Presidential debate commissioner: We only made one mistake in 2012

posted at 10:01 am on February 20, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Well, perhaps two, if one counts 2013 in the mix.  The first, according to Presidential Debate Commission chair Frank Fahrenkopf, was selecting Candy Crowley to moderate a debate in which she obviously wanted to participate instead.  The second is probably talking on the record about it.  Jon Ralston, the dean of Nevada political media, reported last night from the Las Vegas Country Club event in which Fahrenkopf offered his thoughts on a wide range of topics:

What better place than the Las Vegas Country Club, where time seems to have stopped in 1974 or so, for a group of conservatives to gather to figure out how to capture the glory days.

And what better man to deliver the message than Frank Fahrenkopf, who chaired the state and national Republican Parties during the time of The Gipper and Bush 41 and helped rebuild the GOP in Nevada and nationally. Ironically, it was almost exactly 18 years ago, sitting with Steve Wynn and others under the low ceilings and shag carpet in the same venue, that Fahrenkopf sealed the deal to become head of the American Gaming Association. …

But while this was a day for nostalgia – Fahrenkopf immediately invoked then-Sen. Paul Laxalt, the NV GOP’s godfather during halcyon times – the man who has been in DC for 30 years quickly made the point that this was not the old days. He told the group of nearly all white men that the times had changed when the good old boys could count on the color of nearly all of the folks who belonged to the LVCC in those days to win elections.

No, Fahrenkopf did not, ahem, whitewash the stark reality that has been analyzed to death since November. As he would later tell the group that he wrote in an email after the election, “It’s the Hispanics, stupid.”

Much of Fahrenkopf’s analysis has already been given by plenty of other observers, so the real takeaway is this, as Dylan Byers noted:

Fahrenkopf said he was proud of his role in helping to pick the debate moderators, but then added, shockingly I thought: “We made one mistake this time: Her name is Candy,” a reference to Candy Crowley of CNN, who absorbed hosannas from the left and brickbats from the right after she corrected Mitt Romney during the second debate.

As I wrote at the time, Crowley was the big loser of the debate, especially since she had to walk her statement back immediately afterward.

[I]f 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[.]

Crowley had made it clear that she wouldn’t abide by the agreement (to stay out of the arguments between the candidates) with the PDC when she got the assignment.  So why didn’t Fahrenkopf replace her then, having made the big mistake?  At least according to Ralston’s notes, he didn’t explain, and it doesn’t appear that anyone asked.

Admitting the mistake now isn’t particularly helpful, not to Mitt Romney, at least.  It might serve up another news cycle of embarrassment for Crowley, but as Katie Pavlich reminds us, she later backtracked on the backtrack by claiming she was just trying to keep the conversation moving.  Don’t moderators usually do that by asking questions rather than answering them?


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