In the Loop

In the Loop: October 1, 2008 Archive

Debating the moderators

Posted at 1:05 PM on October 1, 2008 by Jeff Horwich (3 Comments)

The no-brainer NewsHour moderating team is coming in for a rough ride in Election 2008.

Not so untouchable this time. (Image via PBS.org)
moderators.jpg
Jim Lehrer gets chosen for these things because there's some perception that he's a rock, unimpeachable, solid, straightforward.

And, frankly, boring enough not to detract from the two real stars of the thing.

Unfortunately, last week he was arguably out-boring'ed by the two candidates. Which left plenty of energy left over for us to ponder his rather weird debate performance.

Lehrer got big kudos back in 2004. But this time it's hard to find anyone raving. I'd agree with our local Rake Magazine that while he posed numerous follow-ups, Lehrer ultimately let Obama and McCain (especially McCain, who answered every follow-up with something about earmarks) off the hook without saying much of anything specific about the financial crisis, or how they'd deal with it.

And as best I can assess, the "guys, talk to each other" schtick seems to have been a failure, and an odd distraction. It felt like a couples-therapy session. The format of the debate was the same as debates have ever been -- seems to me that if we're going get all touchy-feely, you need to change the questions or even the staging somehow. By the end, Lehrer had stopped even asking questions: At one point, following some remarks by Obama, he just turned to McCain with raised eyebrows. (That must have worked well for public radio listeners.)

Now the awkward heat has been turned on Gwen Ifill, who's moderating tomorrow night's vice presidential debate. Trouble is, Ifill is just about to publish a book called, "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." As Michelle Malkin (yeah, I know, Michelle Malkin...but she's got a real point here) also points out, she recently wrote an fluff cover article for Essence Magazine: "At Home with the Obamas."

The McCain campaign was evidently asleep at the switch when they agreed to Ifill as a moderator. Or willing to look past it for fear that declining a black woman moderator wouldn't look too good for them. Tough spot.

Malkin is hoping Palin congratulates Ifill on the book...and then asks her to remind her of the title. Ah, Michelle.

(btw, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer are set to moderate the last two presidential debates. There was talk of a fifth debate moderated by Stephen Colbert, but no such luck.)

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