Cenk Uygur at HuffPost argues that Ifill failed in her job as moderator last night and here's why:
Because all she did was pose simple questions that were easily deflected with prepared talking points. That's not a debate; that's a boring, fairly useless, series of mini-speeches. If you don't probe beyond the initial non-answer, you are simply not doing your job. That's a disservice to the American people who came to find out if these people know what they're talking about and what their real plans for the country are.
Was Ifill's timidty due to the surrounding controversy regarding her forthcoming Obama book? It's impossible to say. But this we do know for sure: If every four years the Commission on Presidential Debates didn't select moderators from the same extremely small, elite circle of Beltway media insiders, than perhaps potential conflicts like this wouldn't come up.
Believe it or not, there are more than four of five Americans who are qualified to moderate a debate. It's time for the commission to branch out and tap other talent.
Yesterday we noted Pearlsteain, during a Post online chat with readrs, mocked liberal bloggers for not understanding the Wall Street bailout story. He said thank God the mainstream media was around to explain it to everyone.
Greenwald took issue with that (and this was just Greenwald's warm up):
Nothing is easier and cheaper -- or more worthless -- than making sweeping, categorical criticisms of large groups without bothering to identify a single specific. Who specifically are the "left-wing bloggers" spouting ill-informed and misleading statements in opposition to the bailout? Specifically, what have they said that isn't true, and which "mainstream media" reporters have "actually do[ne] reporting" and "understand things" and thus saved the country from being misled by the blogging-morons who dare to oppose the bailout?
The Washington Post turned to five people to assess last night's VP debate for its "Topic A" feature:
Political analysts, pollsters and others assess Joe Biden and Sarah Palin's debate. Here are contributions from: Carter Eskew, Greg Mueller, Jeremy Lott, Ed Rogers, Douglas E. Schoen.
Here's how the Post described the five:
Eskew: "Chief strategist for Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign"
Mueller: "Republican strategist; former senior aide to Steve Forbes's and Pat Buchanan's presidential campaigns; president of CRC Public Relations"
Lott: Author of 'The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency'"
Rogers: "White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; group chairman of BGR Holding"
Schoen: "Democratic pollster and author of 'Declaring Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two-Party System'"
Looks pretty balanced, right? Two Democrats, two Republicans, and a neutral expert on the Vice Presidency (Lott.)
Except ... Jeremy Lott has been assistant managing editor for the far-right American Spectator, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and was Manager of Editorial Services at the Cato Institute.
Given his right-wing bona fides, is it any surprise Lott praised Palin's performance and panned Biden's?
Of course not. Lott is anything but the neutral observer the Post led readers to think he is.
In his pro-Palin column in the NYTimes, Brooks, the embodiment of an East Coast Beltway elite and self-styled intellectual (he actually starts off his column by citing "midcentury psychologist Abraham Maslow"), cheered the fact that all night Paliln advertised "she was not of Washington, did not admire Washington and knew little about Washington. She ran not only against Washington, but the whole East Coast, just to be safe."
He went on to note how Palin's "accent, her colloquialisms and her constant invocations of the accoutrements of everyday" likely connected with "casual parts of the country."
In essence, Brooks, the conservative East Coast intellectual, toasted the fact that Palin projected an anti-East Coast, anti-intellectual style (she was folksy!), while conceding she didn't win on substance.
Another example of how campaigns can force pundits out of their comfort zones?
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker:
Well, darnit all, if that dadgum girl (wink, wink) didn't beat the tarnation out of Joe Biden. ... Palin is a populist pro. She hit all the notes that resonate with non-elite Americans: family (Hi Mom and Dad!), "Can I call ya Joe?" personal responsibility, Wall Street greed, children with special needs. Her most effective technique was speaking directly to the American people and letting Joe know that's what she was gonna do, doggonit. Stylistically, she used the language of the people to great effect. ... I'll have to go to the transcript to figure out what Palin actually said and try to figure out whose facts were right. But there's no question: She won the debate on popularity.
Uncommitted voters who watched the vice presidential debate thought Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden did the best job by a margin of more than two to one, according to a CBS News/Knowledge Networks poll taken immediately following the debate.
Forty-six percent of these uncommitted viewers said Biden won the debate Thursday night, while 21 percent said Palin won. Thirty-three percent thought it was a tie.
Even a quarter of Republican uncommitted voters thought Biden won the debate.
A national poll of people who watched the vice presidential debate Thursday night suggests that Democratic Sen. Joe Biden won, but also says Republican Gov. Sarah Palin exceeded expectations.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. said 51 percent of those polled thought Biden did the best job, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job.
Respondents thought Biden was better at expressing his views, giving him 52 percent to Palin's 36 percent.
On the question of the candidates' qualifications to assume the presidency, 87 percent of those polled said Biden is qualified and 42 percent said Palin is qualified.
Between reporting and opinion. We've noticed this in the past; Politico puts up a big sweeping piece, often co-written by two of its most prominent writers, that to us read like straight editorials because they're pure opinion about the days big events.
This morning the Politico does that with a debate wrap-up. In this case, we happen to agree wtih the Politico's assessment about who 'won' and 'lost' the debate in St. Louis. ("It is hard to count any objective measures by which Biden did not clearly win the encounter.")
But it strikes us as bad form to have the daily's writers post opinion like that and not label it or present as as such, as least with an "analysis" tag. It's only going to lead to trouble down the road.
Following the debate, Fox News pollster Luntz suggested there would be a "shift" in the national polls in the direction of McCain-Obama thanks to Palin's St. Louis performance.
That, he said, was based on the responses registered among Luntz's debate focus group members. How many focus group participants changed their votes and moved over to the GOP side after the debate? Three.
Meanwhile, actual debate polls raise doubts about a pending "shift."
And here's what happened when CNN polled its focus group:
She's the National Review columnist who created a major stir last week when she wrote that Palin should drop off the GOP ticket because she was, bascially, an embarrassment. She was in over her head, Parker announced.
But wouldn't you know, appearing on MSNBC tonight, Parker herself suggested that all Palin had to was show up at the debate and she'd "be fine."