The Washington Post

Presidential debate: Schieffer could have been tougher on drones

(Win McNamee/AP)

A two-tone assessment for moderator Bob Schieffer’s handling of the drone question in Monday night’s debate. The positive: He asked a question about drones! The negative: He didn’t do a forceful or penetrating job of asking the question.

Here’s the question that Schieffer put to Romney:

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, Governor, because we know President Obama’s position on this, what is — what is your position on the use of drones?

Romney answered capably, saying he’d use “any and all means necessary” to take out terrorists. After agreeing with the president’s use of the drone program, the candidate pivoted to say that the United States needs a “far more effective and comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism.”

When it was Obama’s turn to speak, he talked up his administration’s work, as follows:

Well, keep in mind our strategy wasn’t just going after bin Laden. We’ve created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism — in Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan. And what we’ve also done is engage these governments in the kind of reforms that are actually going to make a difference in people’s lives day to day, to make sure that their governments aren’t corrupt, to make sure that they are treating women with the kind of respect and dignity that every nation that succeeds has shown, and to make sure that they’ve got a free-market system that works.

Bummer: Schieffer set aside time in the debate to address drones, and the president of the United States didn’t even have to address the matter, simply because “we know President Obama’s position on this.” Okay, but do we, really? Do we know just how he feels about the way in which the targeted killing program counts civilian casualties? Do we know whether he’d continue expanding the program? We don’t, and probably won’t.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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