Liberal Dream Team to Host Presidential Debates
Monday, 13 Aug 2012
By David A. Patten
Conservative media watchdog Brent Bozell slammed the choice of only mainstream-media correspondents to moderate this year’s presidential debates, which could determine the outcome of the election. And he blames the Republican establishment for letting it happen.
“I scratch my head and ask myself the same question: How are they so dense?” Bozell says. “Here you’ve got Bob Schieffer, who’s been slamming Paul Ryan all weekend long, and he’s going to moderate a debate. And all you’ve got to do is look at the footage of his past debates,” said Bozell. “He’s terrible.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced the schedule for this year’s all-important presidential debates on Monday. No conservative journalists were named.
The first debate will be held in Denver on Oct. 3. It will be moderated by longtime newsman Jim Lehrer of PBS.
“He’s pretty middle-of-the-road as a newsman,” says Bozell. “But watch him on the debates, he tilts strongly to the left.”
The second debate with be moderated by Martha Raddatz, senior foreign affairs correspondent of ABC News. To be held Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky., it will feature the vice presidential candidates: Incumbent Joe Biden of Delaware against GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Because Biden’s strength is foreign affairs, having Raddatz as moderator could work to his advantage. That debate will cover both domestic and international topics, however.
The third debate will be held Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., and will feature Candy Crowley, anchor of CNN’s State of the Union program. “Candy Crowley isn’t that bad, in fact she’s had some positive moments,” Bozell tells Newsmax. “But she’s going to be drinking from the CNN Kool-Aid, and they’re the ones who are going to prepare the questions for her. So it’s going to be predictable.”
The final debate will feature Schieffer, the longtime CBS correspondent and moderator of Face the Nation, on Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. Schieffer is well respected in mainstream-media circles, but has a habit of asking questions on Face the Nation that suggest a point of view. “Has the tea party made compromise a dirty word, and is that why Congress can’t seem to get anything done?” he asked Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., earlier this year.
Bozell says he is “rather surprised” that no one from Fox News will moderate a debate. In November 2010, Fox’s election night coverage drew more viewers in the 10 p.m. slot than any broadcast network. “They’re no longer step-children,” Bozell said of Fox. “They’re major players in this. Why don’t I see Bret Baier, why don’t I see Shephard Smith, and a number of people who are not doctrinaire conservatives by any step of the imagination — why don’t we see them?
“What about Britt Hume?” he added. “Where’s somebody from the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, or Newsmax? It’s not like the left has a monopoly of talent.”
The Romney campaign on Monday referred inquiries about the selection of moderators to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the organization that makes those appointments. Some conservatives have accused that organization of showing a progressive tilt. The Daily Caller reported Monday that its nine-member board includes a past president of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund; as well as Howard Buffett, the son of Berkshire-Hathaway’s No. 1 Obama backer, Warren Buffett.
The debates are drawing extra scrutiny in part because the election is so tight.
In April, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly predicted on CBS this Morning: “What’s going to be decisive are the debates — the three debates,” he said. “Whoever does better in the three will win. That’s how close it’s going to be.”
Debates always play an important role in the run-up to the election. But in some years they appear to be decisive.
In 1980, for example, Ronald Reagan’s famous “there you go again” remark, when he felt incumbent President Jimmy Carter was distorting his positions, was considered a key reason why voters handed him the keys to the Oval Office.
Bozell urges the RNC to make it clear that it will expose any bias from the moderators. “I wish they would make a very public statement that they’re not going to put up with any shenanigans,” says Bozell. “Now if it’s the same-old, same old, where the questions come from left field for Republicans … where it’s hard-balls to one and softballs to another, then I think the Republicans should make it a point to say they’re going to make a big issue of this.”
But he laments that Republicans committed to the panel of debate moderators without insisting on more ideological balance. And he blames GOP leaders for not standing firm. “Unfortunately, nothing’s changed,” he says of the tenor of the debates. “This has been going on for decades.”
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