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Kathleen Hall Jamieson Answers Your Questions

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Last week, media expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson, accepted viewer questions regarding the road to November.

Her response is as follows, and we invite you comment below:

Should we be talking about McCain's age...we have done gender and race with the Dems?

The article by Anna Quindlen in NEWSWEEK has explicitly raised the so-called age issue. Now that Senator McCain is the presumptive Republican Party nominee I suspect we will hear more discussion. Discussion of age is most likely a proxy for a very important discussion we should be having -- the concern raised by age is mental and physical health. The candidates should disclose their health records and the press should examine them closely.

What would have to be done to prevent a President being able to use "signing statements" that end up subverting the intentions of whatever bill is being signed? It seems to me that this must somehow be unconstitutional, or at the very least, "approved lying."

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) is supporting legislation that would give standing to Congress to go to court and challenge a President's exception taking to signed legislation. Justice Talking (an Annenberg Public Policy Center NPR program) did a fine program on signing statements. You can hear it by going to the Justice Talking Web site.

I'm interested in the issue of executive letters - I believe that's the instrument that Bush used several times to extend Presidential powers; but I don't think that the candidates are saying how they will rescind/correct them?

I agree that the candidates on both sides should be asked which if any of the specific powers President Bush has asserted they would also claim and which if any they would renounce.

Do you think more journalists should be talking about the Constitutional implications of bringing the Clintons back in the White House - not necessarily against the law, but perhaps against the spirit of the law?

On Constitutional implications. As you know, there is no Constitutional ban on people from the same family serving as President. As a campaign issue it is expressed in Senator Obama's call to "turn the page" and in Senator Clinton's statement that it took a Clinton to clean up the mess made by the first President Bush.

Great show! Ms. Jamieson was wonderful. It was such a relief to watch political conversation without all the bias. Our media has taken such a partisan and biased role in reporting about the election that our leaders are no longer selected by the people but through the media. Why can't the American public see through this? What is wrong with us? Are we that easily persuaded? How do we get people to see through the fog that is being created?

We all have a tendency to seek out information compatible with our own views. We apply stricter tests of evidence to information inconsistent with those views. And we are very good at detecting biases that run against our views but consider biases that favor them an objective accurate reflection of reality. So it is unsurprising that people are more likely to read watch and listen to media that reinforce their own ideology.


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I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

I recently came across your post and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that it caught my interest and you've provided informative points. I will visit this blog often. Thank you.

"Just vote for Obama, you dumbasses, and quit wishing for caviar. He's political fast food . . . ."

Gee, add to this insult W. Goldberg's racist rant on "The View" this morning and some wonder why folks hesitate voting for Senator Obama.

Sir Vertual and Billy Bob seem obsessed with derailing Obama. Hillary and McCain are no more qualified unless one is wed to Wall Street and the Congressional-Military-Industrial Conspiracy. Hillary is at best an "Evita" who insults the aspirations of better qualified women lacking her sordid connections. McCain is not only belligerant and senile, but has a history of corrupt collusion. Some like Hillary because she is "baby boomer correct."
But then Sir... and Billy.. are also correct that Obama is inexperienced and, well, "wishy-washy."
Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman had about as bad a history as Hillary and Obama when they came to federal office. One was an insider elitist cripple and the other a corrupt machine aparatchnik. Obama is about all the corporate media and big business will let the people have, and, as Hillary has said, he ain't out of the woods yet when it comes to rabbit hunters in covert employ.

Just vote for Obama, you dumbasses, and quit wishing for caviar. He's political fast food but the burden of civil nutrition is now in the people's kitchen. Ten million of us need to show up at the Inauguration January 20th (whomever Diebold elects) and show the world how to make stone soup. The "Little Red Hens" have empty cupboards and low gas tanks and the wolf is battering the door. It is too late to be finnicky, you damned backdoor racists! At least if we get a donkey we can lead it. I'm tired of monkeys at the wheel.

