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Oct 1st 2008

Gwen Ifill and The Age of Obama

I’m disappointed.

Gwen Ifill is a good journalist. She’s liberal, sure. I know that a lot of conservative blogs are going all crazy on her for being a liberal. But aside from whatever episodes of anti-Republicanism we could point to, she has always struck me as an exceptionally fair journalist compared to her peers.

So when I say, “I’ve always liked her,” it’s not in the fake “I’ve always voted Republican but am voting for Obama” kind of “always”. It really means: I’ve always liked her.

Anybody who has asked me knows that I think she did by far the best job as a moderator in the 2004 debates. Looking back in our archives, I think Travis feels the same way.

Which brings us to today’s kerfuffle about her moderating tomorrow night’s VP debate. It was recently “discovered” that she is putting together a book that will be released next year. On inauguration day. The title: The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.

The simple fact is that the sales of her book will be greatly enhanced by an Obama victory in November. That much is obvious. This presents an enormous conflict of interest as a debate moderator. Naturally, many conservatives are calling for her to be replaced. The liberal press, for their part, are writing things like:

PBS journalist Gwen Ifill, moderator of the upcoming vice presidential debate, dismissed conservative questions about her impartiality because she is writing a book that includes material on Barack Obama.

You read that right. The AP’s David Bauder classifies The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama as “a book that includes material on Barack Obama”. Indeed. And this is “a post that includes material on Gwen Ifill”.

But this is to be expected from the liberal AP and other media outlets.

The disappointing aspect of the story is Gwen Ifill’s failure to see her book as a problem. As a seasoned journalist and a consummate professional she should have realized that the perception of a conflict of interest would be too strong to be considered an effective moderator.

With all that said, she may again be the best moderator this election cycle. I certainly hope so.

Right now, however, she is forced to fight back against criticisms. From the AP article she’s quoted as saying, “The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I’ve done my job.” Fair enough. But then she starts reaching for racial straws:

“Do you think they made the same assumptions about Lou Cannon (who is white) when he wrote his book about Reagan?” said Ifill, who is black. Asked if there were racial motives at play, she said, “I don’t know what it is. I find it curious.”


Anyways. This whole episode is just disappointing.

One Response to “Gwen Ifill and The Age of Obama

  1. Lou

    My responses to your post: 1. Have there never been moderators with conservative ties? 2. Did you watch in 1988 when the CNN anchor/moderator destroyed Michael Dukakis? 3.Were you outraged to learn that George Will coached Reagan and then wrote praising Reagan? 4. Don’t you think Palin, if she is truly qualified to be a VP candidate, can handle Ifill?

    Actually, the whole thing is a joke. The debates are not debates in any real sense. They should go back to the people and be conducted by leage of women voters or someone. Using broadcast people to do these things is no good for anyone.