VP Moderator Gwen Ifill on MTP: "Palin Blew Me Off"

Via Think Progress, Gwenn Ifill was on Meet the Press today.

During the vice presidential debate on Thursday, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced that she “may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear.” In fact, “On at least 10 occasions, Palin gave answers that were nonspecific, completely generic, pivoted away from the question at hand, or simply ignored it.” On NBC’s Meet The Press today, debate moderator Gwen Ifill said that Palin “more than ignored” her questions. “Blew me off I think is the technical term,” said Ifill.

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    Poor Gwen, (5.00 / 6) (#1)
    by jerry on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 09:35:12 PM EST
    Gee, I feel so sorry for Ms. Awful.  If only there was something a member of the press and moderator could have done in response.

    Poor thing.  So helpless.

    And I actually agree, Ms. Awful should have never allowed herself to be moderator in the first place.  Either the book was bad enough, or her letting herself be hamstrung by the book she wrote was bad enough for her to have just said no.  But a member of our press saying "no" to a camera?  Not bloody likely.

    Ifill should have never been allowed to host (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by bridget on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:44:50 PM EST
    in the first place

    and that goes for the 2004 Cheney/Edwards debate as wellIfill is a terrible journalist

    read the DailyHowler re debate hosts Ifill et al


    Thanks for the link to the daily howler.... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by jerry on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 11:32:19 PM EST
    Interesting essay, and I agree entirely.

    I like Gwen (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by rdandrea on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 09:40:54 PM EST
    I really do.  I think she's a terrific journalist.

    But she shouldn't be complaining about Gov. Palin.  Ms. Ifill was the moderator of the debate.  She was in control, except that she chose not to be.

    The essence of power is in its application.  When you choose not to apply the power you have been given, you become powerless.

    she's rubbish (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Salo on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:32:11 PM EST
    cheney lied repeatedly to her in 2004.  And Biden was making things up (lying?) everytime he said "fact"...

    Evasiveness and not realy answering the question are part of what a politician does--Palin being a duplicitous pol and Cheney or Biden being fabulists. Along with what Cheney and Biden did in their respective performances I saw nothing worth commenting upon from that debate from Palin.


    Maybe her problem was the rules? (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Mitch Guthman on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 09:49:25 PM EST
    I thought that she was a terrible moderator.  Her questions were awful.  She seemed very poorly prepared. She was awful.  But something occurred to me after watching this clip:  I got the impression that from her that the reason the awful "debate" wasn't her fault is that she was extremely limited in her ability to ask follow-up questions (which would have forced Palin to address the questions).  Does anyone know what the agreed upon rules were regarding follow-up questions?

    In general, these "debates" are increasingly pointless partly because the networks (with a "gotcha" agenda) and the campaigns control them and partly because the time is so limited, which largely rules out extended exchanges between the candidates and the moderator(s) or between the candidates themselves.  I think it would be better for the country if we returned to having a respected group like the League of Women Voters host the debate, make the ground rules and impose them on the candidates.  Also, the debates should last at least two hours and there should be opportunities for significant follow-up by both the candidates and the moderator(s).  The FCC should require that they be carried live by all the networks.  

    Indeed.... (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by dutchfox on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:13:41 PM EST
    From the organization Open Debates:
    Washington, D.C. - The group Open Debates renewed the call for debate reform in the wake of last night's vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.  To the detriment of the voting public, the extensive format restrictions imposed by the Republican and Democratic campaigns, with the complicity of the Commission on Presidential Debates, reduced much of the vice-presidential debate to a series of memorized soundbites.

    On September 21, 2008, the major party campaigns negotiated a detailed contract that dictated the terms of the vice-presidential debate.  The contract limited the candidates' responses to 90 seconds, discouraged the moderator from asking follow-up questions and prohibited the candidates from asking each other questions.  The Commission on Presidential Debates, a private corporation created by the Republican and Democratic parties, agreed to implement and conceal the debate contract.

