And the winner is . . . Bob Shieffer!

No, seriously.

For the first time in four debates, nobody is talking about the moderator:

Bob Schieffer sets the standard

Finally, the moderator isn’t the story.

The cardinal rule of debate moderation is this: it isn’t about the moderator. But in the first three debates of the 2012 presidential campaign, the moderator invariably became part of the story: Jim Lehrer lost control; Martha Raddatz took too much; and Candy Crowley stole the spotlight when she decided, on a whim, to fact-check the candidates.

Enter Bob Schieffer, who disarmed the candidates with a Texas septuagenarian’s unassuming charm and facilitated their conversation with the calm confidence that comes from two decades as anchor of a Sunday morning news show.

Never once did President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney disregard his efforts to keep time and move the conversation forward, never once did they ride roughshod over him the way they had over Lehrer and Crowley. All six topics were covered, and when the debate ended, there was but a 35-second discrepancy in their speaking times, according to a clock provided by CNN.

Schieffer was far from perfect. Like Lehrer, he rarely interjected. On more than one occasion, the conversation drifted far from foreign policy — most memorably, to teachers unions and class sizes — and Schieffer stayed silent. (His one minor slip-up, when he accidentally called Osama bin Laden, “Obama bin Laden,” drew attention on Twitter but faded quickly) But by and large, Schieffer fulfilled the mission as defined by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which was to facilitate a fair debate but leave control of the conversation to the candidates.

When I was a kid all the newscasters were somber, serious men who told you the day’s news, but they didn’t make themselves part of it. They all seemed to have gone to the Joe Friday School of Reporting – “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Debate moderators are like referees and umpires – if people are talking about them afterwards it’s not a good thing. Journalism schools should use Shieffer’s and Candy Crowley’s performances as textbook examples of the right and wrong way to do it.

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90 Responses to And the winner is . . . Bob Shieffer!

  1. DM says:

    Today, TV made reporters want to be in showbiz. It’s too bad that Shieffer won’t moderate another debate.

  2. Karma says:

    He really was the winner and it might be the last time we see a moderator playing it straight. Much of the current media/Obots seemed to love the stacked deck versus seeing anything close to a real debate.

    And with CNN’s praise of Candy, you can’t help but wonder if that version will be the new normal.

    • Lulu says:

      I have been thinking lately that there is a level of disgust that really cannot be ignored much longer. Schieffer played it straight and fair and will be praised for what was once normal and professional behavior that was expected from everyone. I watched a video clip yesterday of Soledad O’Prison (an idiot) try to sandbag Giuliani (a RICO trial lawyer) when he anticipated her snarky question and he beat her to the snark. She turned into a complete asshole which is one of the main reasons I refuse to watch anything on CNN. Political spin I can take but I draw the line at watching assholes.

      This morning is a link on HA to a story about TWO books about assholes, what they are, who they are, and why there are currently so many of them. “An a-hole is not a psychopath, but he does feel a right to do what he does — cut to the head of the line, weave in and out of traffic, hijack the conversation — and is surprised by, or simply disregards, others’ objections to his behavior. Also, there is a pettiness to the a-hole’s deeds. And a-holism presupposes a level of intimacy and familiarity.”

      Obama acted like an asshole last night just like he and his supporters have since 2007. Romney didn’t. Everyone is sick of the assholes. The election may be decided on this simple perception and desire to get rid of them from our daily lives.

  3. carol haka says:

    I like Joe Trippi. He actually tells the truth. 👿

  4. wmcb says:

    More Obot slime: Son of WI state senator badly beaten after catching guys trying to steal his Romney yard signs. His face looks bad.

    • tommy says:

      Those brownshirts should be traced and arrested by the cops immediately. I don’t get it. What motivates 2 young guys to go out at 2am, and take down a Romney sign? Its not as if they’re paid to do it. Whats gonna happen if Romney is elected? Are their taxes gonna increase? No. And to compound it, they get violent when caught redhanded. Why are they so personally invested in a O victory, or a R loss? This kind of messianic fealty to O, especially in our youngsters, worries me. At the end of the day, its just a damn politician. Whether he wins or loses, our lives continue to go on.

      • jjmtacoma says:

        That is amazing. The tone of the campaign – they demonize the republicans (or any Obama opponent) as if they are unfit to walk the same earth.

        I think the obama campaign(s) attract violent freaks and they have a culture that encourages disrespect by trying to be the cool kids and everyone else are a bunch of horrible racist old women and redneck white guys.

        I want Obama gone. The most damaging thing he did was take office at a time when a real liberal could have done something great.

  5. wmcb says:

    LOL from last night!

  6. carol haka says:

    I find the way Obama grabs someone and pulls them in way too tight and proceeds to put his hands all over them with the pats really creepy! 👿

    • tommy says:

      And the way O was staring at Romney was creepy too.

    • Pips says:

      Me too. The way he (Michelle does it too) ‘paws’ people, back-slaps, shoulder-pats, upper arm-grabs, always turned me off. He is sooo invading other people’s private space.

