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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Jackson Miller Ducking Debates in Prince William County

In the continuing "he said/she said" soap opera over whether Delegate Jackson Miller, from the 50th District, turned down the NAACP debate with his challenger Jeanette Rishell in Prince William County, Norma Fields, the NAACP member who attempted to schedule the debate has chimed in with her version of the events.

Tired of being accused of partisan bias in leaking the fact that Miller turned down the October 17 forum, Ms. Fields provides her version and the time line of her attempts to arrange this event.
We offered the same opportunity to the candidates in the 52nd District and both candidates accepted.

My contact with the Miller campaign was Cory Bliss. I will not question Mr. Miller’s integrity, as he unfairly did mine, but I will suggest that perhaps Mr. Bliss did not keep him informed of our conversations. I telephoned Mr. Miller in July to schedule a forum between him and Mrs. Rishell for Oct. 17. Cory called me a few days later, informing me that Delegate Miller was considering the invitation. Several weeks passed with no word from the campaign. During this time I left one or two messages. None were returned. I sent an e-mail inviting him to the forum; no response.

Cory called Aug. 21, leaving a message that Miller could not fit Oct. 17 into his schedule.

I have no memory of Cory mentioning Miller had a family obligation on the 17th.

I called Cory on Aug. 24, asking him to provide me with any date that fit their schedule. He agreed to get back to me by week’s end. When I did not hear from him by Friday, I called him and left a message requesting a date.

Mrs. Rishell called Friday, leaving a message requesting confirmation of the forum date/time. I called Cory on Aug. 31; he informed me that Miller’s schedule would not allow him to participate. After learning this, I called Rishell’s campaign to let them know Miller had refused our invitation because he could not fit the forum into his schedule, and that we intended to proceed anyway. I was surprised and disappointed by Mr. Miller’s refusal.
I don't wish to question Mr. Miller's integrity either. I don't know the man. But I do know Jeanette Rishell and she's not a liar.

Further, I have been a political scheduler so I know all the tricks of that trade and how the game is played. Of course, Jackson Miller, and his campaign scheduler wouldn't out right tell the NAACP that they didn't want to debate Rishell at that particular forum. Instead they used stock phrases to duck the debate. Let's examine one of the most abused of those phrases (which I am embarrassed to admit I used far too many times myself)

Phrases like "my schedule will not allow it..." are logically silly when you look at them literally. Schedules can't permit or refuse invitations, people do. And they make their decisions based on what they think will further their interest. I'll get back to this point in a minute.

When a candidate's scheduler gets an invitation in July for a debate in mid-October and doesn't give an answer by the end of August something is going on. And to hang it on "a family obligation" is as lame as it gets. Here's why.

If Miller had a family obligation back in July and really wanted to do the debate, his scheduler would have been back on that phone immediately to try to reschedule it. Instead, they hemmed and hawed and stalled as long as they could and then came up with as transparent an excuse as you could find. Again, if Miller had a scheduling conflict with a family event that he knew about in July or early August, there was plenty of time to suggest an alternative date by October 17. If the NAACP or Ms. Rishell had refused that alternate, Miller would have been off the hook.

So, why didn't he do that?

Because campaigns, and especially good schedulers, make a calculation when accepting any invitation. Before doing so, they estimate how much benefit the candidate will get from a personal appearance.

I'm willing to bet that Miller's scheduler, Cory Bliss, doesn't think he's going to pick up enough votes from an NAACP appearance to make it worth the candidate's valuable time. That doesn't make either of them a racist. It makes his scheduler a pragmatic campaigner who is trying to utilize his candidate's time where it will pick up the most support, and in Bliss' calculations an NAACP event is not it.

Now, Miller's and Bliss' foot dragging might fool some bloggers on both sides of the aisle. But it doesn't pass the smell test with this former scheduler. I know the tricks. I know the pet phrases and Bliss used them all.

It's time for somebody to be honest.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

The NAACP is a highly credible, important organization. When they put on a debate, people listen.

If I were Miller, I'd MAKE time to participate in this debate. Whether he wants to admit it or not, by not making time, Miller looks like he's doing a duck-and-cover.

Rishell is an honest, ethical human being. There's no way and no reason she would lie about any of this. Neither would Norma Fields (who is a kind of Wonder-Woman from what I have seen).

Bwana said...

With all due respect, Ms. Rishell mischaraterized Delegate Miller's record in 2007 to the point that the local paper called her out for playing fast and loose with the truth.

Ms. Rishell's account in this fracas would look a lot more credible if (a) the person providing her with information was not one of her campaign contributors and (b) the local NAACP president had not come out and effectively backed up Miller's version of events.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Hi Bwana. In truth, the misrepresentation cuts both ways both now and in 2007, which I remember quite well.

Ms. Rishell not only had her words and meaning distorted by one prominent Miller supporter and blogger, but he subjected her to constant ridicule, name-calling, and personal attacks. So, I'm afraid I'm going to take the position that Democrats don't get bitch slapped and take it lying down. We just don't unilaterally disarm any more.

As for this particular charge, I think the time line of the NAACP member who attempted to schedule this speaks for itself. I won't question the reason why their president took the position he did.

Once again, I can only fall back on my own experience as a scheduler to say that if you can't come up with an alternate date for an October event when you start planning it in July - that's 3 months - you really don't want to attend.

Again, I'll stick with my original guess that given the demands on a candidate's limited time, Miller just doesn't think these are his voters. He never was planning to attend this debate.

Bwana said...

Yes, I do recall lots of name calling by both sides in Va-50 in 2007, but I only recall one candidate being called out by the local paper for-what's the president's word-lying about her opponent's record.

I hardly think being called to task for playing fast and loose with the truth-which is what I mentioned-is in any way, shape, or form "bitch-slapping". Besides, I've been reading Lowell Feld's stuff for years...I had no idea there was recent time that Democratic candidates had disarmed in any sense of the word.

I know that you will stick with your original guess...but I will say that just maybe the reason the NAACP president took the position he did was because it is what happened.

I think it was bad planning to have a clear partisan of the Rishell campaign plan the event-are all the local NAACP members Rishell contributors-and that fact will overshadow whatever she says-but at this point the one thing I am certain of is that Jackson Miller will be at an NAACP debate in 2009.