Is Rodney Glassman having a Sarah Palin Moment?

By Jenn


Like crabs in a barrel, the Democratic candidates competing for a shot at Sen. John McCain's Senate seat seem hellbent on dragging one another into the muck, much to the chagrin of fellow Democrats like myself. 

Last night, Rodney Glassman, former Tucson City Council Member, appeared at Drinking Liberally. This is nothing new — political hopefuls routinely make a showing at DL during the campaign season in hopes of increasing their public profile, and (since DL has the reputation of hosting one of the most difficult political audiences in Southern Arizona) showing off their mental muscle on the relevant issues. And, since Glassman is a relatively unknown local Tucson politician who has been criticized as being too "wet-behind-the-ears" to hold a U.S. Senate seat, he needs to do both if he hopes to make it out of this year's primary. 

What was surprising about Glassman's appearance last night was the drama surrounding the event.

It turns out that earlier this month, a blogger named Three Sonorans (who writes over at the Tucson Citizen and who volunteers for Glassman's Democratic opponent, Randy Parrazwas planning to broadcast last night's DL event live. Three Sonorans wanted to confront Glassman with "a yes or no question" based on a recent interview with Arizona Illustrated wherein Glassman refused to state whether or not he supported deportation of undocumented immigrants. (You can see the anti-Glassman attack video documenting the relevant parts of the interview on YouTube here.)

According to an email circulating the DL listserv, Glassman's campaign – fearing a political ambush – requested that event organizers discourage the use of video cameras at last night's meet-and-greet. This request translated into the owner of The Shanty (where the event was hosted) stipulating that Three Sonorans (and possibly other attendees) leave their cameras in their cars so that the bar didn't become a political warzone.

At this point, I want to note how bizarre it was that cameras were barred last night. DL's mission is to increase politcal participation in part by facilitating access between voters and candidates — which video recording clearly does. Cameras have always been allowed at every meet-and-greet hosted by DL that I have ever attended, even when event organizers were aware of a potential political ambush. Heck, even Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – arguably one of the most high-profile guests DL has had — was not immune; she was videotaped at a DL event being put through the ringer by a number of anti-war protesters a couple of years ago. So, why was that policy changed for last night's event with Rodney Glassman?

In any event, I tend to agree that staging a political ambush on a fellow Democrat is a questionable tactic, even in a hotly contested primary. True, primaries (sort of by definition) tend to have all the grace and sophistication of a barfight; this is the time when candidates — who frequently agree with one another on 99% of the issues — make political hay out of that other 1%. But muck-flinging and ambush tactics benefit no one but incumbents, particularly when the infantile finger-pointing results in the kind of inflammatory he-said-she-said drama exemplified by Three Sonorans' anti-Glassman Tucson Citizen blog post wrapping up the events of last night. If Three Sonorans wanted a straightforward answer to his straightforward question, he shouldn't have asked that question in the context of trying to catch Glassman in a "gotcha" moment. Let's leave such underhanded tactics to the Republican party.

That being said, I'm disappointed by the Glassman campaign's efforts to limit recording of last night's public event. I can appreciate wanting to protect your candidate from being immortalized in embarassing video and audio, but Glassman is putting himself up for a national Senate seat. He has already made headlines by refusing to commit to debates against fellow Democratic primary candidates. That coupled with this latest flaptrap cultivates a perception amongst undecided voters that Glassman can't handle unscripted situations — or, worse yet, that he isn't interested in publicly interacting with colleagues and opponents who disagree with him.

Rodney Glassman may be campaigning to be the Democratic Party's Scott Brown, but his attempts to control being caught unscripted in a "gotcha" moment is a little less Scott Brown and a little more Sarah Palin, who routinely barred press and pre-screened questions at her campaign events.

