There's a whole lot of rationalizing going on in media circles over the laughable and admitted stump-speech-disguised-as-a-Vice-Presidential-debate last week. Moderator Gwen Ifill apparently thinks that if the candidates themselves weren't worried about staying on topic or engaging one another, it wasn't her job to make them do so.
The understanding was that we were going to have a debate. And one of the interesting things about debates, that people forget -- especially with this one, there was so much obsession about Sarah Palin -- is that there are two people on stage. And their job – you know this, you’re doing this Tuesday night – are to debate each other. The moderator’s job is to control their debate. If they have decided, as Joe Biden decided, that he was going to debate John McCain and she decided she was going to give a stump speech to the American people, there’s very little a moderator can do, other than say, “No, no, no, listen, I ask the questions! Please, please answer!” So I guess I knew going in that they all had their goals for that debate.
I was taken, going in, it can now be said, by how many of the questions that people volunteered to me were all about her. There was 99%, I would say, was all about her. 99% of the analysis afterward were about her. It was as if Joe Biden wasn’t part of this deal. And if she wasn’t challenged on the things she said that were not completely correct, or if she wasn’t challenged on changing the subject and answering the questions, by her competitor, I had another job to do at the table.
By her own admission, Ifill recognizes that it's the moderator's job to control the debate--and says that Palin "blew her off"--but since neither of the candidates called out the other for not following the debate rules, she has "another job at the table". Um, huh?
Why bother having a moderator at that point, Ifill? What other job was monopolizing your time?
Transcripts below the fold: