CNN’s Candy Crowley recently called Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan the “death wish ticket.” So her bias is no secret. But unlike many mainstream media reporters, she knows better than what she is fed by the Obama administration.
That is partly why the Obama campaign has joined the Romney campaign in complaining to the Commission on Presidential Debates about recent statements that she would play an active role.
Crowley said last week: “Once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?'” In other words, she would pose challenging follow-up questions to the candidates after they had answered each question from the audience. Certainly moderators have done that in the past: in the GOP primary, the moderators routinely rephrased audience questions themselves.
For the second presidential debate, which will follow a town hall format, the campaigns had agreed to a more limited role for the moderator. The Romney campaign fears a more active moderator–for good reason: both of the previous moderators interrupted the Republican candidate more often and showed greater deference to the Democratic incumbents, with Martha Raddatz in particular attacking Paul Ryan’s views repeatedly.
The Obama campaign does not fear Crowley’s political views. It fears her knowledge of the facts. And the last thing it wants is someone knowledgeable fact-checking Obama onstage. (Imagine the disaster if Raddatz had done that with any one of Vice President Joe Biden’s numerous misstatements of fact.) Crowley has shown a tendency to do just that, even if she favors Obama’s broad political and philosophical approach generally.
On Sunday, we saw both versions of Crowley on CNN’s State of the Union. There was the liberal cheerleader, hyping an obscure poll that projected an implausible 2-point lead for Obama over Romney in Arizona, where even left-wing pollsters have given Romney a clear lead. Mike Flynn noted that the pollster had vastly overestimated Latino voter turnout, ignoring its own evidence that they were the least likely to turn out of any group.
And then there was Crowley the fact-checker, contesting Robert Gibbs’s false claim that Mitt Romney’s initial statement on the 9/11 embassy attacks had referred to the attack in Benghazi. As Crowley correctly noted, Romney’s statement focused on the Obama administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, in which both the embassy and the State Department had apologized for an obscure anti-Islam video.
The Obama campaign and its more pliant mainstream media allies would prefer that the public believe Romney was referring to the Benghazi attack alone, rather than reacting to the administration’s weak response to the Cairo attack. (The State Department did react with outrage to the former, but offered abject apologies for the latter–apologies that were both disowned by, then essentially repeated by, the White House itself.)
The Candy Crowley that appears onstage at Hofstra University could very well shill for Obama. But if she does, and if she fails to ask “about X, Y and Z”–or asks Romney alone such questions–it will be because of a conscious choice, made under extreme pressure from the Obama campaign.
She may be a liberal reporter, but she’s a tough one regardless, and voters should hope she will remain so, for both sides, on Tuesday.