Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I know I have been silent here for a while, which I apologize for. The stuff that is dominating my attention these days is not really stuff that I want to blog about, which leaves me with little to write about.

I can, however, cover the debate, right?! If the first debate was a resounding win for Romney, this one was a narrower win for Obama. He was much more engaged, much sharper and seemed like he was much more prepared. That shouldn't be a surprise, as he was pretty routinely beaten up after the first debate, which you would imagine would encourage him to take this one more seriously.

But, what I really want to talk about is moderator etiquette, because I feel like Candy Crowley was a complete disaster last night, and she committed a mistake that has huge ramifications. The moment in question was, by many accounts, the single biggest point of the night for Obama...Romney accused him of staying silent on the Benghazi attacks for two weeks, and Obama claimed that he called it an act of terrorism the very next day.

The truth is that Obama's rose garden speech depicted the attack as an extension of the outcry over a movie that Muslims find offensive. He did eventually refer to "acts of terror" but he never explicitly called this attack a terrorist action.

Side note: I find this to be incredibly unimportant, and the whole argument to be stupidly semantic. It also had nothing to do with the question they were both allegedly answering. But that isn't my point.

Crowley corrected Romney, saying that Obama had called it a terrorist action in his remarks the next day in the Rose Garden. I have two problems with this. First, a moderator should never correct a fact if that "fact" is open to some interpretation.  I would tend to give Obama the benefit of the doubt on whether or not he intended to label this explicitly...but there is clearly some room for argument. If a moderator is going to tell a candidate that he is absolutely, positively wrong, then he better be absolutely, positively wrong...not "mostly wrong".

My second problem is that this was a debate with back and forth, and Obama had plenty of time and opportunity to make that correction himself. It's his role to engage with Romney over facts and interpretations of events...not Crowley's. In fact, Romney was trying to direct that question directly to Obama, and she intervened on Obama's behalf. She is there to ask questions, keep them on schedule and follow the rules, not to insert herself into the debate. At least not in a "Town Hall"...if this were the two of them in a Meet The Press style interview, it would have been much more appropriate, but not here.

Until that point, I thought the debate was pretty even. That was a huge point for Obama, and he proceeded to really own that whole segment (a segment that probably should have been a liability for was his best work and Romney's worst all night). That segment, to me, was the only part of the night that was clearly dominated by one candidate...and the moderator played too large a role in that.

On another subject, the unwillingness of each of them to answer the questions they are asked is really maddening. This is where we really miss Tim Russert...


Katie said...

I tried to watch but eventually fell asleep. Its all just rhetoric and exaggerations from both sides. Like you said, I really never felt like either of them answered the actual questions.

I really wonder if anyone watching the debates does so in order to finalize their decision? I would imagine most people have their mind made up one way or another.

What might be more maddening than the actual debates is seeing everyone's FB statuses commenting on everything that happens.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I stopped watching the debates. I find my time and energy are much better spent reading follow-up articles that fact check what the candidates claim.