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Gwen Ifill:

Just a quick personal word on Gwen Ifill as debate moderator and her possible bias on the debate. I appeared on The Newshour one night with her to discuss bankruptcy reform. I found her to be eminently fair and well-prepared. She understood the key issues and asked pointed questions for both myself and the other guest. Based solely on the broadcast I would not have been able to discern what her position was. But of all the interviews I've done with the media, I founder her to be one of the smartest and most even-handed interviewers that I've dealt with.

You can't necessarily extrapolate from my experience because she just may not have felt strongly about bankruptcy reform (how can that be!), but based on my experience with her, she seemed really smart, well-prepared, and fair.

Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Thank you for that. We are all quick to diagnose illness before we have established there are actual symptoms.
10.2.2008 5:23pm
Smokey:
Ifill deliberately did not disclose her conflict. Therefore, she lacks ethics.
10.2.2008 5:24pm
Nate in Alice:
Her supposed conflict was generally available information, known well in advance to all the parties involved. It was on her wikipedia page, for instance.

As Marc Ambinder noted, it's a bit disingenuous for Republicans to get upset about this, because the McCain campaign is actually pleased they have the Ifill bias excuse to fall back on if Palin underperforms (is that possible, even?).
10.2.2008 5:26pm
Nate in Alice:
Her supposed conflict was generally available information, known well in advance to all the parties involved. It was on her wikipedia page, for instance.

As Marc Ambinder noted, it's a bit disingenuous for Republicans to get upset about this, because the McCain campaign is actually pleased they have the Ifill bias excuse to fall back on if Palin underperforms (is that possible, even?).
10.2.2008 5:26pm
P:
The problem isn't that she won't be impartial, the problem is that she has a clear financial conflict of interest in the outcome of the election. Her claiming that those concerned about this are motivated by racism only makes it worse.

She should recuse herself.
10.2.2008 5:26pm
Blue:
The incompetence of the Republican campaign in learning this information has absolutely no bearing on the ethical issue.
10.2.2008 5:30pm
Blue:
Edit: And I agree that her playing the race card makes the situation worse.
10.2.2008 5:30pm
DNL (mail):
To reiterate what "P" said, in a different way:


The problem isn't whether she will be fair.

The problem is that because of here potential conflict of interest, we are left asking that in the first place.
10.2.2008 5:31pm
Pitcherbill (mail):
Recusal is a win, win and lose (for Mr McCain) proposition. But, Ms Ifill is one of those who believe she, as one of the smartest people in the room, has a mission to educate the body politic. Too bad she hasn't grasped the optics of how this record will look in retrospect.
10.2.2008 5:31pm
Observer:
I am confused by this post. To my knowledge, no one has claimed that Ifill is an unfair person. Powerline has acknowledged that she did a great job in moderating the 2004 vice-presidential debate. The point is not that she is naturally inclined to be unfair, but that she has a clear conflict of interest (namely, she will be a lot richer from book sales in the event of an Obama win). Justice Roberts is a fair and impartial judge; does this mean that he shouldn't recuse himself from a case involving a company that he owns?
10.2.2008 5:35pm
Eldan (mail):
Has anyone actually read the book? I haven't. But it appears to be about race and politics. It's not all about Obama. The "age of Obama" is in the title to help sell the book, I'm sure. To call this a confict of interest is really a stretch of the imagination.

I predict that tonight Ifill will do her usual excellent job, and if Palin does poorly there will be an attempt to keep this pre-emptive spin going, but it won't work.
10.2.2008 5:35pm
JoshK (mail):
imho, she's probably fine for this interview. But, since there are a million other people who could do this, then why not have someone else do it just to put everyone at ease?
10.2.2008 5:35pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I'm sure that's true, but it's immaterial to the issue. What reporter has EVER said: "I'm sure Senator X is a fine person, so I'm not going to worry about the appearance caused by his golf trip with the lobbyist"?
10.2.2008 5:37pm
R Nebblesworth:
Good question, JoshK. Why didn't the McCain camp veto her as a debate moderator given that her book was public knowledge at least as far back as early September?
10.2.2008 5:37pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
I can't believe that people are suddenly getting outraged over the concept that there might be an apparent ethical lapse in a media figure.

Where have you been?

Everybody in the media these days has an agenda, or their owner does.

Ethics in the media? Give me a break.

Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't we let the two campaigns look over the possible interviewers and come to some kind of agreement as to interviewers who, despite being obviously in the tank for the other guy, will likely be somewhat acceptable (based on their past work).

Oh, right.
10.2.2008 5:44pm
jaed (mail):
The "age of Obama" is in the title to help sell the book, I'm sure.

Well, that's kind of the problem, isn't it? If Obama wins the election, the book will sell much better than if he doesn't. This would be a conflict of interest for an author even reporting on the election, let alone moderating a debate. (Not a problem for someone opinionating about the candidates, but then we don't expect pundits to be fair.)

Gwen Ifill stands to make money if Biden comes across better in the debate and Palin comes across worse. If I found out the camera operator had bet on one or the other candidate to win, I'd get another camera operator, for the same reason..

Ifill may be very capable of conducting herself professionally even if she has a strong preference for one of the candidates, but that's not the point. Having the media in the tank for one candidate is par for the course; having them moderate even when they have a strong financial interest in the outcome is a bridge too far.
10.2.2008 5:44pm
Rooster:
They didn't veto her because Palin will crash and burn no matter who moderates the debate. Ifill is the best person for the job as far as McCain is concerned.
10.2.2008 5:44pm
Krahling (mail):
Eldan - I haven't read the book. Possibly because it's release date is the day Obama is inaugurated.
10.2.2008 5:45pm
Asher (mail):
Whether Obama wins or loses, the sales of her book stand to go up regardless, thanks to the kerfuffle over it.
10.2.2008 5:45pm
smitty1e:
As with Governor Palin, let's let events tell the tale.
10.2.2008 5:48pm
ejo:
so, bringing us back to the legal realm, if the judge does not recuse himself and the defense doesn't do a background check to determine his financial bias, it is on the defendant, he's out of luck? when I hear lawyers make these arguments, I wonder what courses they took in law school and whether they have ever practiced. I can't imagine they are honest lawyers.
10.2.2008 5:48pm
PC:
Justice RobertsAlito is a fair and impartial judge; does this mean that he shouldn't recuse himself from a case involving a company that he owns?

Fixt.
10.2.2008 5:54pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
Seriously, does anybody really think she will moderate this debate in a different fashion because of her book? Especially with everyone focused on this distraction.

The McCain camp knew about all of this when they agreed to the debate schedule. They just didn't realize at the time that they would be selecting a borderline incompetent to run for VP.
10.2.2008 5:54pm
R Nebblesworth:
Since Gwen Ifill is a judge and Palin and Biden are parties to a lawsuit, ejo is completely right. We should all be disbarred.
10.2.2008 5:54pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"But of all the interviews I've done with the media, I founder her to be one of the smartest and most even-handed interviewers that I've dealt with."

That's probably true, but I don't think it has any bearing on the issue. She will probably sell more books if Obama wins the election. That's a conflict if interest.
10.2.2008 5:54pm
Nate in Alice:
Ejo,

I think the premise of your analogy is unconvincing. This is not a criminal trial. The prosecution does not have to overcome the "reasonable doubt" standard. There is no litigant that is assumed innocent until proven guilty.

This is politics. Everyone has a bias and an agenda. The parties reached an agreement on moderators weeks ago, at which time her book deal was widely known. They are only calling foul now, (or yesterday), simply because they are priming the pump for a "liberal media bias" spin-game if and when Palin underperforms.

It couldn't be more simple.
10.2.2008 5:55pm
Henry679 (mail):
When did Republicans become such giant crybabies? I am trying to imagine Ronald Reagan give a crap about who was the moderator.... (Time to revisit his debate with RFK, I guess).

If Sarah Palin can't "handle" the a hypothetically biased Gewn Ifill within the constraints of the debate format, God Almighty, she truly is a political bimbo. You can rest assured Mr. Putin would be tougher in a crunch.

I expect Palin to "win" this debate (her performance will exceed the general expectation of her, while Biden will do just the opposite), and then the usually meaningless VP debate can recede into history.
10.2.2008 5:56pm
Railroad Gin:
Has anyone actually read the book? I haven't. But it appears to be about race and politics. It's not all about Obama. The "age of Obama" is in the title to help sell the book, I'm sure. To call this a confict of interest is really a stretch of the imagination.

Even ignoring the evidence that this is in fact a pro-Obama book, this misses the point. Her thesis could be that Obama is the anti-Christ for all it matters. Either way her book is going to sell a lot more if he's elected than if he is not. This is a rank conflict, end of story.
10.2.2008 5:57pm
R Nebblesworth:
Even ignoring the evidence that this is in fact a pro-Obama book

Amazing! Where did you get your advance copy? May I borrow it?
10.2.2008 5:58pm
Shertaugh:
Maybe I missed it.

When did the McCain/Pallin campaign explicitly state that Ifill has a conflict of interest and should step aside. . . but Ifill refused and the sponsoring debate commission said take it or leave it to McCain/Palin?

Can anyone point us to link?
10.2.2008 5:59pm
Bama 1L:
Does anybody know the terms of Ifill's book contract?
10.2.2008 6:00pm
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
Good question, JoshK. Why didn't the McCain camp veto her as a debate moderator given that her book was public knowledge at least as far back as early September?

Why do that, when there can be manufactured outrage about the book (which was on her Wikipedia bio by Sept. 2, and she has talked about to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Tavis Smiley going back to the spring and summer of this year) the day before the VP debate? Now it doesn't matter how Palin does; it's all meaningless because the moderator is "biased." There's nothing but upside for McCain in getting a moderator who can be accused of having a financial stake.
10.2.2008 6:02pm
Obvious (mail):
"having them moderate even when they have a strong financial interest in the outcome is a bridge too far."

That goes nowhere...
10.2.2008 6:03pm
Obvious (mail):
Perhaps Gov. Palin should just take the bull by the horns, so to speak:

First statement upon being introduced:

"Thanks, Gwen; it's a pleasure to be here this evening and I look forward to answering your questions and sparring with Senator Biden. And before I forget, congratulations on your upcoming book, The Age of Obama, which I understand is scheduled for release next inauguration day. I'm sure you're hopeful for great sales."
10.2.2008 6:06pm
ejo:
so, nate and nebble, you don't think that ethics matter in realms other than the law? at a time her book deal was widely known-you are plucking that one out of your posterior. in your day to day life, do you make ethical decisions or do you get away with what you can, hoping that no one realizes your dishonesty.
10.2.2008 6:06pm
PC:
Does anybody know the terms of Ifill's book contract?

I think it has a clause saying Ifill has to throw the debate for Biden.
10.2.2008 6:07pm
Steve:
If I were the Obama campaign, I would be very worried that Ifill might be biased towards Palin out of gratitude for all the free publicity the Republicans have given to her book.
10.2.2008 6:07pm
Asher (mail):
I don't think it's a conflict myself. Suppose Ifill was really, really tough on Palin. Asked her tons of follow-up questions designed to probe how little she knows about the issues, brought the Alaska/Russia issue up again, grilled her on the bridge, etc. She'd become famous, a hero of the left, MSNBC would ask her to be an anchor, the sales of her book would go way up, etc. That's a much bigger incentive than making it slightly more likely that Obama will win so the sales of her book will rise a little. But we're not worried about the possibility that Ifill will exploit the debate for fame and fortune. We assume she has more integrity than that. So why should we worry that she might get tough on Palin, thereby causing Obama's chance of winning the election to rise insignificantly (it's just a vice presidential debate, and regardless of how nice Ifill is, Palin just isn't capable of doing that well), thereby potentially increasing her book sales?
10.2.2008 6:08pm
ejo:
again, PG, are you so ethically blind that you can't see the problem with her incentive to be in the tank? hopefully you aren't a lawyer-the profession has a bad enough reputation.
10.2.2008 6:08pm
Nate in Alice:
Henry: Ditto.

These are the same people who endlessly ridiculed Hillary Clinton for whining about fairness/bias/sexism/etc.

And let's not forget that Palin piled on, scolding Clinton for complaining.....in her view, women should just buck up and take it. So let's see her do it.
10.2.2008 6:10pm
Nate in Alice:
Ejo,

Of course ethics applies, but ethical standards vary from profession to profession, and your analogy doesn't hold water.

Let me put this question to you:

Do you honestly believe the McCain campaign would have a different moderator than have Ifill whom they can easily pin bias on?

I doubt it. Don't be naive, this is politics works.
10.2.2008 6:15pm
richard cabeza:
Why do that, when there can be manufactured outrage about the book

You see, it's a vast conspiracy. It's not real outrage, therefore we don't have to respond to it. The supposed "conflict of interest" is imaginary, it's just such a stretch. It's not like the moderator is about to publish a book about one of the candidates.
10.2.2008 6:16pm
BT:
Gwen Ifill is a memeber in good standing of the MSM which, if the numbers I have read are true, support Ds financially something on the order of 9-1 over Rs. She is also black. Blacks typically vote 85 to 90% D and given BO's candidacy this time around we can reasonably expect 90%+ support of BO. Additionally she has penned an article in Essence Magazine that is, certainly as I read it, a puff piece entitled "The Obamas: A Portrait of an America Family." This in addition to the book comming out this January.

