Thursday, October 02, 2008

How to Deal With Stupid Interview Questions: A Candidate's Guide

I've been hearing some things about one of Katie Couric's interview questions of Sarah Palin, "What is your least favorite Supreme Court decision?" An incredibly stupid question, it's sort of like asking Katie Couric "which is your least favorite US Code provision?" Despite the Court's long history and vast body of work, you're not going to find a whole lot of people that can name more than 2 or three captions, and even fewer who can describe the holdings.

But it was obvious that the unwatched perky soon-to-be-former anchor already knew the answer before she even asked the question (which, I understand, she also asked of Slow Joe): Roe v Wade. (For the record, Slow Joe cited a Supreme court case that overturned a law he authored.) That incredibly obvious answer does nothing for Palin: the pro-lifers who would vote for her anyway get their satisfaction, and the drooling harpies who wouldn't go hysterical claiming that this woman hates women and she shoots moose.

This is the level of intellect we're up against which is why I am dismayed that we're losing to these people.

I, as a candidate for veep, would have a much better answer:

KATIE: Which Supreme Court decision do you disagree with the most?

LEARNEDFOOT: United States v. Topco.

KATIE: But don't you think that women have the right to - WHA-?

LF: Those of us in the know just call it "Topco".

KATIE: Preposterous, I've never heard of such a case.

LF: Well then, shut up and be educated.

[Eyes roll back into head as I go into law school case recitation mode] Topco related to a group of independent grocery stores that formed a cooperative in order to leverage their collective buying power with suppliers of "store brand" food items. You know, canned vegetables and such. The agreement allowed them to bulk purchase from suppliers at a lower cost for specially labeled products that would allow them to price compete with the big grocery chains in that product market who had the economies of scale to be able to get such bulk discounts on their own. For a store to be included in the cooperative, they had to abide by certain exclusive territories; one store per territory could sell the Topco brand. The Supreme court held that the exclusive territories were a per se violation of the Sherman Act, because, well the court had always previously ruled that exclusive geographical territories were a per se violation. The Court cited in its "reasoning" that while interbrand competition (eg Topco vs. Dole) was increased, intrabrand competition (eg Topco brand sold at store 1 vs. Topco brand sold at store 2) was harmed. This is patently ridiculous since why would these grocers even bother to form such a cooperative in the first place unless they desired to sell a more competitive product? The Court's action did the opposite of what the Sherman Act was intended to prevent, to wit: harm to market competition. The Court here had a golden opportunity to replace the old per se rule of geographical markets - a completely court-constructed standard -with the more appropriate Rule of Reason, and they failed miserably. The result: Topco - a cooperative of small businesses - was prohibited from competing with large, impersonal corporate stores and Middle Class Little Guy who wanted to do right by the small business owner in the community was forced to pay more for his canned peas.

KATIE: huh?

LF: Oh, and Dredd Scott was a pretty rancid decision as well.

See how that worked? Not only did I make the smug and condescending TelePrompTer drone look like a complete fool by erruditely describing an obscure case in a field of law with which most people are unfamiliar, but I also took down 5 or 6 Democrat shibboleths without abandoning my conservative principles in the process. And I took any possible follow up she had planned out of play, since she wasn't expecting such an obscure case. Plus, anyone left (most people) who had absolutely no clue what I just said, will think I'm a really smart out-of the box intellectual, because they have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, but it sounds detailed and knowledgeable (which, of course, it is).

Campaigns, please insert this one into your playbook.

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