Defining "moderator"

Perhaps the Commission on Presidential Debates doesn’t understand the term “moderator”.  According to Websters Dictionary, the word refers to a mediator, someone unaffiliated or neutral between two or more positions to facilitate discussion and negotiation.  Jim Lehrer moderated the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, and did a fine job, mostly because he gave the appearance of fairness and objectivity.  Lehrer hasn’t written books or magazine articles praising one of these men, nor does he have a financial interest in the outcome of the election.

Instead, as Michelle Malkin notes, the CPD has chosen Gwen Ifill, the PBS host and author of an upcoming book on Barack Obama scheduled for publication on Inauguration Day, to moderate the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden:

In an imaginary world where liberal journalists are held to the same standards as everyone else, Ifill would be required to make a full disclosure at the start of the debate. She would be required to turn to the cameras and tell the national audience that she has a book coming out on January 20, 2009 – a date that just happens to coincide with the inauguration of the next president of the United States.

The title of Ifill’s book? “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” Nonpartisan my foot.

Ifill’s publisher, Random House, is already busy hyping the book with YouTube clips of Ifill heaping praise on her subjects, including Obama and Obama-endorsing Mass. Governor Deval Patrick.

Here’s the YouTube clip of Ifill explaining her book:

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Ifill doesn’t show any particular bias in this book towards Obama, even though Michelle documents both an Essence flack job and complaints about her coverage of the Republican convention that make her bias clear.  Instead, let’s just focus on the financial interest Ifill has in an Obama victory in five weeks.  If Obama loses, how will her book sell?  Not nearly as well as if Obama wins, and everyone knows that.

Moderators should not have a financial stake in the election.  That should be exceedingly obvious, and is to most people outside of the mainstream media and the Commission.  Her pending book publication should alone disqualify her to moderate any of the debates this cycle.  If Ifill had any sense of journalistic ethics, she would have turned them down herself.

Of course, the CPD could make this a habit.  Let’s have Brent Bozell and Glenn Beck moderate the final two presidential debates.  After all, that fits perfectly in the new Ifill tradition.

Update: T-Steel, one of The Moderate Voice’s rational and sane center-left writers, wonders what the CPD was thinking:

My dear ladies and gentlemen, in Election ‘08 where partisanship is as thick as a the foundation of the Empire State Building, having a moderator that appears “so friendly” to Senator Obama just doesn’t look right and opens the door to “the fix” talk. Although Ifill isn’t one of those screaming political pundits, I’ve heard her on various radio shows (especially urban radio) where she just gushes about Senator Obama’s historic run for the presidency. And with so much riding on Governor Palin’s performance in this debate, why have someone with an Obama tilt moderate? While I’m hardly a conservative and/or Republican (I do have a smattering of some conservative views), they have every right to not like this situation. And I would say the same if the moderator was a person who gushed about a McCain presidency.

I have a hard time believing that Gwen Ifill will NOT be tougher toward Governor Palin than Senator Biden. She seems to have much vested in an Obama presidency. She is a professional. She may moderate fairly. But with today’s political environment, couldn’t PBS find someone who hasn’t written a book and articles that are clearly positive to ultra-positive towards Senator Obama?

Update II: No, Kathryn Jean Lopez did not say Republicans should just “suck it up” regarding Ifill.  She was quoting an e-mailer.  She said that the idea that the blame lies on the four Republicans at the CPD was a “fair one”, and I agree.  What were they thinking when they signed off on Ifill?

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