Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Is Clinton now planting people in campaign forums?

An amazing coincidence today on the campaign trail in Iowa with Hillary Clinton.

The New York senator was in Donnellson, Iowa continuing a broad statewide tour by herself, her husband, Magic Johnson and relatives and friends who've spread out to all 99 crucial counties to tell stories about her to soften and help personalize the Democratic candidate's calculating image in what's become a very tight caucus race.

According to the Associated Press, at a campaign forum in the fire station, which will be a caucus site come Jan. 3, Clinton happened to be asked about her religious faith. Practicing Methodist, she responded, adding, "I'm often asked if I'm a praying person and I am a praying person. My father prayed at his bedside every night and we prayed at the table over dinner."

Then, the most incredible thing happened. Someone pointed out that Clinton's childhood Sunday school teacher, Rosalie Bentzinger, from her Park Ridge, Ill. days happened to be right there in the very same Iowa fire station at that same moment. What are the odds? The Sunday school teacher stood up. Clinton rushed over to hug her. It was a warm moment.

The 84-year-old Bentzinger gave Clinton a photograph she happened to have with her. And Clinton announced, "She has a picture of my confirmation class -- March 27, 1959."

Last month, some folks may recall, Clinton was forced to admit planting questions in a similar forum  audience in Newton after a student revealed a Clinton campaign staffer had handed her a question on global warming to ask. Clinton denied this was a regular practice and vowed it wouldn't happen again.

Today, Clinton aides said they were unaware the Sunday school teacher was in the crowd. Still, the incident happened to make a warm story to help personalize the candidate.

--Andrew Malcolm

Comments () | Archives (46)

The comments to this entry are closed.

That is rather convenient.

What kind of header is that? Will you guys stop at nothing to get a hit? The 84-year-old Sunday school teacher made it clear that her being there was not'planted', and you can't even give credit when it is due?

It is really sickening, all this Hillary-bashing. What has she ever done to anyone? If you are not able to see anything but dirt in another person, its because the dirt within yourself. Get a life.

The major media and highly successful business women in US have become rabidly anti Hillary and rabidly pro Obama. They waited till a few weeks ago when Hillary, in a debate, made a blunder in answering whether she approves giving driving license to illegal immigrants. Then all of them jumped on her like a ton of bricks! In the very next debate, Obama made the same mistake about the same question and there is hardly a whisper about it. This article is another example of the same bias. No organization wants to employ a fresh MBA as their CEO though he may be a straight A, when an expererienced and time tested MBA is available. It is high time that major media and doubting women show a little less partiality. US should not miss this opportunity to elect a woman president for the first time in its history. Hillary is a very capable person. It will not be possible to find another woman of similar capability for a long time. We should not miss this opportunity. It is very sad that the media is giving her such a bad publicity for a few of her minor snafus.

Shameful - or should I say shameless - display. If only Robert Ripley were still alive to see this one. Hillary's old Sunday school teacher just happens to take a trip to Donnellson, Iowa to check out the world famous Donnellson fire hall and strangely enough just happens to pack a photo of Hillary's Sunday School class along for the trip and the next thing you know Hillary herself just happens to drop by. Of course this is all a big surprise that after nearly 50 years they should meet this way. Hillary's setup and her feigned surprise is just one more example of her willingness to do whatever it takes to get elected.
The Clinton campaign is starting to look like a bad episode of "This is Your Life."

lol. this is just funny.

There is no such thing as a coincidence, ESPECIALLY with these two (Bill & Hilary). Can't they just go away?


remember peoplr the clintonistas are a wicked bunch of socialists. that sounds extreme i know but she represents nothing aout the america i know and love. will not get my vote and certainly not enough to win the presidency so you dems better find another candidate. I really by the way resent her sexist approach to this whole thing trying to tell americans it's time for women to run this country.

Yes, it was staged and she was planted, and I have the proof.

The A/P press report (a photocopy of a Clinton Campaign Press Release) which has been reported verbatim in at least 12 newspapers and local TV stations, insinuates that Hillary had not seen her Sunday School teacher in years and years. Not true. They met in APRIL for BBQ in a town not 14 miles from this event.

The event was staged to make it appear that Clinton was "surprised" to see her old Sunday School Teacher in the firehouse. The two hugged. The Teacher, Rosalie Bentzinger, even brought a photo of Hillary's confirmation class. Not a dry eye in the house! After all these years!

The event also provided an excellent opportunity for Hillary to expond on her religous beliefs (presumably contrasting them with Obama's). The entire staged event was started with a planted question about her faith. After Hillary expounded on her praying habits, the long-lost Sunday School Teacher came forward from the small crowd gathered.

The problem with the event is that Hillary and Ms. Bentzinger are hardly strangers, having met at a similar campaign event in April of this year.

Ms. Bentzinger is hardly an unknown retired Sunday School teacher living in obscurity, either. Ms. Bentzinger is a well-known regliious scholar and leader and even has a religious scholarship named after her.

Hard to believe Clinton did not recognize her in the crowd, considering they shared BBQ together a few months earlier. The following photo is available on for sale. Looks like a smoking gun to me:

Event Name: Senator Hillary Clinton at a BBQ Fundraiser in Fort Madison, Iowa
Event Date: April 3, 2007
Caption: Presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., right, greets Keith Fraise, left, and Rosalie Bentzinger during a campaign stop at the rural Fort Madison, Iowa home of Eugene Fraisse on Monday, April 2, 2007. Bentzinger was Senator Clinton's Sunday School teacher when she lived in Park Ridge Il.
Headline: Senator Hillary Clinton at a BBQ Fundraiser in Fort Madison, Iowa
Venue: Fort Madison
Location: Fort Madison
Credit: Mark Hirsch/

natekng asks the question, "what has she ever done to anyone"? Good Lord, person, where does one begin when exposing the people she has trashed and destroyed.

The media is addicted to bashing Hillary Clinton. You just can't stop it. You need help. Is there a 12 step group for reporters who mindlessly attack with no provocation? See if you can go one day with out a stupid, insulting story about Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, I suppose Saint Obama was in another county in Iowa feeding starving children, raising the dead, and walking old ladies across the street.

Hillarity is a Fixer. As in the Redbone Cattle Future Trades when Hillarity RodThem made 100K in a succession of short sales that NEVER lost which she explained she made based on her study of New York Times FUTURES charts and listings that NEVER EXISTED! (The Times doesn't list Chicago Commodities charts, etc.) so too did Her Regalness FIX the attempt to derail Obama in the last debate with the question posed by her politburo shill, Washburn, regarding Clinton advisors in a future Obama administration, so too is it FIXED that old friends, teachers, etc., simply materialize at obscure venues far from their own hometowns and job routines. Anybody in her way, she decks. Problems are FIXED. And, she is, as well, a SCHOOL YARD BULLY. That's her style: SCHOOL YARD BULLY. This person, like a criminal mastermind depicted in a Columbo Mystery, has henchpersons do her dirty work.
She always wants to be the one laughing as her target buckles in pain. Her well paid male dwarfs take the shivs to her enemies kidneys
as she cackles and hortles. What else can the cackle symbolize but that she enjoys evil laughter as her opponents die? Think about it.

I'm still waiting for the "well documented history of Hillary's presidential experience" to be made public.
I really believe Hillary would sleep with Bill if it meant an electoral vote. We'll see a plethora of "creative incidents" (was that PC enough?) from this candidate before this race is through. What's next; a "chance encounter" with a "victim" of the sub prime debacle?

There she goes again. They just can't help themselves. It's who the Clintons are.

Hillary and her Sunday School teacher were together at a BBQ function
about 6 months ago. So much for the long-lost reunion! Now, the
elderly Sunday school teacher just hapens to make the long trip from
Illiinois to Iowa. I wonder how she travelled to Iowa and how she could
afford it? Hmmmmmmmmmm.

I am fairly certain that if Hilary Clinton rescued a family from a fire, she would be accused of setting the blaze.

Dear Media: please stop it. Please.

Speculation Without Proof Equals Disingenuousness and I would expect more from your newspaper!