How anyone can think the Gwen Ifill can be a fair moderator under these circumbstances is beyond me. Yes we all have our biases. That Ifill was chosen to moderate this debate is a travesty.
10.2.2008 6:16pm
Nate in Alice:
Call me cynical, but it's not a "travesty" since the McCain campaign weighed the pro's and con's of having a different moderator with not being able to spin the "liberal media bias" as easily than they can with Ifill.
10.2.2008 6:18pm
U.Va. Grad:
again, PG, are you so ethically blind that you can't see the problem with her incentive to be in the tank? hopefully you aren't a lawyer-the profession has a bad enough reputation.

Most ethical conflicts in a legal setting can be solved by disclosure and consent, which appears to be what happened here.
10.2.2008 6:19pm
ejo:
ethical standards vary-what profession would such a conflict created by the fact that someone might stand to gain a few hundred k if she favors one side not raise a red flag. what must your personal ethical standards be if it didn't even occur to you that it might create an issue? Ms. Ifill isn't the politician-she is supposed to be the moderator. she makes money if one side loses.
10.2.2008 6:19pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
People - please do not respond to the anti-Palin trolls.
10.2.2008 6:22pm
A Law Dawg:
"Thanks, Gwen; it's a pleasure to be here this evening and I look forward to answering your questions and sparring with Senator Biden. And before I forget, congratulations on your upcoming book, The Age of Obama, which I understand is scheduled for release next inauguration day. I'm sure you're hopeful for great sales."


I would pay exorbitant sums to see this and a side-by-side reaction shot of Biden and Ifill.
10.2.2008 6:22pm
richard cabeza:
Most ethical conflicts in a legal setting can be solved by disclosure and consent, which appears to be what happened here.

I thought the whole point was she didn't directly report the book, just that the campaigns were supposed to have known by their own research. This doesn't indicate a good faith effort of disclosure on her part.
10.2.2008 6:22pm
devoman:
Having Ifill moderate the debate is a win for the McCain/Palin camp. First of all, Palin will win this debate; it is close to impossible for her to lose. To lose, the McCain/Palin ticket will have to move down in the polls post-debate. That is almost impossible. There is a fixed percentage of the country that will vote for them no matter what. She could speak in tongues during the debate and it won't affect this segment's vote. I believe the McCain/Palin ticket is close to this point now.

Don't believe me? Then I ask the McCain/Palin supporters on this thread to identify what she might do or say on this debate that would cause you to switch to the Obama/Biden ticket.

Secondly, as previously stated by others, if she does poorly, their defenders can always fall back on this "conflict of interest". Sure, it's plausible that someone with the reputation of Gwen Ifill would damage it to possibly increase the sales of a book not even published yet.
10.2.2008 6:23pm
ejo:
actually, that's not quite true. some ethical issues are so glaring that you have to disqualify yourself. further, there has to be full disclosure, something you are making up here given that no one appears to have known it in the McCain camp. you may ask the parties to waive the disqualification after disclosure to them, not to someone else. you don't, after the fact, get to say you should have know about my conflict, besides I'm black, you're out of luck. didn't UVa have any ethics courses?
10.2.2008 6:25pm
Nate in Alice:
Unless you've read the book contract, you have no way of knowing that she stands to gain diddly-squat if Obama is elected.

it's quite possible her book contract is a lump-sum.
10.2.2008 6:28pm
Minnesota Reader:
BT:

I suppose it was all part of the "MSM" plan to have her moderate the 2004 VP debate with so much competence that the Republican members of the Commission on Presidential Debates and the McCain camp were lulled into choosing her again (in August when it was apparent that Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee) to moderate the 2008 VP debate. All so she can stick it to Palin.

Those media folk are pretty sneaky.
10.2.2008 6:29pm
Patrick216:
Henry:

Remember that the Commission on Presidential Debates was established after the 1984 election season due to, in no small measure, Republican opposition to liberal bias on the part of the sponsors. (Bush and Dukakis cut a deal that allowed them to agree on a moderator; the idea was that by forcing such an agreement, the parties could eradicate bias on the part of the moderator.) LWV pulled out of the debate as a result, which just proved their liberal bias.

More broadly:

The problem of Ifill's bias is institutional. Jim Lehrer attempted to moderate the first debate by asking lots of follow-up questions; I thought it was well done, and that's going to be the format for tonight's debate. That necessarily involves snap judgments and might result in a "tougher" question getting directed at Palin than Biden, even if unintentionally (or, perhaps, a "tougher" question going to Biden than Palin). By itself, that is not necessarily proof of any particular "bias" by the moderator.

