Was Candy Crowley the loser of the debate?

posted at 1:21 pm on October 17, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

I don’t think I’d call her a “winner,” not after having to retreat from her strange fact-checking interjection on Benghazi last night.  As more than one pundit has either written, Tweeted, or said last night and this morning, if you’re going to fact check in the middle of a debate you’re moderating, you’d better be sure you have the facts straight yourself.  Otherwise, you end up having to go on your own network, where you’ve already been fact-checked in the negative, and dance your statement back:

The debate last night reminded Matt Latimer of the Daily Beast of all the reasons why he hates these debates, a feeling which I share, but possibly for different reasons.  Latimer scoffed at the townhall format, which produced obviously biased questions — selected by Crowley herself before the event — disguised as impromptu queries from supposedly undecided voters.  The format “is the biggest travesty since the renewal of Mike and Molly,” Latimer writes, but it’s not just the format.

Take a look at the analysis of the debate in the media today.  The conclusions are based not on substance but on performance.  These are game shows.  On substance, Mitt Romney brought his agenda, while Obama left his at home and instead talked about Romney’s wealth and Romney’s business record, as well as Romney’s tax plan.  In a debate on substance, this would be as much a default by Obama as the first debate. Yet the media — with a couple of exceptions — seems to have barely noticed that Obama still isn’t talking about his second term agenda.  Analysts seem much more interested in stage presence and zingers, which is a symptom of what’s wrong in politics — and that’s not limited to the media or to one political party, either.

But back to the moderation.  Latimer calls Crowley the loser of the debate, and media moderators in general:

By far the biggest loser of the debate (after my former boss, George W., that is) was Candy Crowley. She is one of the most seasoned political reporters in Washington, but she came very close to becoming a participant in the debate. At some points she almost lost control, then seemed to interrupt Romney more often than Obama. The president also was given more time to speak overall. Ms. Crowley’s decision to buttress Obama’s declaration that Romney was being dishonest on Libya, however, will go into the Republican Party’s media-bias file for decades to come. Enjoy that moment—you’ll be seeing it again and again for years.

Noah Rothman at Mediaite also argues that Crowley demonstrated why Americans no longer trust the media:

 

“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,” said Obama in the Rose Garden on September 12, after two paragraphs of recounting how Americans responded to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The Obama campaign, knowing that they had advanced a false narrative for weeks and were being called on it, found the word “terror” in his initial response and relied on that speech to show that the president had known the Libya attack was terror all along.

This is wildly offensive to everyone who followed the story closely, but the president seemed to think that he could perhaps get away with it if he had the assistance of complicit journalists who would not fact check that hard. He could not have known the kind of gift he would receive from Candy Crowley — amid a presidential debate, no less.

Following the debate, Crowley appeared on her network where she shrugged and half-heartedly admitted that Romney was correct – that the Obama administration never described the Libya attack as a terrorist act and that they spent the better part of a month trying to convince the nation that what happened in Benghazi was anything but a premeditated assault. But, her instincts in the moment led her to chastise Romney because she felt “he used the wrong word.”

It was a shameful display and an indictment of so much of what is wrong with the media today. Broadly, it is also the reason why so few Americans trust the fourth estate –reporting means never having to say you’re sorry. Sometimes engaging in inaccurate opinion journalism does require a correction and Crowley was wrong and I believe she should make it far clearer than her equivocating mea culpa last night.

Breitbart goes to the transcript to get data in support of Latimer’s conclusion:

In the first presidential debate, Jim Lehrer, no slouch at shilling for the Democratic Party, interrupted Mitt Romney 15 times and Barack Obama only five.

Crowley made Lehrer look like an amateur. She interrupted Obama nine times, (although four of those were when he wouldn’t respect the time limit when discussing assault weapons; he went over his time limit all night long), but when it came to Mitt Romney, she was utterly beyond the pale.

Crowley interrupted Romney 28 times. 28 times. Her desperation to keep Romney from scoring points was so patently obvious that it wasn’t really a surprise when she had her infamous moment: the moment when she interrupted and falsely claimed Romney was incorrect in accusing Obama of refusing to call the Benghazi attack an act of terror.

NRO’s Katrina Trinko finds a curious coincidence so far in the debate series:

According to the CNN debate clock, President Obama spoke at greater length than Mitt Romney during both debates, as did Vice President Biden during his debate with Paul Ryan. In the first debate, Obama spoke for 3 minutes, 14 seconds more than Romney — which means he got 8 percent more talking time than Romney. In last night’s debate, Obama spoke for 4 minutes and 18 seconds longer than Romney, giving him 11 percent more talking time. Obama talked for 52 percent of the time when either man had the floor, while Romney talked for 47 percent.

During the vice presidential debate, the gap wasn’t as wide: Biden spoke for 1 minute, 22 seconds more than Ryan. Still, that gave Biden 3 percent more speaking time than Ryan.

The moderator for next week’s debate on foreign policy is Bob Schieffer of CBS News.  Will he follow the same pattern?  Most will probably suspect so, but Schieffer was reportedly unhappy when the White House stiffed him this weekend on getting someone to discuss the Benghazi terrorist attack, and was one of the people to whom Susan Rice told the since-discredited “spontaneous demonstration” cover story.  We’ll see on Monday whether he intends to hold Obama to at least the same amount of scrutiny as Romney.  That clearly wasn’t the case last night.  Hopefully, though, he will remember what Crowley forgot — moderators aren’t supposed to debate the candidates.

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