    "Instead of standing up to the Republican and Democratic candidates, the Commission on Presidential Debates capitulated to their demands," said George Farah, Executive Director of Open Debates. "As a result, the vice-presidential debate resembled more of a bipartisan press conference, and Biden and Palin ignored questions with impunity.  The partisan, corporate-funded Commission on Presidential Debates should be replaced with a non-partisan, publicly-funded debate sponsor that will operate transparently and champion the public interest."

    From 1976 until 1988, a genuinely nonpartisan organization did in fact sponsor the debates: the League of Women Voters.  In 1984, when the Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale campaigns vetoed 68 proposed debate moderators, the League of Women Voters held a press conference and criticized the candidates for "abusing the process."  Four years later, when the George Bush and Michael Dukakis campaigns drafted the first secret debate contract, the League of Women Voters made the document public and accused the campaigns of "perpetrating a fraud on the American voter."

    In 1986, the Republican and Democratic National Committees ratified an agreement "to take over the presidential debates" from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.  Fifteen months later, then-Republican Party chair Frank Fahrenkopf and then-Democratic Party chair Paul Kirk incorporated the Commission on Presidential Debates. Fahrenkopf and Kirk still co-chair the Commission on Presidential Debates, and every four years it implements and conceals contracts jointly drafted by the Republican and Democratic nominees.

    And just think how much more interesting the debates would be if the independent and third party candidates had been included. Certainly, there was loads of room on the stage! The Democrats are the worst about shutting out other voices, because they think they've expect 'progressive' voters to vote for them, but if you look at the current ticket, they've not given any progressives a say in the campaign. It's all centrist Democrats - I would even say right wing Democrats (especially Biden, the war hawk).

    Exactly. Debates haven't been worth (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Cream City on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:22:26 PM EST
    a d*mn since the parties booted out the League of Women Voters -- and turned it over to the media.

    She's just covering for how bad it was (none / 0) (#11)
    by BrassTacks on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:33:55 PM EST
    i thought she was being nice (none / 0) (#20)
    by sancho on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 11:04:06 PM EST
    to palin by declining to use complete sentences. at times she made palin sound articulate.

    Gwen was not the issue (5.00 / 0) (#5)
    by Alexis on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:09:11 PM EST
    Whether her questions were best prepared or not, she was coming straight from the American public with the simple questions that need to be answered. And her commentary on the debate is completely her own personal opinion, Sarah Palin did do horribly, so let Gwen say whatever she wants to after the fact, she was the one asking the questions, and if that is how she felt about the responses then she should be welcomed. It isn't about Gwen in a case like this, because she is not going to be the one remembered in 20 years, it is going to be the answers to Gwen's questions that hold so vitally.

    No one will remeber the answers to (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by tigercourse on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:22:22 PM EST
    thw questions next month, much less 20 years from now.

    do you all watch washington week? (none / 0) (#17)
    by dutchfox on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:47:39 PM EST
    last friday night on PBS she was on talking about the debate (she's the moderator for that show).

    Queen Latifah did a better job (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by jerry on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:39:14 PM EST
    Tina Fey (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by MTSINAIMAMA on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:58:58 PM EST
    Is doing her part!!!

    Twice Gwen showed bias (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Yotin on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 11:20:47 PM EST
    The first failure is to have a biased moderator who, obviously, has a horse in the race. Her bias showed again in the interview. Obviously, she wasn't sensitive to the appearance of being biased, given her potential financial gain on an Obama victory.

    One proof of bias: Gwen asked the candidates to respond to their reputations. Palin's reputation was her inexperience. And Biden's reputation was his lack of discipline. Even Biden expressed surprised, is that all for me?

    The parallel question for Biden would have been his lack of executive experience as it was the lack of legislative experience for Palin. Each has plenty of the other side weakness.

    I'll just cite one of her 2 biases I picked up.

    She also allowed Biden twice to respond to Palin one more time, after which, she moved on to the next question. Palin didn't ask to respond one more time and none was granted.

