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Bob Schieffer and tonight’s final presidential debate

by | Oct 22, 2012

By Dave Andrusko
http://twitter.com/daveha

“Partisan feelings and emotions reach thermonuclear temperatures in these debates and if your candidate isn’t doing well, blame the umpire,” said Tom Brokaw, the veteran “NBC Nightly News” anchor and moderator of the 2008 town hall debate. “Bob’s richly deserved reputation for fairness, intelligence and professionalism will serve him well, but not even that will immunize him from attacks of some kind.”
            — From “Bob Schieffer in the hot seat,” a story that appeared at politico.com.

Bob Schieffer, host, “Face the Nation”

We are only hours away from the third and final presidential debate, this one moderated by Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation.” The quote above gives you the Establishment Media’s take on the first two debates and what can be expected tonight: the partisan supporters of pro-life Mitt Romney and pro-abortion President Obama will cry “foul” no matter what the saintly Schieffer does. Three quick thoughts.

First, Jim Lehrer was clobbered because he didn’t “establish order” in the first debate. In fact, a lot of information made its way to the surface, which is not often the case in these debates because the rigid adherence to time limits means the candidates are hard pressed to make a cohesive argument. Candy Crowley was both celebrated and harshly criticized for injecting her opinion/interpretation into the discussion in a manner that just happened to redound to Obama’s benefit. That wasn’t her job, nor was it Lehrer’s or is it Schieffer’s.

Second, it is a simple fact that Obama was allowed to talk more in both debates and that Romney was interrupted more. Make what you will of that, those are simple facts.

Third, I honestly have never understood Schieffer’s reputation for fairness. I’m sure he is a pleasant man off camera; Schieffer is often not when grilling a guest. When crossed (real or perceived) by a guest—or when the guest gives an answer Schieffer doesn’t like—he is cranky and argumentative.

One of his favorite pastimes is to lecture Republicans (in the disguise of a question or an aside) that they are too conservative and would do better if they weren’t so. With respect to our issues, he is never shy about “asking” if Republicans are well-served if they “try to concentrate on social issues.”

This is his favorite technique: inject his opinion in the form of a “do you think that” question. For example, back in August, pro-life Florida Senator Marco Rubio was on the program.

Schieffer frontloaded his question about abortion—parroting the Obama take both on Mr. Romney’s position and that of the Party’s platform plank. Rubio responded masterfully, ending with this: “And I understand that America is divided on that issue. I understand that– that there’s people of good faith and goodwill, could have differences of opinions. But those of us who are pro-life believe strongly in the sanctity of life and that that life should be protected by our laws. And it’s not about denying anyone rights, it’s about protecting the right of human beings that have not yet been born.”

Schieffer’s next question? “Do you think that’s a good issue to be running a campaign on?” (Rubio’s response was even better than his initial comments.)

Back in February, Newsbusters’ Brent Baker deconstructed a “Face the Nation” program in which Schieffer interviewed pro-life Republican Gov, Chris Christie and pro-abortion Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. Schieffer obsessed over Republicans’ alleged obsession with birth control and (as Baker pointed out) gave President Obama a pass on the bogus “accommodation” Obama came up with after the mandate his Department of Health and Human Services handed down was harshly criticized.

Schieffer’s  wholly inaccurate and misleading point was that after the President made everything okay, those  crazy Republicans kept pushing—“They say that’s not enough. That you’ve got to be totally against the birth control.”

Beyond the fact that Obama had made no genuine accommodation at all, the issue was not birth control itself, but religious liberty—requiring not only religious institutions but individuals of conscience to pay for health insurance plans that cover medical procedures and drugs contrary to their religious beliefs or consciences. But such details didn’t fit Schieffer’s narrative.

In just a few hours we’ll all know just how fair, intelligent, and professional Schieffer acted as a moderator. To be honest I am not optimistic.

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Categories: Politics