Surprise! Bill Clinton is on the Commission on Presidential Debates

Over at the Daily Caller, our friend Kerry Picket has dug up an interesting tidbit regarding the debates. In this case, however, we’re not talking about the ongoing primary debates taking place between Republicans or Democrats, but rather the general election debates to come next autumn. At this point we can assume with a fair amount of certainty that one of the participants on the stage will be Hillary Clinton representing the Democrats. So when it comes time to set up those debates, establish the format, select the moderators and what not, it sure might be helpful to have your husband on the commission that determines all those things, wouldn’t it?

A conflict of interest could be afoot at the Commission on Presidential Debates if Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic presidential nomination. Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, is an honorary chairman on the commission leadership board.

Republican primary campaigns just finished a confab in Alexandria, Va. discussing how to better improve the debates among themselves, but the bipartisan commission handles details of general election debates between the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees.

The other Democrat who is an honorary chair is former president Jimmy Carter. The only two former Republican presidents who served as honorary chairmen of the commission, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, are deceased. It is unclear, however, how Carter and Clinton function in these roles.

It’s also interesting that they invited both Ford and Reagan to be honorary chairs, but didn’t extend that courtesy to either George W. Bush or his father. As for the official co-chairs of the commission, they at least tried to establish some balance. Frank Fahrenkopf was the RNC chair for a number of years and Mike McCurry was Blill Clinton’s Press Secretary. The rest of the commission is a fairly eclectic mix of ideologies.

I agree with Kerry that the role of the honorary chairmen is unclear, specifically in terms of whether or not they have any actual duties in setting up the debates. Sometimes an “honorary” title is just that and it’s only offered as a courtesy. The honorary chairs may not have any actual role in the day to day operations of the group, but if nothing else there’s some awfully unsavory visuals involved in having the spouse of any of the candidates attached to the operation.

But if there is such balance on the commission, how did we wind up with Candy Crawley in the moderator’s chair in 2012? Their answer might be that there just weren’t that many choices as to who would have been perceived as “unbiased” to host such an event. The immediate response of “bring in somebody from Fox” probably wasn’t going to satisfy anyone because we would have simply heard a corresponding fit of outrage from the Democrats that the choice was too conservative. But the unbiased, “just the facts” beat reporter may be something of a unicorn these days. I was watching Morning Joe this morning when Scarborough was tackling the subject of biased moderators and he came straight out and said that all of the Sunday morning show hosts, the evening network news anchors and the rest of the pool of usual moderators are all Democrats. (I don’t know if that’s true with zero exceptions, but it’s certainly the rule of thumb.)

I’ve heard a couple of good suggestions recently which perhaps the Commission on Presidential Debates could consider, one of them right from our comments section. How about sifting through a list of federal or state prosecutors and finding some talent there? They’re used to asking questions in a public forum and are charged with treating everyone equally. It’s worth a look at least. Another possibility would be to tap into the coaches for the debate teams at major schools. You can’t hope to find a non-liberal in the Ivy league, but you might be able to balance them out by having the coach from Harvard and the coach from Liberty University.

But first you need to get Bill Clinton out of that honorary chair position unless his wife somehow manages to lose the primary.