Democratic Debate Moderators: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

John Dickerson Moderator at Dem debate (Alex Wong / Getty)
Alex Wong / Getty

The moderators at the second Democratic debate at Drake University in Iowa on Saturday, led by John Dickerson of CBS News, did a slightly better job than moderators had done at most past debates–but only slightly.

While they asked a few probing questions–notably, about foreign policy–and allowed a healthy back-and-forth between the candidates, some of the questions showed an obvious partisan bias in the Democrats’ favor.

Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly in the Democratic debate.

The good: Moderator John Dickerson asked several questions about Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, putting Hillary Clinton on the spot about whether the Obama administration’s policy had failed. He produced the revealing response that Clinton is unwilling to name “radical Islam” as the enemy. Her colleagues also declined to use it. Dickerson even provoked Bernie Sanders to reaffirm that he believed climate change is a bigger threat than terror. The presence of local journalists on the panel was also a plus.

The bad: Dickerson asked Clinton about the recent upheaval on college campuses: “[R]ecently, at the University of Missouri, that activism was very, very effective. So would you suggest that kind of activism take place at other universities across the country?” It was a relevant question, but failed entirely to challenge her (or any other candidate) about the suppression of free speech at Missouri, and the general wave of political correctness. No Republican would be asked a question phrased in such empathic terms.

The ugly: Dickerson’s last question was: “Soon after your inauguration, you will face a crisis. All presidents do. What crisis you have experienced in your life that suggests you’ve been tested and can face that inevitable challenge?” A giant softball. Hillary Clinton claimed her biggest crisis was the Osama bin Laden raid (!). At the CNBC debate, Republicans were asked about “your biggest weakness” and “what are you doing to address it,” not how it would help them become better presidents. Bias as usual.


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