Any two-faced politician who has gone along with the Bush plan to invade Iraq from the start deserves this kind of scrutiny by the media.

Any two-faced politician who has gone along with the Bush plan to invade Iraq from the start deserves this kind of scrutiny by the media.

The mud slinging at the Clintons is nothing new, but the people who have pointed the bandwagoning that's gone on since the driver's license question are right on. The media got right to the point of corronating her 'the inevitable' nominee, and then sacked her. You could see it coming from a mile away, and now it's happened - weeks of bad press and people looking to undermine her entire candidacy and character.

Hillary seems to be back on track, though, and in the thick of it people like this Sunday school teacher who knew and loved her in the past come out of the wood work and try to help her win. But everyone wants to assume it's a trick? She drove down to go to a rally, not just a firehouse! It's a campaign event. I agree with the poster who said if you can't seen any thing but dirt in someone else, it must be dirt in you. The Clintons have been targets of people projecting on them forever. From the impeachment to Whitewater, people with dirtier pasts than theirs have tried to bring them down.

Good luck. It won't work.

How clumsy can they be?

Obviously Hillary's old teacher came to see her, and brought the picture to present to her. Her teacher was not necessarily planted. Accusations like this would never be condoned by Obama, and we who support him should use him as an example.

Please Hillary...go away. We the people wants really change, not a setup.

Given Mrs. Clinton's history, it is hard to imagine this is not a plant.

It reminds me of the "vast right wing conspracy". Sure Mrs. Clinton. A story comes out that your philandering husband had sex with an intern - and your first thought is that his enemies are making it all up? Listen to Mrs. Clinton's reading of her autobiography when she mentions this part. It defies belief.

The Clintons are consummate liars.

Fraser wrote:

Hillary's old Sunday school teacher just happens to take a trip to Donnellson, Iowa to check out the world famous Donnellson fire hall and strangely enough just happens to pack a photo of Hillary's Sunday School class along for the trip and the next thing you know Hillary herself just happens to drop by. Of course this is all a big surprise that after nearly 50 years they should meet this way

Don't forget that she just happened to be asked about her religion.

We'll I guess they figured if people are silly enough to still support them after all that they've done to this country they may as well play them for the suckers that they are. I know when I was in downtown Baghdad I ran into my kindergarden teacher who just happen to have the essay that I wrote saying that I wanted to be the Secretary of Defense when I grew up.........What? really........would I lie to you?........Hey my name is not Clinton and I'm not running for POTUS.

Hey have it wrong. In the debate where Hillary whiffed Obama said he supports the idea. In the debate a month or so later that you said Obama whiffed, if you listened closely he was trying to explain his position but was repeatedly interrupted by Wolf Blitzed. There was no time limit on answers yet Wolf Blitzed kept trying to interrupt and not just Obama. That was perhaps the worst moderated debate in recent presidential campaign history. Anyway, you have swallowed the Clinton Kool-Aid and now you're spewing the crap that Hillary is somehow more experienced than Obama. Obama has almost twice as much elected legislative experience than Hillary and has a better, more substantive, list of accomplishments as a U.S. senator in half the time. Name me one piece of substantive legislation that Hillary has AUTHORED and had signed into law. And I don't think you want to go with the MBA analogy, not that we're talking about MBAs anyway - we're talking about lawyers. Obama runs all over Hillary on that one. Graduating magna cum laude from Harvard after being the college's first African American president of its hallowed law review garnered Obama close to 2,000 offers for employment from many of the top firms in the country and abroad. Obama could be worth as much as Edwards ($56 million) or HRC ($35 million) if he went into law fulltime but he elected to return to the streets of Chicago and continue his work with the middle class and poor on the South Side. He also became a constitutional law professor, so he'll be very well equipped to deal with Bush's and Cheney's assault on our founding ideals, the bedrock of our country. Obama only paid of his school loans four years ago. That says self-made man to me. Hillary failed to pass her bar her first attempt. And ask yourself this, if Hillary wasn't married to Bill Clinton, would she be running for president? Could her carpet-bagging run for the U.S. senate in 2000 have succeeded? I think you know the answer to those two questions. Obama '08...change we can believe in.

