Richard Leib: Looking for straightforward answers

From the nation’s president to our local politicians and activists, probing questions will be asked.

Posted on Feb. 7, 2014 at 12:07 a.m.

From the nation’s president to our local politicians and activists, probing questions will be asked.

Bill O’Reilly interviewed President Obama live during Fox’s Super Bowl pregame show on Feb 2. It was a forceful interview, and I’m sure you’ve read plenty about it already. Was O’Reilly rude to the President? Or was he just being persistent?

A lot of the Obama’s supporters say he was treated badly. On the other hand, pundits on the right are saying O’Reilly was just trying to cut through the president’s “stonewalling.”

I’ve watched the interview a couple of times, and I think both opinions are correct.

Let me start with definitions.

“Rude,” according to the Bing dictionary, means: “ill-mannered: disagreeable or discourteous in manner or action.”

“Persistent,” as defined by Bing, means: “continuing despite problems: tenaciously or obstinately continuing despite problems or difficulties.”

If it was any government employee other than the president, O’Reilly’s manner should be considered “persistent” and perhaps even admirable. But because of the president’s office, the question is whether Obama should have been afforded special consideration.

The AP has called the questions “an array of Republican criticism,” but they are questions that many have wanted asked and answered. Now, at least, they’ve been forcefully asked. Even though we might as well accept that what a politician does not want to answer, a politician will not answer.

Perhaps the bigger thing to consider is when, and how persistently, a reporter should probe in an interview.

Last Monday, the Elkhart City Council voted 6-3 to support the General Assembly’s move to raise taxes on you and me through a not very well-defined “disappearing” local option county income tax.

The LOIT might not be a terrible idea, but more specifics on the plan will be needed in order to judge it. The concept of a “disappearing tax,” though meritorious in concept, is extremely rare in reality, so it is understandable that many people are skeptical.

We are told that our county and its cities have a shortage of funds. This comes as no surprise. I doubt anyone is unaware that there’s been a recession. A lot of folks are hurting. Tax revenues are falling.

As the county struggles because of its reduced income, people in positions of power are trying to come up with ways to deal with the challenge of maintaining services with smaller funds. I’ve talked to some of the folks who are fighting this battle. I don’t envy them.

If revenue shortages are to be dealt with, local involvement is going to be a major factor in what steps are taken. The best results and treatments will surely come from communicating accurately with the public as to the causes of the shortages and the nuts and bolts of plans that are being proposed.

Truthfulness will be a key to earning respect. And transparency will be a key to acceptance. So I want to make a pitch on behalf of newspapers. Those who make decisions and prepare proposals should keep the news lines open and flowing and be prepared to face probing questions from reporters.

If taxpayers are going to be asked to tighten their belts even more, then the case must be made. And straightforward questions should be expected and answered.

Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.


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