Posted: 4:19 am Friday, August 12th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
We’ve had two examples this week of the Russian Roulette nature of politics when it comes to who sits behind a candidate for President at rallies for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
I’m sure most people who haven’t covered political events think that those seats are only given out to trusted people – but the truth is, it is often a random assignment that is done at the last minute, in a sometimes haphazard fashion by campaign staffers.
Vetting process for seats behind POTUS at our C'Ville rally was 1 staffer giving stickers to randos she thought would look good up there
— Jon Green (@_Jon_Green) August 11, 2016
As noted in that tweet, Donald Trump was highly critical of answers from the Clinton campaign about how the father of the Orlando nightclub shooter could get a seat on stage.
“When you get those seats, you sort of know the campaign,” as Trump said, “They knew.”
But it’s not really that way – most of the time, it is a last minute dash to put people on stage and fill the seats.
For example, take this photo of Marco Rubio at a rally in New Hampshire, back in February.
To our right of Rubio, there is a balding guy with a mustache and beard just below the “I” in Rubio.
I had interviewed the same guy earlier that same day at a Jeb Bush event – he was a “political tourist” who had come to New Hampshire to see the election.
He wasn’t a Rubio voter. Heck, he wasn’t even from New Hampshire. But there he was, up on stage, right behind the candidate.
So, when Seddique Mateen or Mark Foley – or whoever – gets behind a candidate, I understand why people would say, “OF COURSE THEY KNOW HE WAS THERE!”
But it really doesn’t work that way out on the campaign trail at larger events, like rallies.
For very small events – like Hillary Clinton did in Iowa and New Hampshire, those people would probably be vetted more closely.
But even when staffers supposedly do their jobs, sometimes bad things can happen.
I remember a news conference back in the mid-1990’s on Capitol Hill with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle; Democrats had brought in a truck driver to help bolster their political arguments – but there was one problem.
No one seemed to notice that the guy had a swastika tattoo on his hand.
Frankly, I’m surprised there haven’t been more surprises like that about who is sitting behind the candidate at a rally for President.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.