Apparently, the two presidential campaigns want to muzzle Candy Crowley in the second debate tomorrow night. The Post reports that while both the campaigns agreed that the debate moderator would get no follow-ups or otherwise intervene, Crowley, in what seems to have been a communication lapse, didn’t agree to that arrangement. (Hey, these people could work at the White House!) The Commission on Presidential Debates said it would talk to her.
Will Candy go rogue? I suppose she’s going to have to follow the rule, but it’s a dopey one. In this case, the audience is going to be asking questions, and there is no guarantee we’re going to get illuminating or even relevant questions. There’s no mechanism without a moderator to require the candidates to actually answer the question. So imagine the following:
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Mr. President, why are you so inspirational?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m glad you asked about Mitt Romney’s tax returns. Let me say. . .
We could wind up with puff questions, unresponsive answers and a series of self-serving speeches. At least with Jim Lehrer the topics were germane, and he kept the ping-pong match going back and forth.
It is ironic, of course, that now this anti-conflict, anti-directed debate probably hurts Obama. He’s the one who could use some help from the moderator and some highly charged exchanges to make some headway against Mitt Romney (and to show the president has a pulse). Romney probably benefits from a series of monologues, minimizing the chance he’ll get nicked up.
But still, each in his or her own way, Lehrer and Martha Raddatz kept the debates they moderated moving and made sure the candidates engaged each other. In the town hall-style debate, the restraints on Crowley are a really disservice, in large part because she is one of the best, most even-handed interviewers.
Let’s hope she throws caution to the wind and helps provoke some interesting exchanges tomorrow night. Otherwise this is going to be a snooze fest.