I am concerned (yet again) that we are making the wrong turns on a path that may very well lead to even further loss...Obama simly does not have the experience to be as effective as he ay want to be...however, I find it increasingly difficult to know what he really wants to achieve...It's become increasingly aparent that he'll say whatever is necessary to get votes...He's equated (that nutty) rev wright with his grandmother-out of one side of his face...which should have quelched his hope to further himself (even an extra day)in the primary...then within a few days, he's completely left the guy out in the rain as if he'd never seen him before, yet knew he was contageous with a fatal disease...Again, that action itself should have been an insight into how this guy operates...blacs have come out to vote in record numbers to lace votes for Obamma...simply because of his skin color , yet I've listened to numerous blacks who are extremely disappointed in the lack of support for Hillary by other blacks...Obama simply IS NOT ready for the office...nor can he deliver on even a small portion of the vague comments he's made...Although, I don't have the terrorized feeling I experienced after the Gore - jr debate 8 years ago...and i'm certainly no psychic...i don't have a very good feeling about this...I continue to think McCain's camp wants Obama to win the dem primary...They surely have a warehouse full of doubt evoking tricks, coments, histories and more that will flood every avenue as soon as he's locked in...Hillary is without question, the best choice right now...especially with Bill right there...Remember, HE DID FACE AN AWFUL NASTY PLATE FULL WHEN HE TOOK office after tha last bush (sr) fiasco and was able to turn us around....put this country back in the black in record time...and Hillary was right there...working for this country...Barack only won his 1st election 10 years ago...and it was under very cloudy skies....I justy think we're making a critical mistake the most critical time...and my worst fear is that we'll be under another 4 years of a senile bush-a-like...I thkink we'd be safer with another actor in the white house versus a chameleon that can't act...

I would like to compliment Susan Mihalik for her comment on Ms. Jamison's outrageous claim that presidential candidates' medical and genetic histories should be required knowledge. I was totally aghast at this discriminatory and seemingly uneducated comment. In addition to the completely eugenic tone as brought up by Ms. Mihalik, Ms. Jamison's idea, when evaluated in a historical context, would probably have prevented genetically and physically "risky" individuals such as JFK, FDR, and Abraham Lincoln from assuming the presidency. The American public can't handle a president with some risks of illenss? What a ridiculous idea!

Please check out this website that I encountered during my morning perusal of the internet news.

I wrote the following to CBS in response to their image of the "Horserace."

"I am writing with a concern that the picture you use to depict the election horserace has one of the horses leading the other. I think it is notable that the leading horse wears the red number, whereas the blue horse is behind.

This image makes me wonder if it belies the corporate interest in the outcome of the general election favoring the red team (Republican) candidate. I find this disturbing, coming from a major news source such as CBS.

I would recommend that you change this logo to represent an even match between the horses, or change the color scheme entirely. I object to the not-so-subtle bias that is conveyed in this highly visable image.

Thank you..."

When are we going to listen to Plato from his Republic?
We need qualified statesman not popular incompetance.
We have gone through hell with a president who is an alcholic and paranoid.
If McCain wins; we may have to deal with a president with a problem with forgetfulness and other age related problems. We seem to be on the path of self-destruct.

I am puzzled that no one is questioning the long term effects of John McCain's traumatic inprisonment on his personality, emotional stability, and possible serious loopholes in his judgement. A great deal is know about the long term effects of combat induced PTSD. Why hasn't someone like you or Bill Moyers looked into this???"

I would be interested in hearing what Ms. Jamieson has to say about why John Edwards did not gain traction with voters. In her appearance on the Journal, the author of "Nickle and Dimed" suggested that candidates should address populist issues, since the numbers of voters to whom that would appeal is so large. It seems to me that Edwards did that better than any other candidate; yet, he never gained traction. I certainly think he was neglected by the media--perhaps because everyone was infatuated with coverage of the "firsts," Black & Female, and chose to cover that story or perhaps because his message about corporate political influence did not set well with advertisers and media conglomerates. I loved his answers, "Yes, because..." and "No, because..." rather than the vague replies that can be modified and disclaimed the following week if polls show the response was unpopular, but perhaps voters fall for the vagueness rather than hearing specific answers with which they disagree, regardless of the reasoning that follows. Does Ms. Jamieson have a comment about the Edwards campaign?

This is the most beautiful interview for beginning of 2008.

My view is rather simplistic and I think it may sound very light Yet I’ll lay it out.

The fight between Obama and Clinton is not coincidental, it is blown out of proportion by the media in purpose, starting and leading by FOX. I was asking myself for the last 3 weeks why would a republican outlet be so interested in democratic candidates more then in their own? Fox lead,… everybody follows, “herd thinking”. I believe that is the strategy no republican will talk about. Eliminate the hard opponents at the beginning so at the end it will be easy to win. Edwards is gone, the man who wanted to help the middle class and the economy is out from the race. Soon Clinton will be. And last Obama being easy pray. Don’t underestimate the boaters… Kerry, pronounced war hero and anti war activist, a man who has accomplished something worthy, slipped on that.

“Mac”, would be republican frontrunner, set for failure, if he fails, it has been expected, “he is not a conservative enough”, if he wins… Republicans will win too. Republicans win any way the race go. Plus they already have what they wanted.

In conclusion, I’m disappointed by democratic campaign, I’m disappointed form what I had to witness, two future presidents to be, arguing like a children on a playground. I’m sorry but I find this unacceptable, for neither one of them. I will miss Edwards; I do believe he was the man. He was not black nor was he female and as every white male he had to lose first, quiet with honor. I’m sorry if it sounds racial to you, yet that is what I see. This country is racially divided. By choice, this time is by American–African choice.

I am mystified by "signing statements." It seems obvious, to a lay person at least, that they have no legal standing at all. The President can't make laws on his own nor is he a court that has any legal standing. Is there some interpretation of the Constitution that Bush is standing on?

The more I listen to Ms Jamieson the more I realize her analysis concerns nothing more than image over substance. Not once in her analysis of any voting has she mentioned that Democrats are flocking to the polls this primary season, and the number of Republican voters have gone down. That seems like a recipe for a Democratic rout this fall. Ms Jamieson ignore's this fact.

Race, gender and age should not be the main issues for our candidates. Obama and Hillary should talk more about their views on the war, our constitutional rights, trade, and jobs. The most important differences that we should be concerned with is how the candidates will work with the poor, and the people in need. It is not good enough to talk about the Middle Class when many people are out of work and have lost their homes. We need another president who has the backbone to have a war on poverty as LBJ did. We do not need a corporate president and thus I can not vote for Hillary. Bill Cliton has signed off on NAFTA, GATT, and WTO when he was president which have hurt our middle class and I am worried Hillary would want to do similar things as her husband that will hurt many job seekers and give another boost to rich CEO and big bussiness. Hillary seems to be getting much more support from the national news and my local paper despite the fact that Obama is doing very well. Obama and Hillary are very similar but Obama is slightly more of a grassroots leader than Hillary will ever be. We need a leader who listens to the people and it is time for such a change.

I've heard Kathleen Hall Jamieson before, but on Friday she came across as a NPR/PBS pundit (as opposed to a ranting one you'd see on Chris Matthews or CNN). It didn't do much for me. The age/health issue, as others have alluded to, wasn't analyzed scientifically.

I think Jamieson made too much ado about Obama and Clinton hurting each other and that their words would come back to haunt the victor in the general election. Neither has said anything nearly as damaging as George HW Bush did in the 1980 primaries, when he called Ronald Reagan's economic plan "voodoo economics." As I recall, Reagan chose Bush to run as his VP, and Reagan managed to eke out a victory.

Dr. James Dobson is NOT a Reverand as Ms. Jameison referred to him. He has a PHd in Psychology, Human Behavior, etc. He was on the staff of USC medical center before he resigned to start Focus on the Family in about 1978, a Christian organization to help the family. I was very disappointed that she had not done her homework well enough to know this. I also did not like the fact that you showed the t.v. audience a photo of him speaking from a pulpit to represent him as a clergyman. He may have been a guest speaker at a church, but he is not a clergyman.

Genes can't help what is wrong with John McCain: He was destroyed by a warmongering family, torture by the North Vietnamese, and having to admit bombing civilians was the behavior of a war criminal (which he has now recanted.) His ethics was destroyed when he married Cindy to get the beer money and hooked up with Keating for the Savings and Loan debacle (I think of this whenever I hear "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Manchurian Candidate").
His problem is in his head: He's a war fanatic!
Hillary shares the "Blind Ambition" John Dean describes in relation to Nixon. She is not so much a woman as a tool of corporate defrauding of the American people, as is her husband, now in business with Daddio Bush. Even their daughter Chelsea works for a hedge fund, so we see what they teach.
Barack Obama has his weaknesses besides smoking and real estate. He is tied up with Exelon Nuclear and will act in the interest of the big utilities and energy firms, delaying new technology or conditioning it to their profits. Both Clinton and Obama's healthcare plans will consider the health of the insurance and phamaceutical industries first. In fact, the people have no viable choice, thanks to media power which censors any solutions. Bill Moyer's deletion of Debunking 9/11 Debunking and Plan B 3.0 is the latest example. If Kathleen was chosen by Annenburg cronies (Reaganism supporters) we have to discount everything she says. Read between the lines people. If civilization is to survive we will have to struggle on as if the election were a dead squirrel on the turnpike, because that's about all it will mean to the poor, tortured and dispossessed. Find a way to resist and protest NOW!
See Grady Lee Howard's post on Bill Moyers' Reading...