    The way Palin actually responds (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by andrys on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 12:25:25 AM EST
    to a question, I'd rather her not respond.  :-)

      But as for evading questions, she was 'different' in that others just change the subject and say what they want, avoiding answering the question, but quirky Palin announces that she will do that.  I give her a point for that and a point off for it!

    heh, Gwen was stating the facts. No matter (5.00 / 0) (#27)
    by thereyougo on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 12:42:05 AM EST
    -gov Palin did little to nothing to boost her maverick candidate; being the mediocre lightweight that she is. That was the important thing, vs. Biden who just blasted Palin off the stage after refuting the Maverick claim and didn't defend her man. Oh man, bet that didn't sit well with the maverick hisself.

    who wants to bet she's almost done? Fork her.

    I submit that Ms. Ifill could not do anything (5.00 / 3) (#29)
    by bslev22 on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 07:15:34 AM EST
    to counter Governor Palin's evasive approach, because Ms. Ifill was tainted by an appearance of impropriety as she entered the debate.  It eliminated her ability to be effective.  It was the ultimate and typical "working of the refs" that stifled her, and candidly, it was warranted in my opinion because she is writing a book that prominently features Senator Obama, and because the book is being released on Inaguration Day, and because it is indisputable that she will sell more books if Senator Obama wins.  Consciously or otherwise, Ms. Ifill moderated with one hand tied behind her back.

    I think Ms. Ifill is a terrific journalist, and I don't think she, in fact, would have allowed her book, which really is not a chearleading book for Obama as I undestand it, to interfere with her questioning.  But in my world and in the political world and in many worlds and disciplines, the appearance of impropriety concept is taken seriously and is dispositive more often than not on myriad issues.  I don't think Ms. Ifill acted in bad faith, I think she truly is one of the top journalists in the country, but I think in hindsight she should not have been a debate moderator in this election cycle.

    I guess the point is that Ms. Ifill's complaints about Governor Palin's evasiveness are both correct and beside the point.  Sure, it's great that she can get together with her other DC pals in the media on Meet the Press and poke fun at the candidates, or in this case Governor Palin.  But these same folks have focused on appearances of impropriety many times before. . .except, apparently, when it's time to look in the mirror.

    P.S. I didn't watch Meet the Press.  Can anyone tell me if the subject of her book was even raised by any of the journalists sitting around the table?  

    I would not need both hands and feet (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by ruffian on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 08:43:32 AM EST
    to count the times politicians have actually answered the questions asked in a debate.  That is nothing new.

    Occasionally the moderator will go back and make them answer, like Lehrer did with both McCain and Obama in their first debate.

    Ifill was as inept on MTP as she was during the debate.  The point with the book is not whether she has written the Obama chapter yet; the point is that the book will sell a lot more if Obama wins the election. She should not have hosted that debate.

    How the heck did she ever get anywhere (none / 0) (#4)
    by Cream City on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:07:42 PM EST
    in a tough field, if she can't be assertive?  It took no more than it takes to control a meeting.

    Guess we know now that Gwen didn't get where she is the hard way.  Interesting.

    C'mon...... (none / 0) (#28)
    by AscotMan on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 04:20:35 AM EST
    ...Don't hold back, now. Say what you really want to say. Go on, you know you wanna....

    Okay, allow me to add (none / 0) (#36)
    by Cream City on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 12:10:40 PM EST
    the word "whining," which is ridiculous for her to do.  

    Queen Latifah did a better job of it.


    She broke her ankle (none / 0) (#10)
    by strega54 on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:32:14 PM EST
    the day before the debate. Imagine trying to concentrate with that kind of pain.

    Unless it hadn't been set in a cast, (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by BrassTacks on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:35:38 PM EST
    The pain would have been minimal.   But I suppose that excuse is as good as any.  

    pain is different for everyone (5.00 / 0) (#24)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 11:54:50 PM EST
    when I've broken bones, I required painkillers for days. Even after it was set.

    (I once broke my wrist in Bora Bora when I flew down a ravine driving a vespa and there were no x-ray machines on the island so I had to fly to Tahiti to get it examined in a hospital and all they did was a soft cast -- I then had to fly home to Denver  (via a layover in LA) before I got a cast. As uncomfortable as it was flying for 10+ hours with an unset broken bone, it was still painful after I got the cast on here.  As an aside, I remember the French make (or prescribe) much better, i.e. stronger pain pills than we do -- which is probably why it wasn't as awful as it sounds.

