Monday, May 14, 2007

John Cox Snuck into GOP Debate Posing As Press Photographer

Matt Labash, in a hillarious and deadly article for the Weekly Standard, "The Sane Fringe Candidate" (which could be used as a script for a Daily Show skit) shadows crackpot presidential candidate John Cox around as he snuck into the Reagan Library debate posing as Labash's photographer.

Labash tells the inside story about how he was promptly thrown out, and how Cox went back to his hotel room to "pretend" he really was in the debate by filming a video of himself making it appear that he had really been asked the questions on the debate stage. Very odd.

The resulting article is a very good read, made even funnier because it has been posted in full on the Cox campaign Website as if it was a positive article. I guess every mention in the press is a good one for this guy.

Here are some highlights:

The advantage of writing about someone who has absolutely no chance of winning is that you get to dictate terms. I agreed to see John Cox, but told him there'd be some conditions. I would not be manhandled or warded off at crucial junctures by any punk press secretaries. Also, I would be granted exclusive access. He told me nobody wanted access, so that wouldn't be a problem. He added that I'd better get out there shortly, he was having an important press conference on Monday. That would mean I'd have to fly to Chicago on Sunday. But it was perfect weather outside, and I wanted to get some fishing in over the weekend. "Can you bump it to Tuesday?" I asked. "I don't see why not," he said....

The next morning, I arrive early at the Intercontinental Hotel to get a good seat for Cox's brace-yourself announcement--that he has paid his $25,000 registration fee, and is on the South Carolina ballot. I needn't have bothered. There's nobody around, except for some California Closet Company conventioneers. When I ask the concierge where the John Cox press conference is, he says, "John who?" Cox's amiable press secretary, Dan Herren, a South Carolina political hand who's a Re/Max realtor on the side, tells me this isn't out of the norm. When Cox tells strangers he's running for president, a common reaction is "President of what?"

I find my way to the proper room. A "JLS Foods Inc." sign is still in the placard bracket from an event the day before. Only two reporters are there--a guy from a radio wire service and me. Cox, who is silver-haired and trim, immaculately tailored in a charcoal suit with a blue pinstripe, looks disappointed but not surprised. He muses that it doesn't help that the nationwide May Day immigrant-rights rallies are taking place the same day. Not only are illegals taking our jobs, they're taking our publicity.

Still, even while he makes plenty of noise about the need to seal our borders, the corrupt Mexican government, and a crackdown on businesses that hire illegals, he will not set his hair on fire by becoming a pandering immigrant-basher--he points to fellow GOP hopeful Tom Tancredo as an example. "I refuse to lower myself," says Cox. "I'm a businessman. I've got clients. I'm not going to make myself out to be a buffoon." [NOTE TO COX: TOO LATE]

Cox eyes us two journalists, then says, "No need to go there," nodding at the podium. Instead, he pulls up a chair next to us. "It's much more intimate this way," I say, trying to make him feel better. "Most of my gatherings are pretty intimate," he says, with a pained smile....

Before joining up with Cox, I'd told him that I was credentialed for the debate, so he should get someone from his campaign to apply to be my photographer, which Herren had done. The next day--debate day--we arrive early at the press credentialing table. I pick up my lammie, and Dan picks up his, giving it to Cox. Cox and I board the media shuttle bus at the bottom of a hill that runs us up to the Reagan Library. Cox, it appears, will have his day in the spin room.

But he is unhappy about the whole arrangement. It demeans him, he feels. I tell him to get with the program. His look is all wrong. For one thing, he's wearing American eagle suspenders over a crisp, white dress shirt. If he wants to pass for a journalist, he can't go around looking patriotic. "Put on your suit jacket," I tell him. As we arrive at the Library and walk through its gates, I give him more pointers on how to pass for a reporter. "If you see anything free, especially a drink, take it," I say. I hand him a prop reporter's notebook, and tell him if anyone asks why he's not holding a camera, since he's supposed to be my photographer, tell them he's taking mental pictures...

We are bounced from the debate before it even begins. As we ride past the fringe-sters on the curb--Ron Paul supporters wearing dolphin suits to illustrate Mitt Romney's flip flops, guys in "Stop Chemtrails" hats, etc.--Cox grows reflective:

"Am I an anarchist? it going to be attractive to go into politics where you've got to steal a press pass to get heard?"

Indeed. Not very attractive at all.

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