      But, truth be told, I don’t think most “regular” people actually mind, as after all he is POTUS. It does mean something to get an opportunity to shake his hand, have your picture taken with him … or being ‘patted’. And I’m not sure they – most – see his pawing them as crossing a line.

  7. bluestate says:

    schieffer actually did have one moment where he let obama go on and on and on. it was when obama was talking about the girl who was grateful he got bin laden or something, and then romney asked if he could respond (because obama began his spiel with an attack on romney) and schieffer was like, you’ve said a lot yourself. and it was kind of like, “boo hoo, my guy is losing. let him make up some ground, jerk.” it was rude, but it wasn’t like candy throwing herself out on the field ridiculous. everybody there knew obama was losing. obama knew obama was losing.

  8. votermom says:

    • votermom says:

      LOL from the article

      It’s almost lucky that Obama isn’t running unopposed in this election because then he’d have nothing to run on at all.

  9. votermom says:

    LOL at the photo

  10. Pingback: It’s the Ohio, Stupid!

  11. angienc says:

    The Obots (including those in the MSM) don’t seem to understand that with 2 weeks until the election Obama still needing to throw red meat to his base is not him “winning.”
    Romney’s objective was to show he was fit to be CiC, to reassure women voters & woo undecideds; Obama’s was to paint Romney as a warmongering neo-con who was going to get us into another war. Clearly, Romney met his objectives (CNN poll — 60% said he was qualified to be CiC) and Obama didn’t. More proof Romney met his objectives:

  12. votermom says:

    GOP ad based on post- debate punditry

  13. tommy says:

    Yep, Scheiffer did good. Somehow I get the feeling that the younger generation of journalists are getting more meaner and nastier. No standards or quality, just talking points and pushing a narrative has become the norm.

    • ME says:

      Instead of telling us the news the younger journalists want to BE the news. They come out of school wanting to change the world or be the next Woodward and Bernstein. They understand how much power they have as media and they happily use it. All of Romney’s “gaffes” were simply media created small non issues. I think most of them are news readers who are to dim to cover meaty topics so they are left with “gaffes” and binders.

    • I agree with Lulu upthread; ie, today’s journalists all grow up wanting to go into the field because they want to be TeeVee stars, not because journalism or politics or war or history or culture or sports or even *anything* substantive excites them. Scheiifer is so old he was growing up practically before tv even existed for lords sake.

      • myiq2xu says:

        The original talking heads like Walter Conkrite started out doing radio and newsreels during WWII. On the early news shows they just sat there and read the news to people because there were no visuals to show people. It was like radio except you could see the announcer.

  14. angienc says:

    Ha, ha! The Obots are all in a flutter over bayonets on twitter — that Big Bird, Binders & now Bayonets — they’ve got a thing for “Bs.” They actually think that line *helped* them.

    Team Obama is crying that Romney has “moved to the middle” — all presidential candidates move to the middle in the GE (or at least, the successful ones do) — if they don’t know that, no wonder Obama’s going to lose.

  15. Pips says:

    Haven’t watched the debate (yet?), but big thanks to everyone for the comments, opinions and the many laughs. 😆

    But … that said it seems you have all missed the most important part of the debate: ‘Horses and bayonets’ !

    You can add that to ‘Big Bird’ and ‘Binders’ as crucial election points. (Courtesy of Stephanie Cutter I’m sure, snort.)

  16. myiq2xu says:


    Somehow I get the feeling that these people aren’t really “undecided”

  17. votermom says:

  18. Pips says:

    Checked in at RCP earlier and saw these two headlines side by side (okay: the one below the other) and gathered it signified what must have been viewed as a tie:

    Obama Wins on Style and Substance – Joe Klein, Time
    Romney Won Unequivocally – Charles Krauthammer, FOX News

    But when, hours later, I turned back, I was puzzled to see that Joe Klein’s headline had gone, and most of the headlines were now positive towards Romney’s performance? 😯

    But maybe it’s all just a coincidence.

    • myiq2xu says:

      There is a reason they call him Joke Line

    • angienc says:

      Because you can’t say Obama won on “substance” when he got things demonstrably (that are easily verifiable) wrong, such as his yelling “check the record” about Romney *not* calling for a managed bankruptcy of GM with gov’t back guarantees as needed (which Romney most certainly did call for), or that the military doesn’t use horses & bayonets anymore.
      Also, you can’t say Obama won on “style” when all he did was throw out red meat “zingers” such as “1980 called, they want their foreign policy back” that has no appeal outside of the Kos Kidz Krowd.
      Clearly, Romney won on both style AND substance.

      • bluestate says:

        Because you can’t say Obama won on “substance” when he got things demonstrably (that are easily verifiable) wrong

        exactly. romney won on both.

