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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Everything in Moderation, Including Moderators



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Big Tuesday Morning Jolt, looking at Wolf Blitzer showing some lupine ferocity in his latest interview, the DCCC’s cry of panic, an unexpected new advocate for the Romney-Ryan ticket and then this news about this autumn’s debate moderators…

Brace Yourself, America, for the Moderating Zest and Roguish Danger of Lehrer and Schieffer

Are these moderators worth getting upset about?

First presidential debate:

Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor of the PBS NewsHour

Wednesday, October 3, University of Denver, Denver, CO

Vice presidential debate:

Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, ABC News

Thursday, October 11, Centre College, Danville, KY

Second presidential debate (town meeting):

Candy Crowley, Chief Political Correspondent, CNN and Anchor, CNN’s State of the Union

Tuesday, October 16, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

Third presidential debate:

Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News and Moderator, Face the Nation

Monday, October 22, Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL

The fourth presidential debate will be moderated by vanilla.

I see we have a “town meeting” style debate. I wonder if we’ll see “Ponytail Guy.” Cato remembered his question:

“The focus of my work as a domestic mediator is meeting the needs of the children that I work with, by way of their parents, and not the wants of their parents. And I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the two of you, the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it….”

Back when Rush Limbaugh was doing a television show, he made fun of the question of Ponytail Guy here.  “How many of you feel like you’re the children of Bill Clinton? (Boos) Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Before you – it is possible!”

I look at the list of debate moderators and see… safe. Boring. Sure, kinda left-of-center, but after John McCain’s campaign was okay with Ifill being under contract to write “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama” while she was moderating the vice-presidential debate in 2008, it’s kind of hard to imagine we’ll find a reporter with a more glaring issue than that. Hey, what is Linda Douglass doing? Or is she still urging us to report Obamacare critics to the government?

And did we end up having any major complaint about Ifill’s moderation beyond her failure to disclose her book to the Commission on Presidential Debates or to the viewing audience? Maybe the issue of the book helped ensure Ifill aiming for maximum even-handedness…

Lee Cary wants to see Romney combative from the first question:

So, once again, we can look forward to softball questions lobbed toward President Obama, and “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” -like questions fired at Governor Romney.

All across the nation, conservatives today are asking themselves this question:  Does the G.O.P. have a death wish, or is the Republican establishment run by progressive moles?

Put that aside, and let’s examine this development, hardly new, from a different perspective; not one with a Pollyannaish slant.  Let’s see it as an opportunity.  (I know, that’s what General Custer may have said.)

We know that, in most if not all of the debates, the spin will be in.  So why not take former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s response to spun questions from the liberal media in the G.O.P primary debates as the model.  He did not accept the premises of bent questions.

Romney should not only not accept those premises, but he should debunk them right up front. Without putting on his characteristic smile, cause this stuff isn’t funny.  He should call-out the bias of the moderators — who are definitely not moderate — and reframe their questions when they’re obviously slanted. 

What, do that and anger the moderators, thereby making them more bias?  The premise of that response is that they’re cable of being more bias. They are not. They’ve topped out.

Allahpundit puts it in historical perspective:

A quick check of the debate website reveals that not only has no MSNBCer ever hosted a debate, only once in the past 25 years has someone from NBC News been tapped to do so. That was Brokaw in 2008; Russert, David Gregory, and Brian Williams have all been shut out. The moderators typically come from a mix of CBS, ABC, PBS (Lehrer is a staple at these things), and occasionally CNN (Bernard Shaw moderated at least once). That’s exactly what we’re getting this year, which suggests that these things are governed by institutional inertia more than anything else. They’ve got a formula, they’re sticking with it, and the campaigns seem okay with it. Again, I think their top priority is not being taken by surprise, and these four seem unlikely to do that. Think back on all the debates you’ve watched since, say, 2000. What’s the most dramatic/memorable/unpredictable moment? Al Gore sighing? QED.

One other point worth flagging now. Martha Raddatz, who’ll be moderating the Ryan/Biden debate, is ABC’s chief foreign correspondent, which makes me wonder if the questions will be geared a bit more towards foreign policy than they might have been with a different moderator. That’s golden for Biden, if so: Not only is Ryan’s experience in that area thin, it’s a perfect invitation for Greasy Joe to spike the ball and do an end-zone dance over Bin Laden. Exit question: Will the VP debate draw more viewers than any of the presidential debates? It did four years ago.


Tags: Debates


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