    Ifill probably didn't want to do the debate on pain pills so she may not have been feeling too well.


    So, you think she was still in pain today (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by JavaCityPal on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 12:27:26 AM EST
    and that's what caused her to show her bias?

    Gwen should not have moderated that debate if she wasn't able to give her full attention to it. There was visible bias in play with the numerous facial contortions going on from Biden to Ifill while Palin was talking.

    Biden knew there was bias, so he spoke to Ifill and addressed her as the intended recipient of his answers where Palin talked to the people. Granted, with a bit too much folksie manners and those missin 'g's for me, but she did. I got a sense that Palin knew she was in enemy territory and decided to work around it.

    Biden won the debate.


    What Debate Were You Watching? (none / 0) (#34)
    by daring grace on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 10:04:50 AM EST
    Granted, unlike many here I have no ax to grind with Gwen Ifill. As to her, I feel neutral. So maybe that meant I concentrated on the candidates and missed any of these alleged faces she was making related to Palin's performance.

    As to Palin 'knowing she was in enemy territory', haven't you heard? As far as Governor Palin and the McCain campaign are concerned, any forum not conducted by someone from Fox News or similar sympathetic  venues is 'enemy territory' for Palin--anybody or anywhere that follow up questions and fact checking are permitted.


    Ouch (none / 0) (#31)
    by andrys on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 07:41:08 AM EST
    I hope you at least had a decent sling...

    Imagine? (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Salo on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:38:49 PM EST

    She's condie's best budy. Imagine trying to concentrate with that pain.


    That's pathetic. (none / 0) (#12)
    by tigercourse on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:35:27 PM EST
    It may have been too swollen (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Sun Oct 05, 2008 at 10:55:23 PM EST
    to put the cast on yet.  

    I rolled over a ledge almost 5' high (none / 0) (#30)
    by andrys on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 07:39:58 AM EST
    in Machu Picchu and landed on a dirt road, with a broken bone and connection from forearm to wrist.

      It was deep-throbbing when they took me down the very rough winding road down to the city below to find a clinic.

      But the sling given me (and a pain shot in the rear the next morning) helped.  Any support seems to help enormously.

      Next day after the train ride to Cuzco, I found myself in a dark hospital with some very nice doctors who pushed the bone back in and put the arm in a cast.  I was able to continue the walking tours the next day, but it's hard to balance on some of those rocky ones with one arm to hold out.



    What a trooper. You probably (none / 0) (#35)
    by oculus on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 10:41:44 AM EST
    didn't even think about altitude sickness.  We went to Machu Picchu in 1994, after Guzman of the Shining Path had been captured.  When my friend and I were walking around the site after the train left for Cuzco, we agreed we were the luckiest people in the world.  

    Yours was not long before (none / 0) (#37)
    by andrys on Fri Oct 10, 2008 at 04:45:37 AM EST
    I realize I should write privately here but it's difficult to do that here.  And this is a light thread.  You went to Machu Picchu only 3 years before I did and even then, 3 yrs later, I felt the way you did, both just being able to be there (not always so easy during Shining Path days) and then to SEE all that.  I was just blown away.  

      As for altitude sickness, we'd already been to Colca Canyon (13,000 ft above sea level) and also on Lake Titicaca (same height), highest navigable lake in the world, it's said.  Machu Picchu was lower so my head was used to it by then.


    well (none / 0) (#33)
    by connecticut yankee on Mon Oct 06, 2008 at 08:52:36 AM EST
    Ifill's position is that it was up to Biden to stick the fork in Palin, which he chose not to do.  Palin is such a weak pick that she just cruised through running her informercial (peggy noonan jab) because nobody wanted to embarrass her.

    Biden focused his fire upwards, to McCain, which was probably much smarter than savaging Palin on national television.  Does anyone doubt that Biden could have made her look ridiculous if he chose?