Some of the criticisms of Senator Clinton are very unfair, no doubt. But I think some of her supporters get a little knee-jerk about "bashing" when she's actually being critiqued rather tamely by her democratic opponents. If you think she's getting "attacked" now, wait until the general election. That is, if she's nominated. It's no longer a forgone conclusion because people are coming around to the idea that she actually may not be the best candidate. Everyone says Obama is running too early, but no one says Clinton is running too late (she should've ran in 2004).

No Duane, they can't and won't go away. The childish nonsense that this reporter gets up to is unbelievable. But then again, there is a reason why media personalities have such low ethical standards and reputations.

The negativity towards Hillary has sickened me from the beginning and I tried to stay away but recently I have had it up to my scalp and decided to challenge these people to act objectively and maturely if they possible can.

Have you no sense of decency, sir?
Please read this from Washington Post:
In an online posting Monday, ABC reported that an Obama volunteer wearing a press pass asked the candidate a friendly question about tax policy at an Iowa event. But several of the assembled reporters huddled and concluded that it was not a story, one of them said. Clinton faced a storm of media criticism over a similar planted question.

Was you in this group

Planted? it's a campaign stop, the person likes Clinton and wanted to see her. ? Lamest article ever, wow.

More Hillary-bashing?

Why no mention of the fact that there was Obama volunteer wearing a PRESS PASS who asked a softball question straight from his stump speech at a recent campaign forum. (More here:

I usually like how balanced the reporting is on Top of the Ticket, but lately, it's made me wonder... Read this for more info on the media's bias against Hillary and for Obama:

"The major media and highly successful business women in US have become rabidly anti Hillary and rabidly pro Obama."

You couldn't have said it any better, hcsubbarao.

Just today, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post wrote an excellent article exposing the media bias against Hillary, and among the things he cites is a recent example in which press present at an Obama forum decided against writing about an Obama plant even after they'd roasted Hillary for the same thing a month earlier.

And there's much worse. Among other things, the media has made no issue whatsoever of the Obama campaign's cynical and dirty attempt to get the press to start looking into Bill Clinton's post-presidency sex life.

Read it at

Maybe the LA Times would like to start exposing some of the things about Obama it seems to conveniently overlook -- things Hillary would be polling in the single digits if she had done.

Is this a coincidence? Tell it to the marines !!!

I believe in the tooth fairy, but not that her sunday school teacher only chose that moment to appear. This was DEFINITELY planted.

These people are terribly manipulative - win at ALL cost?

Right on Gunny, Just like John Kerry and his long lost buddy from Vietnam. What a staged surprise!

It only works if the MSM plays along. Too bad there are other sources of info. It is interesting to see other blogs referred to here as more authoritative than your newspaper.

Hey, if it is a nice story just tell it. You don't have to play the phony surprise. Like Gunny says, this shows the contempt they have for their own voters.

My favorite discussion is the "moron" bloc. That is how Arnold won. Usually the left has a monopoly on these low thinking people. That is the strategy of Obama bringing Oprah. Arnold split the moron vote with, "I'll be baaack!" Scary, these people vote...

The odds of this event being chance are the same as all those people not expecting a political favor for donating huge dollars to the Clinton library (see NY Times).

I read the account of the visit Senator Clinton made to Donnellson, Iowa where she met Rosalie Bentzinger. Just to let you know, my 92 year old mom lives in Donnellson, Iowa and is very good friends with Rosalie Bentzinger who lives in Donnellson with her sister right across the street. I've met and chatted with Ms. Bentzinger and her sister on several occasions. She and her sister are wonderful ladies and are very active in the Donnellson United Methodist Church. I'm not sure whether she was a plant for Senator Clinton or not. Either it was an amazing coincidence or Ms. Bentzinger was contacted by Senator Clinton's people ahead of time to arrange the "chance" meeting. Since Senator Clinton already met her in Ft. Madison, which is about 15 miles east of Donnellson, the latter seems more plausible. Anyway, just wanted to let you folks know that Ms. Bentzinger is a resident of Donnellson.

