Da comrades, you can ask me anything you want. But, nyet on my answering any but the easiest, least controversial ones

Proving that politicians are pretty much the same everywhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a multimedia "Town Hall" discussion with his constituents. Russian citizens were able to ask Putin any question under the sun. But, and here’s the big but, the Russian president’s palace guard carefully screened and selected the questions Putin answered.

So, while it seems like a giant stride in the right direction, Putin’s dialogue with the average1204593g  Russian citizen was tightly managed and scripted, just like in the ‘good old days.’ The toughest questions mysteriously disappeared (perhaps to a virtual Gulag?) and Vlad only responded to the easiest, most self-serving queries.

So, what else is new? We see Democrats and Republicans alike do much the same thing when they venture forth to deliver major policy speeches. The Dems seek the safe harbors of liberal think tanks and university settings while W., Cheney and Rummy speak at places like West Point where a favorable audience is a guarantee.

Corporate chieftains of publicly-traded companies are notorious for the same strategy and will routinely schedule their annual general meetings in obscure locations and at inconvenient times, just so they can minimize the number of dissident shareholders in attendance.

While Putin’s message management is disappointing (and, I’m sure, frustrating to the average Russian), it’s not unique. Sadly, in this case, Putin and his fellow public and private-sector peers are likely to ‘stay the course’ year in and year out. There’s no ‘timeline’ for message management withdrawal when politicians and executives continue to avoid open and honest discussions with their constituents.

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