Former ABC News president David Westin today addressed the Candy Crowley debate-moderation controversy on a segment of HuffPost Live. As reported today by Time magazine, a memorandum signed by both campaigns stipulates that Crowley, who will moderate tomorrow night’s presidential town-hall-style debate at Hofstra University, shall refrain from doing several moderatory things:
“In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic. . . . The moderator will 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, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.”
Talk about a light workload!
Westin put the Crowley situation in perspective: In 2004, he accompanied ABC’s Charlie Gibson to St. Louis, where Gibson would moderate a town-hall meeting between incumbent George W. Bush and challenger John Kerry at Washington University. Westin, Gibson and Mark Halperin sorted through questions together before the debate. “By the way, Charlie did follow up on some of the questions, if you go back to that debate. Because he thought that was his job,” said Westin.
Let’s do what Westin suggests. Here’s a transcript of that now-eight-year-old clash. Did Gibson really stick out his neck?
Indeed. At one point in the proceedings, Kerry was asked whether there’d be another terrorist attack on American soil. He responded that it’s “not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”
Gibson then did the unthinkable: following up on the matter.
GIBSON: I want to extend for a minute, Senator. And I’m curious about something you said. You said, It’s not when, but if. You think it’s inevitable because the sense of security is a very basic thing with everybody in this country worried about their kids.
Again, the moderator inserted himself on the question of so-called lawsuit abuse:
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, we got several questions along this line, and I’m just curious if you’d go further on what you talked about with tort reform. Would you be favoring capping awards on pain and suffering? Would you limit attorney’s fees?
And yet again — this guy wouldn’t have passed muster with this year’s prez campaigns! — he barged into the proceedings:
GIBSON: I have heard you both say during the campaign, I just heard you say it, that you’re going to cut the deficit by a half in four years. But I didn’t hear one thing in the last three and a half minutes that would indicate how either one of you do that.
Man, did Gibson ever take this moderation thing to extremes:
GIBSON: I’m going to come back one more time to how these numbers add up and how you can cut that deficit in half in four years, given what you’ve both said.
Totally out of hand:
GIBSON: Senator, I want to extend for a minute, you talk about tax cuts to stop outsourcing. But when you have IBM documents that I saw recently where you can hire a programmer for $12 in China, $56 an hour here, tax credits won’t cut it.
Gibson couldn’t be reached for comment on how he dared to assert himself in the town-hall debate format, how he acted like a journalist, how he didn’t just stand there and be happy when he felt that questions weren’t being properly answered.
Crowley, though a CNN official, declined to comment; she has not signed on to the memorandum that would make reduce her to spectatorship at the debate.