I really think Kathleen Hall Jamieson was trying not to be biased, and that is why she might have said things about all the candidates which people might take as being biased.

From which angle are you looking at the prism when you listen? This may well determine what you "see."

I believe she was trying to be the prism, and not any one angle, on the age issue, and other issues as well.

Thank you Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Bill Moyers.

There's a lot of movement out here admist the waves of perception.

Foolishly when I heard that Ms. Jamieson would be talking about age I assumed she would be giving an upbeat discussion on the huge fact that young people have become mobilized in this current primary season, with the result that voting in every state has been increased exponentially.

Of course, were she to do so, she would have to consider the discrepancy between those who are voting Republican and those who are voting Democrat.

I think the fact that young people are energized by Senator Obama will be more important in the historical analysis of this election than whether or not Senator McCain has his mother's genes - a matter I find as offensive to investigate as do other posters here.

Would we have been better off to have disqualified FDR because of his medical problems? Kennedy? Lincoln even - I hear there was some infirmity in his family. The whole idea is preposterous - it sounds like swiftboating to me.

We are all human; we all have strengths and weaknesses. No one who wants to run for the office of the presidency should have his private medical records peered at and discussed by the press. Ugh!

While this discussion of the finer points of the election is insightful, both Mr. Moyers and his guests continue to ignore the elephant in the room. That would be Karl Rove's manipulation of the Democratic primary, with the help of the mainstream media, in order to knock Sen. Clinton out of the race.

Sen. Obama frequently repeats Rove's line about Hillary's "high negatives", which is based on the bogus research of Rove and other conservatives. Time magazine reported last fall on the massive organization of Republicans to crossover and vote for Obama in the primaries, which must surely be the work of Rove. (With Romney out of the race, we will likely see much more of this.) And a direct mail piece used by the Obama camp was adapted from Rove's 1990s "Harry and Louise" ad attacking Sen. Clinton's health care initiative. Like Pres. Bush's campaign in 2000, Sen. Obama is running as "a uniter, not a divider", and uses many other simple slogans for which Rove is famous.

Perhaps for political reasons, the Journal is also sidestepping the little matter of Sen. Obama's longtime involvement with indicted Chicago power player Tony Rezko, who has preyed on the African-American community for years. Many of Rezko's friends who contributed early on to Sen. Obama's campaign have taken advantage of African-American businesses to win kickbacks and bribes. Naturally, this will all come out in the fall if Sen. Obama is on the Democratic ticket.

If someone of Mr. Moyer's stature doesn't come forward soon to expose what appears to be the G.O.P.'s trojan horse into the Democratic Convention, we're going to end up with another stolen election.

I have posted an article about the Rove strategy at, which links to credible sources for all these issues.

I fail to understand why Kathleen is a guest on this show repeatedly. She seems like a very angry and bitter woman, with an ax to grind during every appearance. With the plethora of potential interesting and intellectual guests for this show, why then do you keep turning to this woman? She is allowed to comment on any range of topics, upon which she has no special knowledge beyond that of any other citizen.

I was disappointed with Ms. Jamieson's commentary on the show. This is the second appearance where she has expressed admiration for Senator McCain to the point of being an apologist for his flip-flopping on issues and his advanced age. She forgot to mention he is a cancer survivor, but seemed to imply that Senator Obama's tobacco use cancels out his relative youth. I don't know why Mr. Moyers has her on the show.

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments made by John. While I have enjoyed listening to Dr. Jamieson's ideas each week I was stunned and appalled tonight by her comments on using genetics to determine a candidate's fitness for the presidency. Anyone can think of dozens of people who have not inherited the physical or mental diseases or limitations of their parents or perhaps have and have overcome them. If her arguments were accepted no one could be president. Everyone is entitled to privacy regarding their health records. If health records were open to the public no one would want to have an examination or see a doctor for fear of being discriminated against. I think JFK and Paul Tsongas had every right to keep their physical difficulties to themselves. I suppose FDR was a failure as a president because of his severe physical limitations? How different history would be if he had been prevented from taking the oath of office because he had an illness. This is as frightening as wiretapping private citizens. I can't believe I heard such an opinion expressed (with no reaction) on Bill Moyers.

I cannot believe Kathleen Hall Jamieson was being objective.

Ms. Jamieson stated, "Even young men get sick." Wouldn't you agree the odds are much less?

I cannot believe Kathleen Hall Jamieson was being objective. I perceived this to be a political ad for John McCain.

Mr. Moyers you disappointed me. I've not seen this happpen on your program before.

I am commenting on this weeks analysis.

Let se John McCain's Father died at age of 70, yet Kathleen wants to focus on 90 year old mother as sign of longevity.
Does anyone else think most of her facts were just down right trite for lack of better word.

Barak smokes, well he also black that surely makes his longevity suspect.

Women live longer than men, that is just average. Yet are to find some great truth that Kathleen is insinuating.

As far as any analysis of Clinton's in the 90s was complete joke. All the current problem like sub-prime, housing bubble, internet bubble, lying about Iraq even now.

Clinton is republican lite yet Kathleen does not have the nerve to call a like it is.

She basically parrots talking points without telling us the source of those talking points.

I could dissect more of her but it is just not worth it. So they have kernel of truth but does it add to anything.

the issue of age? other than for health reasons, i don't think it really should matter that much.

age seems to be a rather convenient way to compartmentalize or label someone. it's a practice done to make the labeller feel more comfortable with him/herself and to, i believe, create a practical relationship to the label-ee. witness the infamous "where were you when jfk was shot" question or "where were you when the berlin wall came down" question. answers to those questions provide a wealth of information and enable a kind of "placement" of that person in the questioner's psyche. granted, the answers may evoke nothing more than stereotypical thoughts, but it allows for a type of judgement to be made.

speaking of age, this election could provide one of my life's watershed moments. and i knew this day was gonna come...the day i would have to consider voting for a president who, gasp, is actually younger than i am.

oh well...i guess i better get used to that...:)

"No one should ever sit in this office over 70 years old, and that I know." - Dwight David Eisenhower

Thank you Bill Moyers for having such a fine person help us interpret "political speak" during this election season. Dr. Jamieson does such a superb job focusing on what is/may be behind the vocabulary used by candidates. I appreciate the opportunity to hear someone of her caliber. I so enjoy this program.

I really have to wonder if this guest has ever read the book "The Unfit: History of a Bad Idea." Her comment that we should consider the genetic fitness of candidates for office strikes a eugenicist chord that sounds as unpleasing as those struck in the early 20th century US and in the 1930's Germany. Genetic discrimination is unacceptable. Moreover, suggesting discrimination on the basis of an individual’s genotype shows the commenter is ignorant of the myriad universe of possible interactions between a genotype and its environment (a topic covered at the layman’s level in several fine PBS programs). DNA is not destiny, there is no master genome, and there is no master race. It is my hope that commentators will learn not to attempt science based arguments until they actually have educated themselves in science. When people throw out statements like this, they unwittingly (I hope) lay the groundwork for the rise of fascism.

Bill Moyers, you ROCK! Week after week, you rock!

The people you put on the air are so wide-ranging and SMART in all different areas. Even when they don't footnote their thoughts, people who know the theories can hear the references to them and understand something very rare on television: the sound carefulness of their arguments. WOW.

And while I nominated a book that was mentioned, the book Bill recommended was the best choice of all. And again, it explains why this show is so SMART.

Dude, you just rock. These days you just may be upstaging Joseph Campbell as my ultimate teacher, and we both know that is saying a lot.

Speaking of ideology & bias, Dr Hall Jamison makes the same error as most journalists. James Dobson holds a PhD in pediatric psychology from USC. While a Christian, he has never used the title Reverend or claimed to be one.

Why has the teaching community ignored introducing the Paideia Idea introduced by Mortimer Adler? I don't get it.

I have yet to find media that reinforces my ideology. I guess that's because I don't really have an ideology, as much as an 'understanding.' I hear from other individuals who have similar perspectives and insights, here and there, but I find most political analysis is extremely short-sighted. I prefer comprehensive analysis, because it's more accurate.

That's why I love and appreciate people like you and Bill Moyers. Thank you for all you do!

There was a time when I burned with desire to attend graduate school in the "History of Consciousness" Department at UC Santa Cruz. It was dedicated to using inter-disciplinary study and approaches to find practical solutions for problems in the real world. I got distracted by a real world problem, and didn't go. I was really into deconstructionism.

On the other thread, I asked a kind of big question about can we stop the "easy sell."

I think the internet is very helpful because we can voice our ideas now without the need of corporate sponsorship! In that way, it is also more democratic, and a tool for democracy. However, like democracy generally, it is also messy.

Still I'd rather have messiness with the potential for truth therein, than streamlined lies (falsehoods).


Falsehoods can abound on the web too, but at least there is more of an opportunity to confront and expose them.

How about this question... Do you think Hillary Rodham Clinton 'baggage' has had anything to do with sexism, at any, and perhaps all - points along the way?

Although it's much better than it used to be, I think sexism can be quite insidious.


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