As a U.S. Senator, Glassman will have open mics contantly shoved into his face. He will have to debate Republicans and fellow Democrats in a cogent and compelling manner so as to best represent the interests of Arizonans on the Senate floor. Political opponents with greater clout and savvy than Randy Parraz will try to stage political ambushes with more dire consequences. I (honestly) have no opinion on whether or not Glassman is qualified to be our next senator, and as a hardcore Democrat, I support any Democrat over John McCain (or ultra-right-wing J.D. Hayworth). But, from a political strategy standpoint, if Glassman hopes to have a shot at the Senate this year, he can't afford to appear ill-prepared for the rigors — and the unrelenting spotlight – of this job. 

Yet, sadly, even if we take nothing else from last night's drama, we learn from his reluctance to be filmed that even Glassman has doubts about his own readiness for the big leagues. How, than, can he hope to convince the rest of us?

0 responses to “Is Rodney Glassman having a Sarah Palin Moment?

  1. Rodney dominated the debates. He is more educated, experienced and so obviously the only choice for Democrats if they ever hope to beat McCain. I seen him speak in person, in interviews and the debate. He was very good every time, friendly and even took time to talk to people individually and pose for photographs. Rodney has my vote.

  2. Politicians fear the camera all the time. It catches them in lies. Giffords was notorious for banning them, then leaving events if people had visible cameras. When she did get busted (Latas on nuclear), they had to send in the army to defend her. Even now, look how she conducts her meet-and-greets or whatever they are called. “One on one” to make it harder to cover and videotape, even when 70 year old people with medical conditions have to sit outside of Safeway in 103 degree heat waiting.

    While the owner of the Shanty should not have done that (he’s also a huge Giffords supporter), there is nothing unique in this. Rodney, like all candidates, tries to control the message and not let people see that he is really a moderate Republican (like Giffords). No biggie. It is smart strategy, and if they can get away with it, just shows they are good politicians. Public servants and politicians aren’t the same thing. If you want the latter, you aren’t going to find many in either party.

    I think that guy who was a reporter will get my vote. The rest don’t impress. I would like to see the Dems actually nominate someone who had to work for a living instead of living off their family’s legacy.

    Francine, to answer your question about who (s)elected Obama? The corporations. They always get their man/woman. Party is irrelevant as this administration is proving.

    Parent X, agree!

  3. @Jan:

    Is this the Joe Wilson school of debate? Disagree with someone’s perspective by shouting “You lie!” regardless of observable facts? The post is about the fact that someone from Mr. Glassman’s campaign requested that no one videotape the candidate’s speech Sunday night – a request that was honored by the crowd and the Shanty.

    Not physically attending the event doesn’t forfeit one’s right to find fault with a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate censoring the public in that manner. In fact, the post cites how Jenn learned about this action from Mr. Glassman – from an email on the DL listserve.

    Perhaps you should read more closely.


    Again, you’re missing the point of this post. Mr. Glassman’s performance at DL isn’t being attacked in this post at all. The fact that he banned video cameras from his speaking engagement at a public forum is being questioned. There’s a difference. Who cares how brilliant Mr. Glassman’s answers were – he prevented people like me (who had better stuff to do on Father’s Day) from evaluating his perspectives myself.

    This whole “you weren’t there, so you shouldn’t comment” argument from you and Jan parrots that silly felt frog Gov. Brewer uses to attack opponents of SB 1070. It’s a weak defense of a man who wishes to be Arizona’s next Senator.

  4. Francine Shacter

    Jenn, if you didn’t attend the event, you accepted the judgment of people who are admittedly adversaries of Rodney and their judgment and reporting was the substance of your post. I am not in my dotage, not yet, and I didn’t find any of his answers evasive. And Michael, one of my favorite people: I really missed seeing you!

    As for what you will do when you get there – I suggest that what is going on in Washington in the Congress is the result of people doing what they think they should do when they get there and not on a sincere and determined effort at (I hate this word) a bipartisan effort to solve problems. It is not possible for Democrats to be “bipartisan” with people whose motto is “Hell, no! I won’t go!!!” Someone(s) are going to have to break the roadblock. When Reagan became president, Tip O’Neill went to the Republicans and said “How can we work together” When Obama became President, Republicans – in many different ways – called for him to fail, to be brought down. No one realized that if we bring down a duly elected president who won with a large majority, we are courting chaos???? Defying the will of the MAJORITY who elected this president? What the hell is the matter with everyone – sunspots? Maybe something in the water?????

    And, Michael, next time you want someone to write a post about a DL event, how about asking me????? I’d be honored!!

  5. So let me get this right — Jenn wasn’t actually there. But nowhere does she say that. In fact the whole post is written as though she was – which is, how shall I say it – disingenuous? A lie? At the very least It’s presenting as reportage something you didn’t witness, or cite sources for. It’s little wonder that people don’t trust bloggers. There are standards, and no matter how good a post is, the fact is that NOWHERE in the piece does our poster say she wasn’t there.

    So – in future when I read about events on Blog for Arizona, how can I be sure they actually happened as described, or if the writer only got the story second and third hand?

  6. “Jenn, dear heart, I was there. I posted about how the event came across to me.”

    Fair enough. I appreciate that you thought he handled himself well. Like I said, I can’t comment on how he did at the event since I didn’t go. I can only comment on the decision to not allow video cameras, which I don’t think was a very good way to respond to the situation at hand.

  7. Francine Shacter

    Jenn, dear heart, I was there. I posted about how the event came across to me.

  8. Call me idealistic, but I’m still aiming to vote for principled, ethical, smart, savvy critical-thinking individuals. People who actually care about their home constituency and can place the welfare of ‘the people’ above their own political & financial ambitions.

    I know enough about JD Hayworth & John McCain to know that I won’t be voting for them based on my criteria above. But the Democratic contenders in this race? I still don’t have a clue who they are. What do they stand for? What kind of people are they? How would they represent our state?

    As an Independent, I won’t just throw in a vote for ‘the other guy’ on a whim. My unsolicited advice to Democrats – you’d better hurry up and start giving people something to vote FOR instead of simply a name on the ballot that isn’t JD Hayworth. This election should be yours to win, but you need to start participating in it.

  9. @Francine

    “every candidate has to be aware of the possibilities of instant cell phone pictures, portable recording equipment that is hidden from the public (and the candidate(s))- not to mention the possibilities of You-tube. That’s life in 2010.”

    I agree, which is why I think candidates have to treat every public event as if it will be videotaped, rather than to try and prevent videotaping from happening. Despite the anti-videotaping policy of Sunday night, Parraz volunteers obtained audio of the event. If Rodney had said something damning, we would still have a recording of it.

    We live in 2010. Almost every cellphone is equipped with an audio recorder and/or a camcorder. Cameras can be purchased that have one-click web publishing to Facebook. For a politician, that means that everything you say can be published online within minutes.

    As I said above, the way to deal with this kind of an elections environment is to work WITH the spectre of new media, not attempt to limit it. Clearly, the Glassman campaign knew that these questions were coming Sunday night; the best way to have dealt with it was to prepare some good answers, and let it be recorded. By choosing instead to prevent videorecording, the campaign sends the message that they don’t think Rodney is polished enough to be recorded in an unscripted Q&A session. In my opinion, that’s a greater weakness in his campaign — perhaps even more so than the Parraz volunteers’ efforts to ambush him. Rodney needs to find confidence to be the kind of Democratic senator we want to elect, let alone need, if he hopes to be a truly credible candidate in the fall.

  10. Francine Shacter

    For me, the most important issue is putting Democrats in congress. To do that we need a candidate who goes into the general election with credibility. I would call Rodney out if he attacked another candidate as quickly as I will ANY candidate who makes this all about him/herself. This is about electing a DEMOCRATIC senator to replace John McCain. To do this, we need a civilized primary – that doesn’t mean people don’t raise and defend their issues – it DOES mean that Democrats don’t slash and burn other Democrats in such a way that the Republican wins in November!

    In these times, as George Allen learned, to his peril, every candidate has to be aware of the possibilities of instant cell phone pictures, portable recording equipment that is hidden from the public (and the candidate(s))- not to mention the possibilities of You-tube. That’s life in 2010.

    The next Congress will face terribly difficult issues on the economy,immigration, education, global warming and so the list JUST begins!! You want to see this in the hands of Republicans? Sheesh!!! That’s my worst nightmare – after the disaster that was the eight Bush/Cheney years.

  11. And for fellow blogger Arnie Bermudez’s take on what happened at The Shanty, see:

  12. For an audio recording of the entire event, and how Glassman really never did answer Three Sonoran’s Yes/No question directly, check out this recent post at the Tucson Citizen.

  13. @Carolyn

    Thanks for catching that! My apologies, you’re right. Somehow, that error made it through my initial writing as well as editing by another person! It has since been corrected.

    Thank YOU for giving me the opportunity to write for the blog…

    I really can’t comment on how well Rodney did at DL Sunday night. I elected to stay home on Father’s Day night to be with friends and family, and to call all the fathers I know here and around the country, rather than to go to DL. I can imagine that Rodney handled himself with poise and sophistication while speaking, but I really can’t say for sure. I would have to see a recording of the event, which may or may not ever be published out of the Glassman campaign.

    This post isn’t about whether or not Rodney should run. Clearly, that decision has already been made, and I’m grateful that the Democratic party is so tolerant of underdog, “non-mainstream” candidates running campaigns on shoestring budgets. And, like you, I don’t like heated primaries where the “anything to win” attitude translates in tearing apart fellow Democrats (although, I can understand the candidates’ perspectives on it as well).

    This post was really about the questionable decision by Rodney’s campaign (I really don’t know who in the campaign was responsible for this) to try and handle the potential political ambush by discouraging video recording. If Rodney knew he might get ambushed on illegal immigration and deportation, the solution should have been to specifically allow recording, and to prepare a kick-ass answer. He needs to demonstrate his resilience even in the face of a political ambush, because he’s not going to have the opportunity to bar video cameras at public events as a U.S. senator.

    And, while we’re on the subject, I can understand Rodney’s dilemma on topic: the volunteer for Parraz wanted to catch Rodney on tape with an outright support, or condemnation, of deportation of illegal immigrants. Rodney has been somewhat wishy-washy on this issue, because he stands to lose conservative voters if he flatly states he’s against deportation, but stands to lose progressive votes in the primary if he states he’s for it. But, illegal immigration is the number one issue on voters’ minds right now — he’s harming himself by attempting to evade taking a hard stand. Voters want a senator who has a clear position on illegal immigration.

  14. Francine Shacter

    After reading this, first, I pinched myself – is this the same event attended??? I don’t know anything about Three Sonorans (Who the hell are/is Three Sonorans?) but what I took away from the evening is that Rodney, as a candidate, is comfortable with himself, answered questions without any evasiveness and said, loud and clear, that there will be debates – his staff is working to find an organization to do the do – and may I heartily recommend the League of Women Voters!!!! So, take the closthespins off your noses and recognize that he is a credible candidate.

    Hey! anyone wants to run for office can do that – heaven knows, I did. But running for office doesn’t mean that anyone else running for the same office owes other candidates anything – except civility! As those who know me know – I shudder at the prospect of a nasty, divisive primary that results in sending “damaged merchandise” into the general election! I told people what I would do, if elected, and never took any pot-shots at the other candidates. It’s a model worth following!

  15. I’m supporting John Dougherty in this race. His unique background as an investigative journalist and the priorities he has espoused as a candidate have convinced me that he is the best choice for Democrats. Timidity and acquiescence have typified many Democratic candidates in Arizona of late. From what I have seen of Dougherty so far, he will take the fight directly to the GOP in a way that will really challenge them.

  16. Michael Bryan

    Thanks for covering this flapdoodle, Jenn. Saves me from having to do it myownself. Fairly reported.

  17. Glassman is no longer a Tucson Councilmember,as he resigned in early April. So this sentence above is incorrect:
    “Last night, Rodney Glassman, current Tucson City Council Member, appeared at Drinking Liberally last night.”

  18. Rodney Glassman is unknown to a majority of Arizonans. He only has a prayer if Hayworth beats McCain (which will not happen). It’s really hard to stay positive here. I feel like I’m getting the bad dream in The Stand.