The approval ratings for this campaign’s debate moderators have been very low. Jim Lehrer lost control of the debate, Martha Raddatz acted like one of the candidates, and Candy Crowley was obviously carrying water for President Obama. What can we reasonably expect from Bob Schieffer?
After three (and soon to be four) moderating performances that left a lot to be desired, isn’t it time to alter the role of the moderator by making them more moderate? Maybe selecting a moderator who isn’t a news personality would be a good start. Or what if the highest rated cable news channel was allowed to host a debate? Perhaps the left wing media mafia fears Fox News Channel, and rightly so. FNC led all of cable news in viewership during Tuesday night’s debate, with 11.1 million viewers. That was more than CNN and MSNBC’s viewership combined, and the debate was even being hosted by CNN! Isn’t it ridiculous that Fox News is being snubbed by the political community, and not allowed to host a debate even though they are the most watched channel on cable?
Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, or Chris Wallace would all do a fantastic job as moderator. At least we know that they would be fair to both candidates. Candy Crowley seemed like an NFL Replacement Referee in the last debate. The Libya question that Crowley dismissed and let Obama get away with resembled the infamous call in last month’s Seahawks-Packers game. The President was caught in a lie. He couldn’t even answer Romney’s challenge. “Proceed Governor” was all he could say. Would Crowley have come to Romney’s rescue if he was caught knee deep in a lie? We all know the answer to that question.
I would be in favor of seeing a debate that wasn’t hosted by big name news personalities. The headlines the morning after each debate shouldn’t be about the moderator. When we allow media giants to moderate, attention ends up being largely focused on their performance. They see it as their chance to make headlines and garner attention. That is why Raddatz and Crowley both took such active roles in the last two debates. Either they are in the tank for Obama, or are just looking to get their own names in the papers. This is why I thought Jim Lehrer did a good job. While many thought he was too passive as a moderator, I thought that he did his job the way it should be done!
The debate should be about the issues and the candidates, and it should be left to them to do the arguing. When the moderator becomes an attention seeker and acts like a third candidate, then the objective of the debate is lost. Since both moderators in the last two debates haven’t been very moderate, I long for a change in debate format. Crowley interrupted Romney 19 more times than the President, and obviously covered Obama’s tracks on the Libya question. Even liberals must admit this is unfair. However, even the biased moderating performances of Raddatz and Crowley have not given Obama any help in the polls. That’s how weak his record is. The media now is doing anything it can to give him an edge.
Maybe in the 2016 campaign we will see better moderating. I propose that the Commission on Presidential Debates appoint one of their own members to moderate. This would insure an unbiased and moderate moderating performance, with the absence of an ambitious news personality seeking an advancement of agenda. Sadly, I don’t think this will ever happen, but I do believe that Fox News will one day be granted a Presidential Debate. The Media Community cannot simply ignore Fox’s dominance anymore. The most watched cable news network deserves a debate, and after the dismal performances of this year’s moderators, I am sure that they will get one in the next election.
Colin Snell | Burlington College | @SnellColin