred years” he would have been congratulated for honesty. But then opposition political leaders would have used this as a formal admission of corruption guilt and impeachment hearings would have begun.
My first reaction would be to say something like “It sure didn’t hurt,” but that would be too cute and would only draw more attention to the issue and the answer.
The goal for a press secretary in this situation is to give an answer that is at least a little satisfying, doesn’t seem like a total dodge, and makes the topic uninteresting.
“The President selects his ambassadorial nominees based on his confidence of the person’s capabilities in their totality. Period.”
With this answer, the reporter can deduce that it obviously didn’t hurt the nominees chances by raising lots of money for the campaign, but it is left unstated. This answer is also better than the one Earnest gave because it doesn’t seem like it is saying “I don’t know, don’t blame me, I only work here.”
How would you have answered the question? Please post your comments below.