Two days after CNN's Candy Crowley called Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan the "Death Wish Ticket," the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that she will moderate one of the three presidential debates to be held in October:
Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and Michael D. McCurry, co-chairmen of the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), today announced the moderators for the 2012 general election presidential and vice presidential debates. The moderators, and the schedule and locations for the debates (as announced on October 31, 2011), are as follows:
First presidential debate:
Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor of the PBS NewsHour
Wednesday, October 3, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Vice presidential debate:
Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, ABC News
Thursday, October 11, Centre College, Danville, KY
Second presidential debate (town meeting):
Candy Crowley, Chief Political Correspondent, CNN and Anchor, CNN's State of the Union
Tuesday, October 16, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Third presidential debate:
Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News and Moderator, Face the Nation
Monday, October 22, Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL
Fahrenkopf and McCurry said that, "The new formats chosen for this year's debates are designed to focus big time blocks on major domestic and foreign topics. These journalists bring extensive experience to the job of moderating, and understand the importance of using the expanded time periods to maximum benefit. We are grateful for their willingness to moderate, and confident that the public will learn more about the candidates and the issues as a result."
The selection of Crowley, CBS's Bob Schieffer, and PBS's Jim Lehrer call into question the neutrality of the Commission on Presidential Debates. In 2008, they selected PBS's Gwen Ifill to moderate the Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. Ms. Ifill's favorable book about Obama, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was scheduled for publication in early 2009. Critics argued the book deal gave her a financial as well an ideological interest in an Obama electoral victory.
According to its website, "[t]he Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners."
But critics wonder why the commission continues to trot out journalists with documented moments of non-neutral attacks on conservatives or advocacy of progressives. Invariably, their questioning of the candidates is perceived as biased against the Republican candidate and in favor of the Democratic candidate.
In addition to Crowley's recent biased comments about the Romney-Ryan ticket, another moderator, CBS's Bob Schieffer, has displayed his own troubling biases. As Newsbusters reported:
On Monday's CBS This Morning, Bob Schieffer again forwarded the liberal talking point that GOP vice presidential apparent Paul Ryan's budget plan would drastically cut federal spending. Schieffer claimed, "There's some really tough stuff in there. I mean, he really slashes into social programs...it's across the board – in order to try to get this budget back into balance." Ryan's proposal actually increases spending, but at a lower rate than President Obama's plan.
The Face the Nation host also touted what former Democratic Rep. David Obey said about Rep. Ryan: "I just can't imagine why a guy that nice could have the views that he has."
William Jacobson, a professor at Cornell Law School who blogs at Legal Insurrection, suggested that ABC's Jake Tapper would have been a better choice than Crowley:
The commission should have chosen Jake Tapper of ABC News as the moderator in place of Crowley, who is perceived as biased. Tapper is one of the few mainstream journalists who been willing to ask hard questions of the Obama administration, while not being viewed as partisan himself.
John Miller, a professor of journalism at Hillsdale College and an editor at National Review, suggested ABC's Jonathan Karl.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and former Bill Clinton Press Secretary Michael D. McCurry serve as the commission's co-chairmen. Janet H. Brown is the Executive Director. In theory, the bipartisan nature of the commission's leadership is supposed to lead to the selection of "fair" moderators. But it's very difficult for the commission to select unbiased moderators if they continue to limit their candidate pool to left-wing media.
Michael Patrick Leahy is a Breitbart News contributor, Editor of Broadside Books’ Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.