As a Democrat, this is pathetic. What happenned to our party? We used to be about helping the middle class, but now we have become a bunch of power brokers creating victims and helping non-citizens. And Obama is a nice man, but he is completely inexperienced. We are so screwed this election.

Andrew, why in the world do you call this "a warm story to help personalize the candidate"?

It is just another smarmy Clinton story that helps remind thinking people of the scams and lies that characterized "the first Clinton administration," as Mrs. Clinton so purposefully refers to her husband's tenure in (and narrow escape from being kicked out of) the White House.

(It was designed to be warmy and fuzzy, not me saying it was.)

It is most interesting that pointing out Clinton fakery and falsehood is called Clinton bashing. But fabricating hit pieces on conservatives is referred to as good journalism.

The poster is correct - if any Clinton claimed to save someone from a burning building, one could be reasonably sure the Clinton set the fire and arranged for a victim. Example - I refer you to the claimed Clinton leadership in the campaign office hostage situation, when Hillary was actually in another state and totally uninvolved.

That is commonly called - trying to step in front of the parade.

If Hillary rescued people from a fire, she would be accused of setting the fire, one poster wrote earlier.

If Hillary rescued people from a fire, then trust me, she did set the fire.

John, I couldn't have said it better - what has happened to our party? Are these three the best we can come up with? We need to examine the process that we use to find and develop our major political candidates. Is the process so warped in bowing before every special interest group around that this is what we are left with - people who MAY be electable? We should have a shoe-in! Evan Bayh, Bill Nelson, John Breaux - these men have experience and appeal to all sorts of people. Has the process become so warped that the best aren't even interested? I'm disgusted. I guess the adage that we deserve the government we get is appropriate.

Th eHillary campaign is in damage control mode now. They are accusing me of beating up ona poor helpless little Sunday School teacher.

I am beating up on Hillary Clinton, let me make that clear.

Hilary planned this tour to get friends from her childhood to give testimonials about her. How could they miss Ms. Bentzinger, who Hillary saw only last April? To not have her at the event would be an oversight.

Ms. Brentzinger is a renknown Methodist leader and author and even has a scholarship named for hre. I am not impuning her character. She is a pawn in this Clinton campaign pagent.

But somehow the message got out in the press that Hillary had a long-lost reunion with Ms. Brentzinger, and someone had to plant that idea. Obviously it was not Ms. Brentzinger! It was the Hillary Campaign! It makes for a good story, and an otherwise forgettable campaig appearance gets on 20 TV stations in Iowa and in 7 newspapers (by my last count).

But the Clinton team is in damage control, because I have been contacted by reporters about this, who want to do a story about scriped campaign events and plants in audidences. So they want to make out anyone who questions the Clinton party line as someone who beats up on Sunday School teachers.

The person threatening me claims to be an Obama supporter, but for some reason he decided to "search the internet" for these stories. Odd thing to do. He posts under different names, as well. Henry or David. Funny, for an Obama supporter he has no profile on the Obama website or has posted any blogs.

Oh, yes, more plausible deniability. Because if these criticisms came from a Hillary Campaign staffer, they would be too obvious.

8 years of scripted events, fake press conferences and fake reporters under GW is enough. We can't give Hillary a "pass" on this.

I love that the URL for this site is "are-we-planting.html" Seriously guys, you're being a little careless with showing us just how much you're using journalism sites to advocate for a candidate. I thought there was no bias...

Mrs. Bentzinger is affronted that anyone would think she is a plant. She brought a picture of Hillary's confirmation for her to sign, and was accompanied by her 90-year old brother, and her sister. She lives just one block from the Donnellson Public Library, where I spoke to her today.

Donnellson Public Library Director

All of these folks whining about the media picking on poor little Hilly are just too funny! Ah, waa waa. this woman and her husband have gotten a pass from the media for nearly 20 years and now she gets some scrutiny and it's all "unfair?"!!! you liberals are a pack of babies...


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
Republican Politics
Democratic Politics



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: