The McCain Campaign Throws The Gauntlet Down Against Gwen Ifill

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Ah, the soft bigotry of lowered expectations... The McCain campaign is on overdrive to manage the upcoming vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Over the last week, they have demanded limiting the response time to 90 seconds (perfect for the wordy but meaningless "pageant" answers she's prone to give), set up the framework that tough questions are "gotcha" questions and any of Biden's responses may be sexist and patronizing. Now they are suggesting that moderator Gwen Ifill may not be nonpartisan enough to moderate the debate, since she authored a book on politics and race, even though the McCain camp approved of her selection (you'll remember she moderated the 2004 VP debate between Cheney and Edwards) AFTER her book had been published. Media Matters' Country Fair:

The right wing is in a frenzy about the fact that Gwen Ifill is working on a book about "emerging young African American politicians," which supposedly means she cannot be neutral during the VP debate she is moderating tomorrow night. Since the right wing is in a frenzy, we can be pretty sure the establishment media is about to join in.

Two things to keep in mind:

1) The October 7 presidential debate will be moderated by NBC's Tom Brokaw, who currently serves as NBC's liaison to the McCain campaign -- while spreading pro-McCain misinformation on Meet the Press. In fact, the McCain campaign hand-picked Tom Brokaw to moderate the October 7 debate[..]

2) CBS' Bob Schieffer moderated one of the 2004 debates, despite the fact that he is a longtime friend of George W. Bush who had previously acknowledged that his personal relationship with Bush made it difficult to cover him. Schieffer's brother was a business partner of Bush's before Bush became president -- and Bush made him an ambassador.

On Tuesday's Fox & Friends, McCain Sr Policy Advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer throws a subtle shot across the bow at Ifill, warning that there will be serious questions to answer for if there are too many foreign policy questions in the debate:


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DOOCY: It sounds like they're stacking the deck against her, because they know...everybody knows that's Joe Biden's...you know, that's his forte. Why wouldn't they ask half and half or...the average person is more concerned with domestic stuff than foreign stuff anyway.

PFOTENHAUER: Exactly, so I think that whoever...you know, I think the moderator will have some...some serious questions to answer themselves if they do do go so heavily foreign policy.

Steve Benen:

I suspect Republicans don't really care about Ifill or her book, but are raising a fuss so that a) they'll have an excuse if Palin fails to meet expectations tomorrow night; and b) they might "work the ref" and pressure Ifill into going easy on Palin.

Regardless of whether the "outrage" is sincere or not, this is likely to be the Republican cause of the day. Joe Scaborough was all over this story earlier on MSNBC, the far-right blogs are livid, Drudge is on the case, and one assumes other outlets will soon follow.

By the way, Jezebel looked at the 2004 Vice Presidential debate and guess what? Heavily focused on foreign policy.

UPDATE: There's still a chance that McCain will do another of his patented Hail Marys to stop the debate. Media Bloodhound offers some suggestions on how he might distract the media from his running partner.

Transcripts below the fold:

DOOCY: Well, alright, there is a debate camp this week for Sarah Palin. What can you tell us about it?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I think that we're working with the governor to focus her on what she's likely to run into in this debate. I mean, obviously you could have a series of "gotcha questions". She's going to be up against Joe Biden, who is a very proficient debater. My guess is that they're going to go very heavily on foreign policy, where I would prefer normally in vice presidential debates, you see a more even-handed approach, particularly with the challenges that we're facing with the nation's economy. So I would hope that the questions would be more even-handed...

DOOCY: Nancy, it sounds like...

PFOTENHAUER: ...I'm projecting about 60% foreign policy.

DOOCY: It sounds like they're stacking the deck against her, because they know...everybody knows that's Joe Biden's...you know, that's his forte. Why wouldn't they ask half and half or...the average person is more concerned with domestic stuff than foreign stuff anyway.

PFOTENHAUER: Exactly, so I think that whoever...you know, I think the moderator will have some...some serious questions to answer themselves if they do do go so heavily foreign policy. But you know, what we say internally is look, if it's a war of words against Joe Biden, you're fighting to get a word in edgewise. If it's a battle of wits, we like her chances and we think she'll do a fine job.

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