In the movie business they call it “foreshadowing.” My grandma would have said “You shoulda oughta seen that coming.” The campaigns apparently did, because they tried to stop it. But nobody puts Candy in a corner.
Moderator Candy Crowley promised Tuesday that she won’t be afraid to insert herself into the conversation at tonight’s town hall debate despite pressure from the campaigns to largely keep quiet.
The presidential campaigns put together a “memorandum of understanding” mandating that the moderator of the town-hall style debate “not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits.” The document is not released to the public but was leaked to Time Magazine, and it details how the campaigns come together to agree to a set of rules designed to protect the candidates from unexpected moments.
After Crowley said last week that she planned to assert herself during the town hall debate – telling CNN that “[o]nce 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?’” – the campaigns complained to the Commission on Presidential Debates that she wasn’t following their script. While the Commission is independent and did not publicly sign off on the memorandum of understanding, it is effectively controlled by the major parties.
Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the Commission, told CBS News Monday that Crowley “got out in front of herself” in discussing her role as moderator. He said the Commission had passed along the campaigns’ concerns to Crowley and stated that it is not her job, for example, to note that the State Department disputes what a candidate has said.
Crowley did not sign off on the memorandum of understanding, and she continues to assert that she will not simply stand on the debate sidelines.
Now there is a novel concept – a debate moderator that stays out of the debate!
Guess what happened?
CNN correspondent and second presidential debate moderator Candy Crowley disgraced herself tonight, repeatedly intervening to save a floundering President Obama and showing why many Americans were rightfully suspicious of her ability to moderate a presidential debate fairly.
Her most outrageous act tonight was her incorrect seconding of Obama’s statement that he declared the Libya terrorist attacks to be “terror.” While Obama did indeed use the word, this is not what he meant by it. Instead, he was simply referring to “acts of terror.” There was no mention of Al Qaeda or any of its affiliates with respect to the actual attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.
Crowley bungled the facts in attempting to save Obama from his administration’s dreadful bungling of the Libya situation. She owes the American people an apology for inserting herself into the debate in such an inappropriate and embarrassing fashion.
Obama deliberately quoted himself out of context and Crowley not only allowed him to do so, she validated his intentionally narrow reading of the facts even before he pleaded for her to come to his rescue.
It wasn’t until she was confronted by Anderson Cooper afterwards that Crowley admitted that Romney was correct. By then the damage was done. But she still didn’t apologize.
Crowley did a lousy job of timekeeping too, allowing President Obama to have nearly 10% more time than Mitt Romney (44:04 for Obama vs. 40:50 for Romney). At one point Obama had a 5 minute advantage. In order to accomplish that inequality Crowley repeatedly interrupted and/or cut-off Romney when he was trying to respond.
BTW – As you might guess, Chris Matthews thought she did a great job.