Wednesday, September 3, 2008

One-on-one ... getting the most out of my questions

My one-on-one with Sen. Barack Obama was quite candid and relaxed. I was limited to two questions, as was a reporter on the other side of the room from a competing station, but Obama was quite candid when he came in the room.

He shook hands with the reporters AND the photographers, which politicians rarely do, especially at the National stage. Here's what it looked like (with Secret Service and Media Management folks nearby, but off camera):

I was a little taken aback that his response to my first question began with him bashing McCain, but he spent the rest of the answer explaining ways he really thinks Ohio's economy can turn around. His speech included calling Ohio the "Saudi Arabia" of coal in reference to jobs that could be created here if coal can be used more efficiently as a fuel.

I had a lot to choose from in a second question, but I felt it was best to ask him about benefits for Guardsmen and Reservists since 1,500 Ohio Guardsmen are now headed to the Gulf Coast and another 2,500 are on duty right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. His answer will resonate well with a lot of Guard families that can empathize with the exact statements he raised.

After the interview, Obama approached me and wanted to know more about my tour of duty in Iraq, including where and when I served, how long I was there, and what it did to my family. He thanked me for my service and reached out for my hand.

I had noticed during the interview that Obama was wearing a bracelet on his right hand. I asked him what it was and he told me that it was given to him by a Wisconsin mother who lost her son in Iraq. His name is engraved on the bracelet. She asked Obama to wear it and he's kept it on since February.

There was one humerous moment as Obama put on the wireless microphone in an outside hallway before the interview. We could hear him even though he hadn't come in the interview room yet. Obama was joking with his staff saying "did you guys see I beat Reggie in a game of Horse?"

It was amusing to hear someone who is fighting for the most powerful job on earth and who had just spoken for 75 minutes on how to turn a country around .. yet in the blink of eye, he can have a few laughs with his staff before one-on-ones with the television media. I know local politicians who couldn't find that comfort level even if the topic they were speaking on was bake sales for the library.


Chris H. said...

Eric Mansfield ... Secretary of Defense ... it has a nice ring to it!

buck said...

Eric...with your military background and being a member of the media, do you feel that Barack had a good grasp on your question?

Eric Mansfield said...

I think so .. and I guess I prefaced my question by mentioning my service out of habit .. because when someone asks me about the war, my first question is always "did you serve?" because that tells me what level of detail and understanding the person already has.
So when it's me asking the question, I usually volunteer it up front so the person I'm interviewing doesn't feel they have to explain the basics of the military to me.
And actually .. yeah, I think he "got it" with my question. I was thrilled to hear the a member of Congress knew what "Tri-Care" was .. and that he had an understanding that Guardsmen are frustrated by the lack of equal benefits with the active duty counterparts considering that Guardsmen are being used just as often as the Regular Army.
By the way .. Obama stands about 6'0" and has big hands .. but boy is that guy thin.

Rita S said...

Eric, I'm always so grateful to hear you state your concerns for our soldiers whether they are deployed overseas or state side. As you know we have sent many many units to clean up after Hurricane Gustav. I always feel that Americans need to know what it is that our soldiers are asked to do and in a very short period. Not only do their employers need to adjust but their families as well. It's very difficult for soldiers to leave their young children, wives, parents, and others when that call comes in to report in less than 24 hours.
I have the job to keep the families of our unit calm and updated which is also very difficult with little information. I consider all the soliers in our unit my soldiers. I will do whatever is needed to help our military families through deployment.
I have great trust in you making sure that Barack and any other politician understand your questions concerning our military. How can we not with your history in the military?
Thank you for looking out for our soldiers.
1484th TC

Anonymous said...

Eric, I am grateful for your service and the best thing about it is you are a member of the press and you know the details of it rather than just wondering. I maybe reading things into it but him comming off attacking John McCain like that makes me believe that his campaign is in trouble and he knows it. He would not need to do that if he was not. Yes I do believe in equal coverage espescially if you are called to active duty. Keep up the good work.