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What's it all about?

The latest outrage of the week Campaign 2008 has been over Gwen Ifill moderating tomorrow night's Vice-Presidential debate. James Joyner at OTB summed things up well-

But, surely, it's fair to ask whether Ifil is objective here. Presumably, Democrats would raise similar questions if a pro-McCain moderator had been chosen. Goodness, the Democrats canceled primary debates that were hosted by Fox News because they're viewed as pro-Republican even though there were not going to be any Republicans in the debates!

*****

Indeed, any network anchor aside from Fox's Brit Hume would be presumed to be biased in favor of the Democrat -- and he'd be presumed to be based in favor of the Republican. Perhaps the answer is to get someone other than a network answer to do the job? Or, perhaps, get someone like C-SPAN's Brian Lamb who's scrupulously neutral?

BTW my wife, the registered republican, doesn't like Hume. The way he talks drives Leonita up the wall more than anyone on television with the possible exception of former CNN weather woman Valerie Voss.

Back to the topic, James is right. Finding a reporter who isn't a supporter of one of the two parties is just about impossible. It reminds me of when the local newspaper editorializes in favor of a non-partisan commission to do reapportionment. Where are those committee members supposed to come from, Mars?

BTW, Ifil being an author of a Obama book and a future moderator, was reported last July 23rd at the Washington Times-

"We have an awkward history about how to talk about race in the nation and in newsrooms," says Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent for PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" and author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama," slated for publication early next year.
Howard Kurtz also writes that it was reported at the Washington Post last September 4th.

Also Sen. John McCain told Fox News today "Does this help if she has written a book that's favorable to Senator Obama? Probably not," McCain said. "But I have confidence Gwen Ifill will do a professional job."

I haven't shaked my head in befuddlement so much since the Rachael Ray brouhaha. What will be the next storm be on the conservative blogosphere? and the one after that? and the one after that? The second line of the song I refer to in the title of my post comes to mind when I think of these 'controversies'.

"Is it just for the moment we live?" If not this moment, this minute, or hour or day etc etc.

Now the countdown begins for when the first Wizbang commenter takes exception to what I wrote. I love punishment, remember my home blog is The Florida Masochist. And no, I don't belong at Wizbang Blue. I disagree more with Lee over there than Cassy here.

Update- Doug at Below the Beltway writes--

Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is here. I don't think that Ifill should be the moderator either, but that's based on the fact that she did a horrid job at the Cheney-Edwards debate four years ago and she just doesn't strike me as a very good reporter. But the CPD picked her, so my opinion on that point doesn't really matter. Moreover, even before news of the book was released, it was really quite apparent that Ifill is a reporter who lets her biases shine through her reporting. Now, personally, I don't have a problem with that, but if the McCain campaign did, then they shouldn't have agreed to have her as the moderator. And, finally, I'm not sure what the people complaining about this the day before the debate are looking for -- do they really think that they're going to find a network news anchor who isn't biased ? And wouldn't have Ifill been "in the tank" for Obama regardless of whether or not she wrote a book about him ?

Frankly, it seems to me that the McCain campaign partisans are raising this non-issue at the 11th hour so that there will be a ready-made excuse in case Palin does poorly tomorrow. If that happens, she'll have nobody to blame but herself.

Not necessarily a ready made excuse but for the whole McCain-Palin ticket after it loses in November. I'm voting for it, but am clear headed enough to see that only a major miracle is going prevent Obama from winning.


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Comments (31)

Let's see....if Obama gets ... (Below threshold)
ODA315:

Let's see....if Obama gets elected, her book will be timely and probably do well. If McCain wins, her book goes to the discount table mucho pronto.

Will the debate tomorrow have any bearing on which candidate wins? (hint, if it didn't they wouldn't be debating).

Go to the corner Bill and flog yourself.

And after you are through f... (Below threshold)

And after you are through flogging yourself for unexplained befuddlement, flog yourself again for bringing up one of the most gawdawful songs in history.

The problem Ifil presents ... (Below threshold)

The problem Ifil presents is that she will be the post debate spin. If she is seen as tough on Palin it will be spun that she did so the help her book. If she is seen as going easy on Palin it will be spun that she did so to keep people from saying she was trying to boot Obama and her book.

Even if she pays it straight down the middle objective the book will Palin's excuse for losing the debate or Biden's excuse for not beating her.

It could be Ifill is trying... (Below threshold)
LaMedusa:

It could be Ifill is trying to be more of a permanent place in history than just her book. This might also be a media effort to over-shadow Sarah Palin's extraordinary place in history as a woman veep candidate. If it is too obvious that she appears biased toward one candidate, it might work against Biden.

This is actually an interesting set-up. A lot of people view Biden as the more seasoned debater, but the underlying edge may be sympathy toward Palin. She is very outspoken and decisive, however, and surprise him with the ability to anticipate a trap. Whatever happens, I am going to make it a point to focus on clarity and answers from each candidate.

*...and may surprise him...... (Below threshold)
LaMedusa:

*...and may surprise him...

It's not the fact that she ... (Below threshold)
Joel:

It's not the fact that she may or may not support one candidate over another but that she gives the mere appearance of partiality.

A prospective juror may be dismissed for a hint of bias toward one side or the other; a judge is expected to recuse himself if he has any interest on either side. A referee or umpire may not call games for teams s/he knowingly supports or has a vested interest in--an NBA referee went to jail for betting on games. All of these jobs require strict impartiality, not only real but implied. Why? The ability, however small, to affect the outcome.

Ms. Ifill may be the most qualified person to moderate this debate--I don't know if that's true and don't care. However, her appearance of impartiality will taint the debate as Stephen noted above. More importantly, if a judge, juror or sports official did something like this the media would have a great hissy and call for heads to roll. Seems to me a double standard....

You can hardly compare this... (Below threshold)
Dave W:

You can hardly compare this to the Rachael Ray incident. Rachael Ray appeared in a commercial with a scarf. Anything further was in the viewers mind.

This Ifill woman wrote a book about Obama and gushes about him every time she speaks of him. She has a vested financial interest in Obama winning the election. McCain did what he was supposed to do in an effort to look presidential and not like a whiner, but the rest of us can raise the issue. Is this debate going to be fair or not? I'm confident that Sarah Palin can and will overcome this, but the amount of obstacles that are being put in the way of her is getting obnoxious. She has to overcome these endless attacks on her family and now all of this. It's pretty sad that the McCain/Palin ticket is fighting an uphill battle while the media and now the moderators are doing everything in their power to get Obama elected. It's really sad, and I hope in the end Palin comes across to everyone else watching how she will more than likely come across to me. I'm confident in her, but it's a shame that the mere existence of a Conservative Woman on the ticket creates such an uphill battle for her and McCain.

And of course O'Reilly scre... (Below threshold)
Larry:

And of course O'Reilly screamed his head off over Ifill. Now it is that McCain played it cool. Ifill is in a trap of her own making. All eyes are going to be on her. I did email the debate commission with a simple point.

How can a moderator who looks at one candidate as if he gives milk and another with hate filled eyes, do the job? Oh, and when presented with questions she didn't want to answer, she pulled the race card. I am so sick and tired of those who use the race card when they are stuck for something honest to say and their lips just will not make the motions.

Bill,so if the judge... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

Bill,
so if the judge at your civil trial had financial incentive to see you lose you are saying he/she shouldn't recuse themselves ?

Please ...

I thought you said you were cler headed ?

Bill - I agree with your wi... (Below threshold)

Bill - I agree with your wife, and so does my wife.

Brit Hume is a total drone. I think he OD'd on Botox.

And regarding Ifill, I think there is a clear conflict of interest, and that she should not be moderating the debate.

Having said that, McCain-Palin should not use this as an excuse if Palin does not do well. Unless Ifill really goes overboard, which I don't think she will.

The difference between a ga... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

The difference between a garden variety journo moderating, and Ifill, is that Ifill has skin in the game.

They all secretely pull for O, with a few exceptions, but she's publicly got her ego involved in O with this book, and a nice financial reward come Jan. 20 if the sales look good/he's won.

I usually find Ifill to be ok, but this is a whole different level she's playing in with this book directed at the O thing.

I think what sets this asid... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

I think what sets this aside from any biased journalist is that she has a career and financial conflict of interest.

She doesn't just have a philosophical bias towards Obama, but has actual written a book in part that praises him. She doesn't just agree with his politics, she's put her career out there saying he's Mr. Wonderful.

The financial conflict with a Jan 20 print date are obvious. Truth be told, that's a much more powerful conflict of interest than anything else.

It doesn't matter who moder... (Below threshold)
groucho:

It doesn't matter who moderates this debate. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore,Boutros Boutros Ghali or Zippy the Chimp; it's not about the questions, it's about the answers, no matter who is asking them.

I was a little too quick on... (Below threshold)
groucho:

I was a little too quick on pressing the submit buttton. I guess my internal editor has gone to sleep before me. Anyway, I think the choice of moderator is not too awful important.

Actually, Ifill will have t... (Below threshold)
BJinChicago:

Actually, Ifill will have the eyes of America watching her performance. If she even appears to be in the tank for Obama she will be painted with her own brush as racist. For the sake of her career, she needs to play this straight, because she will be compared to Lehrer who got very good reviews for his debate performance.

This is an interesting turn of events; now the pressure that is usually on the debaters includes the moderator in its scope.

One of the things that stic... (Below threshold)
Larry:

One of the things that sticks in my mind from the McCain/Obama debate is McCain's statement that Obama didn't know the difference between a strategy and a tactic.

I haven't a clue what McCain meant.

On the other hand, I can smell a last minute expose a mile away. And this has all the earmarks [sic] of one. Ifill has been had, big time. Talk about putting someone in a box. Nice to see the tables turned on a socalled journalist for a change.

No, it's not about the answ... (Below threshold)
materialist:

No, it's not about the answers, it's about the questions. Only the questions that are asked can be answered. To one candidate, what are your hopes for the future of America? To the other, are you and your presidential candidate embarrassed over the lies contained in your advertisements? When do you plan to stop lying? Fair questions, certainly. Will Biden be asked about his stance on abortion and Obama's on partial birth and the fate of survivors? Be serious. Will Palin be asked to discourse on drilling policy? Be serious. Will Palin be asked about teenaged pregnancy and whether homosexuality is a choice? You can damned well bet she will be, directly or otherwise.
Those who do not think the moderator matters are such gullible fools. Successful trial lawyers and the "impartial interviewers" of the MSM make their livings on such fools.

Lets me get the right, <br ... (Below threshold)
burt:

Lets me get the right,
Gwen has :
1. Lied to the Debate Commission about any conflicts and failed to notify then about her book
2. Played the race card today when she is caught just like her Messiah
3.Will benefit financially if Obama wins
4. Has been caught on TV making snide and belittling comments about Ms Palin at the RNC convention.
And there are posters here who are trying to peddle that this fraud and liar is going to fair and balanced to Gov Palin ??
Get it a rest.

You've missed the point.</p... (Below threshold)
Clint:

You've missed the point.

Of course she's biased. Most of the media are. We've gotten used to the fact that liberals will respond to that with, "No she's not." It becomes a matter of perspective and opinion.

In this case, she has an actual, concrete, undeniable conflict of interest. She stands to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties if Obama is elected. And far, far less if he is not.

This is not a judgment call, a matter of perspective, or an opinion. It is not something a liberal would fail to be able to identify as a clear conflict of interest.

It is completely over the top.

I'm certain she will do her level best to be impartial. I seriously doubt that she will have passed the questions to the Obama-Biden camp ahead of time. I seriously doubt that she will ask any truly inappropriate questions.

Nonetheless, she has a clear, personal, financial stake in the outcome of the debate. She should have recused herself, or at least acknowledged the potential conflict and informed the relevant parties.


At this point, she's in an impossible spot. I suppose her best hope to restore her reputation is to come through the debate with the same professional, even-handed moderation we saw from Jim Lehrer last week. To step aside now, even if it's ethically required, would only serve to confirm her guilt in the court of public opinion.

Clint, I am sorry, but you ... (Below threshold)
materialist:

Clint, I am sorry, but you have missed the revolution. Being MSM means not having to say that you're sorry, or apologize for anything in any way. Palin must be destroyed. All means are fair. She will be given a nice mixture of questions along the line of "have you stopped beating your children" and "who is the Agricultural Minister of Uzbekistan" (after, of course, verifying that Biden recently had lunch with that gentleman and will shortly be proposing an appropriate joint project to congress). Gov. Palin's inability to answer such questions in an insightful way will, of course, be her own fault. Ms. Ifill will just be asking for the information the voters need to know.

Thank you, Bill. Thank you ... (Below threshold)
Jake:

Thank you, Bill. Thank you so very much for the honest, critical look at your party's position and reaction to this issue. I've been seriously curious what the heck was going on with this blog lately, and it's nice to get some reality inserted into the discussions, even if it's not rosy, pro-McCain 100%.

Thank you, Bill. You're representing your party wonderfully.

I really can't believe that... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

I really can't believe that this whole thing just now came up, hours before the debate.

By all means, yank Gwen Ifill. It doesn't matter. Let Rush Limbaugh do it.

Sarah Palin, Caribou Barbie, Bible Spice, whatever you want to call her, cannot even hit softballs lobbed up by Katie Couric, for god's sake!

She can't name a Supreme Court decision aside from Roe v. Wade.

When her handlers let her out to get a cheesesteak, she outlines her support of Barack Obama's stance on Pakistan.

Oh wait, I guess a voter asking a question of the woman who could potentially be one 72-year-old heartbeat away from being the leader of the free world is "gotcha journalism" whatever the hell that means.

When asked about what she thinks about the bailout plan, she keeps glancing down at her cheat sheet and offers up a vapid, incoherent, rambling of catchphrases she's been fed.

"What this thing is about is how Americans feel about health care reform, and the umbrella of job creation, and umm umm....

WOW!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8__aXxXPVc

If McCain/Palin had run in 1908 instead of 2008, when Americans have access to the internet and can actually research and fact-check for themselves on what people say, they might have had a chance at winning.

This Palin spectacle, while overwhelmingly hilarious for an Obama supporter like myself, is getting hard to watch. It's like the America's Funniest Video of the guy getting hit in the nuts with the football, only you have to watch it 500 times.

It's hilarious at first, and then you just get embarrased and feel sorry for the guy.

Just my 2 cents.

Ryan you may have opened up... (Below threshold)
Jonathan:

Ryan you may have opened up a can of Neo-Con Whoopass with that statement. I make sure to cringe and omph when the blows start landing. Still, truth is a brutal thing and I have to agree with you.

When it comes to my leaders I want the elite. Biden is one of those, McCain, although I disagree with him, has shown he is one of the elite who should be where he is. Obama is one of the elite as well. I'm hate to break it to Palin supporter but she is not one of the elites. She should not be there. I want my leaders to know about supreme court decisions. I want them to have a firm grasp on history. Is it too much to as that they be have traveled a bit? I guess what I'm saying is I'm looking for candidates who are a cut above the rest. I guess I'm looking for an elitest.

In closing, I don't care who moderates the debate be it Ifil or David Duke. I only care my candidate's ability to handle others. Now we finally get to see what Palin is made of. I hope she does well on a human level. On a politcal level, I hope she is completely destroyed.

Ryan - "Just my 2 cents... (Below threshold)
marc:

Ryan - "Just my 2 cents." Your two cents is about worth this much. Hell it might not be worth this much.

As far as Ifil, PFFFFT!

Who cares, the chances of placing anyone with an even headed approach to either McCain or Palin is slim to none. (with do respect to the PBS anchor who did McCain/obama and was very fair)

As a couple point out, yes there is a conflict of interest, however that will find an even balance because she will utterly destroy her career if she goes too far overboard.

The ONLY point of interest I have in the matter, given the publicity now, is will she start the debate by giving the disclaimer and noting the book she has in the can and the subject matter.

Moreover, with all three networks covering it plus Fox which one, if any, will give the same disclaimer before debate start.

They ALL should.

jonathan - "I want them... (Below threshold)
marc:

jonathan - "I want them to have a firm grasp on history"

Ahemmm... see Biden "1929 video" above.

P.S. jonathan "Is it to... (Below threshold)
marc:

P.S. jonathan "Is it too much to as that they be have traveled a bit?"

How much did Edwards travel? If having a passport is the litmus test.. sorry edwards would have failed as many others in the past history.

You want an elitist, you may well get one, (along with the over 500 of them in Congress who can't find their ass with both hands in their pocket) and one that looks to apply and resurrect kerry's global test BS as it relates to U.S. foreign affairs.

"I want my leaders to kn... (Below threshold)

"I want my leaders to know about supreme court decisions."

Yeah, like how Obama supported the DC gun ban to the point that he proposed to enact a five-mile-radius law, wanted to prohibit conceal carry licensing and automatic weapons of all kinds but agreed with the Supreme Court's finding in DC vs Heller.

It's not so much that he straddled the issue (and people bought it). It's that he openly recognized the law, but has no problem with pulling all the teeth out of it and restricting that right to the point of rendering it moot. What good is a gun to me, even in my home, if it's unloaded, bears a trigger lock and is locked in a cabinet?

"We have an awkward history about how to talk about race in the nation and in newsrooms," - Ifill

Well, duh. It couldn't be because offense is so quickly and easily taken at the mere mention of it that people are afraid to open their mouths. I mean, no matter how common-sense one's approach to race is, how does one argue that they're not "subconsciously racist"?

"Obama is one of the elite ... (Below threshold)
Larry:

"Obama is one of the elite as well."

Only in his own mind and in the minds of those who project on him their beliefs to fill his empty rhetoric. I can prove that one.

Any of you Obama supporters want to try me?

After reading obama's audac... (Below threshold)
Judith:

After reading obama's audacity, and his statement that the Constitution makes for good "talking points" but should not be seen as the bare bones of this country, I cannot see any American voting for him. As for Biden, he loves to make up things that sound really good until you ACTUALLY READ THE CONSTITUTION.
I was born in 1949 and was taught in a public school that in this country, anyone could grow up to be president. How unfortunate that my country as devolved to the extent that that statement is now being used to demean a female citizen of the USA.

The bottom line:Gw... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

The bottom line:

Gwen Ifill will benefit financially* if Obama is elected. This is a definite conflict of interest.

If the McCain camp had issue with this, it should have been raised more loudly before this week.

*via her book covering Obama which is scheduled to be released on inauguration day '09.

Thank you, Bill. You're ... (Below threshold)
Clay:

Thank you, Bill. You're representing your party wonderfully.

No, no, no. Thank you, comrade.

And Bill? Maybe stick to The Knucklehead of the Day(tm) from now on. Rachel Ray? Are you serious?




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