Tony Knowles completed KNOM's series of live call-in shows with the gubernatorial candidates on Friday. Before I get to some general reflections, let me tell a short story:
This show has been in the works for at least six weeks and I had received several "definite" commitments from staff members and the candidate himself that our time and date would work. Forty-five minutes before air, however, Patty Ginsberg calls and says she's very sorry but Tony can only give us 20 minutes. I was none too pleased and let her know but she couldn't do anything. So when I called Tony, I told him that I was not going to mention the 20-minute limit on air, our show would last an hour, and anytime he felt he had to go he could tell Western Alaska and hang up. He said that sounded fair and we went on air.
The calls came quickly and from all over the region. They were good questions too, about teen suicide, coastal resource management areas, alcohol and drug availability, and so on and so forth. I just kept putting callers on the air and Tony never said he had to go so we ended up going for the whole hour.
Oddly, the whole experience makes me respect him less. Not only did he send his hatchet-woman to do a last-second cancellation but then he didn't even have the courage of his convictions to tell Western Alaska he had to go. I would have respected him a lot more had he been able to say, "I'm awfully sorry but I've got something I can't miss. Would you please excuse me?" Instead, his behaviour was that of a typical politician, who'll do anything for votes, and lacks a moral centre.
Other than that, my reflections are relatively few:
- He had a better grasp of the issues than Sarah Palin did but that's to be expected. Compared to Halcro, I think Halcro came out on top but that may just be because Halcro sounded a lot more excited to be on the air.
- Tony sounded tired and bored throughout the entire show. I actually didn't realize it until several people mentioned it to me afterwards and I realized they were right.
- He gave what I thought was an insufficient answer to the question I really want answered about him: "You've already had 8 years. Why do you need 4 more?" He invoked Bill Egan and then trumpeted the accomplishments of his previous terms and promised more of the same. But the "only in politics can you have 8 years to build a world-class education system and then come back 4 years later and say I really mean it" is a strong one and I wish he had taken it head on. Instead, I felt he dodged it.
- Rather than answer some questions substantively, he seemed to prefer to talk about people he knew in the villages. Like when we got a call from Emmonak or Savoonga, for instance, he would talk about the people there and then give a cliched answer to the question posed by the person from Emmonak. I have so little respect for that. Don't butter up our callers' one opportunity to talk to the man who might be the next governor. Give them the courtest of an honest answer. I realize he must be doing quite a few of these radio interviews but I think part of the secret of being a compelling politician is making each one sound like it's special.