  19. votermom says:

    For all the PA peeps

    RR moving 60 staffers into PA
    GOP hoping to use Tom Smith win to offset possible Akin loss in Senate

    • Nate Silver says (I know, I’m a broken record, sorry) taking on PA would be a bold and impressive play for Romney and that the upside could be enormous:

      “the FiveThirtyEight forecast model has liked it for a long while as a high-upside play for Mr. Romney, since winning it would devastate Mr. Obama’s electoral map and since Mr. Romney has relatively few other opportunities to play offense. Pennsylvania is almost certainly a more plausible win than Minnesota or Michigan, for instance.”

      • DandyTiger says:

        Funnily enough, some Obot friends who are on staff are being moved from WI to MI. Apparently MI isn’t quite as safe as some would like either. 🙂

      • angienc says:

        Nate Silver is an Obama flack and his magic “model” is a bunch of b.s. — he gives “weight” to polls based on whether he likes the overall outcome (i.e., ones showing Obama ahead are always given more weight than ones that don’t) instead of on the info inside the polls. But even he can see that his credibility is on the line now, especially after he blew the 2010 midterms.
        BTW — I think Romney is going to win Michigan, too.

    • britgirls says:

      Eeeeek! I’m excited! Really want my state to make a difference for a change!

  20. indigogrrl1 says:

    Ya know ~ So Iget assaulted on a regular basis from the Obots with a FB page that is titled “I love it when I wake up and Barack Obama is President”.

    I can’t wait to join a FB page that sez ” I love it when I wake up and President PissyPants has still moved to Hawaii”

    • mcnorman says:

      Title it “eviction notice served” and POTUS and PissyPants are relocated, and then you will get lots and lots of haters.

    • DandyTiger says:

      LOL. I’m looking forward to that too.

    • myiq2xu says:

      In February 2013 an old man walks up to the guard shack at the White House and asks to see President Obama. The guard says, “Sir, Obama is no longer the president.” The man just smiles and walks away. Same thing happens every day for four days.

      On the fifth day, the guard stops him before he can even ask and says, “Sir I’ve already told you, Obama is no longer president.” The man just smiles and says, “I know, I just like hearing you say that.”

      The guard smiles. “See you tomorrow, sir!”

  21. votermom says:

    I’m stealing tweets from the transcript Denise linked to – thanks Denise!!! 🙂

  22. tommy says:

    Yay, todays Rasmussens national poll has R touching 50 for the first time and is up by 4. R-50, O-46. Is Rassie going the way of Gallup? Sure looks like it.

  23. yttik says:

    I think many Obama supporters are having a hard time seeing their emperor has no clothes. They watched the debates wanting to recapture some of that hope and change, but what they got was this overly aggressive, petulant man child. That’s okay is you’re a commentator at Dkos, but most people don’t want to see those qualities in the leader of the free world.

  24. votermom says:

    just my opinion …

    • angienc says:

      That’s 100% right — the cons who are complaining are showing why they haven’t won national elections. Obama was chomping on the bit trying to get Romney to take the Libya bait — he didn’t. Anyone who doesn’t think Obama had some rehearsed “gotcha” to serve on Romney is kidding themselves because with Obama it doesn’t matter if he lies or changes his story (again!). Look at what happened with his ridiculous “I called it an act of terror on day 1” semantics game from the last debate — the MSM defended him on it! And then, when it dawned on them that Romney’s second part of his statement (initially lost in the shuffle of Obama trying to speak over him telling Crowley to move on to the next question) that Susan Rice went out that Sunday with the “spontaneous protest over a video” lie actually made Obama look *worse* if he himself had called it an “act of terror on day 1” WaPo magically gets inside info that there was a CIA talking points memo with that video lie in it is what Rice used (never mind that the CIA doesn’t write talking points memos, only intel reports). The fact that Obama actually has access to the “inside scoop” & the MSM will cover for him no matter what, made anything Romney said on Libya a trap — Romney was smart enough to realize that.

      • bluestate says:

        The fact that Obama actually has access to the “inside scoop” & the MSM will cover for him no matter what, made anything Romney said on Libya a trap — Romney was smart enough to realize that.

        perfect analysis.

  25. wyntre says:

    Agree. Schieffer might be a lib but he’s also a real journalist and a pro.

    Kudos to him.

    • angienc says:

      Just like Jim Lehrer from first debate, IMO. The two old schools guys were the only ones who actually “moderated” the debates.

  26. there is something buffoony about dick Morris, but he is also very smart, and I believe that he gets the debate analysis just about right. It is hard watching the msm roll over for Obama, but what Morris says is that Romney got the tone perfectly for the people he needed to reach to win….

  27. gxm17 says:

    Glad to hear the debate went well. My husband, king of the DVR, just couldn’t take it and switched to one of the many car shows he has taped. I went upstairs to watch it but my 4-year old grandson followed me and wanted to play on my iPad instead, so no debate for me.

    I’ll tell ya one thing though, the silence of the obots is downright eerie. I guess I got so used to all their incessant bleating, the quiet is nice but unsettling.

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