But the problem here goes to the appearance of impropriety. Ifill's objectivity and fairness has fairly been called into account, and her only substantive response has been to accuse people of racism who questioned her objectivity. (Not an inspiring response!) Bottom line is that Ifill is now in the position where she's going to be "damned if she does and damned if she doesn't." If she is perceived as being harsh on Biden or soft on Palin, she'll be accused of "bucking" to "conservative pressure." If she's harsh on Palin or light on Biden, she'll be accused of putting the fix in.

Some could say the same thing about Jim Lehrer (although I will note that few have criticized his questioning this time around), but because of Ifill's concrete, financial bias, it's going to have legs with her.

Here again, though, this is McCains fault for sleeping at the switch. Obama yelled and screamed and got both ABC and Fox News barred from hosting a debate because of alleged "bias." McCain should have insisted that either ABC or Fox News get a debate, which would have eliminated this problem.
10.2.2008 6:35pm
ejo:
did she have a book contract covering either Cheney or Edwards? I must have missed her Cheney treatise-again, Minnesota, I hope you aren't a lawyer. our profession has enough baggage.
10.2.2008 6:36pm
Railroad Gin:
As much as I like to jump on the anti-MSM bandwagon, on this one its probably win-win for McCain. Ifill will probably be softer on Palin than she otherwise would have been. If she's not then McCain/Palin has the excuse that she was biased. There's reason they're not making a big stink about it.

But the media is prepared either way -- if Palin does well, it will be dismissed as an insignificant VP debate. If she falters, tonight's debate will vie with Gettysburg as one of the major turning points of our history.
10.2.2008 6:38pm
Eldan (mail):
Even without the book, she may just really like Obama and want him to win. She has that right. I for one am confident she won't let her personal bias affect the debate. It is by no means a given that an Obama win will help her book sales or a McCain win will hurt. This is one of the dumbest instances of manufactured outrage I've seen so far. At least wait until the debate is over before you start complaining!
10.2.2008 6:38pm
richard cabeza:
Unless you've read the book contract, you have no way of knowing that she stands to gain diddly-squat if Obama is elected.

Um, wasn't the argument that an Obama win translates into more books with "Obama" in the title sold?
10.2.2008 6:40pm
Allan (mail):
There is no conflict of interest because there is no conceivable influence that this debate could exert on the outcome of the election.
10.2.2008 6:44pm
BT:
MR:

My response is on the line of ejo's just maybe put a little more gently. I was not aware of any articles or books that Ifill wrote in 04 about Kerry. The part that really bothers me is that Ifill is so tone deaf (and that of the MSM is general) that she thinks that she can act as a partisan journalistic player one hand and then act as a non-partisan player on the other. She should have recused herself, or the comission should have balanced her with a decidedly partisan player from the right like Hugh Hewitt.
10.2.2008 6:45pm
PC:
Here again, though, this is McCains fault for sleeping at the switch.

McCain's real problem is he never invited Ifill over to his house for a BBQ and to swing on the tire swing. She's not really part of his "base."
10.2.2008 6:46pm
R Nebblesworth:
It's definitely plausible that McCain's campaign staff did not know about Ifill's book - to do that, they would have had to conduct a cursory Google search. Also, I think it's probable the McCain campaign engaged in the negotiations that go into settling on the rules of the debates without even glancing at the proposed moderators' Wikipedia entries.
10.2.2008 6:48pm
commontheme (mail):
Given that the "Ifill is not fair" claptrap is apparently the best that the wounded Republican party can come up with, it is not surprising that McCain has decided to pull out of Michigan.
10.2.2008 6:49pm
Reg Dunlop:
Perhaps Ifill will go softer and read Palin questions from the "geography" and "history" categories, rather than those "entertainment" and "arts and leisure" ones which personally I find obscure and sometimes tricky.
10.2.2008 6:51pm
ejo:
ethics must not be the strong suit of the posters here. if you cheat on your wife or your taxes, do you defend yourself by saying I didn't think you were going to find out or you should have found out earlier?
10.2.2008 6:54pm
R Nebblesworth:
Politicians are sincere 100% of the time and would never do something so dishonest as pretending to be surprised by a conflict of interest "revelation" about a debate moderator that preemptively throws their candidate into a more positive light.
10.2.2008 6:59pm
richard cabeza:
Given that the "Ifill is not fair" claptrap is apparently the best that the wounded Republican party can come up with

Is this the official line (link?), or just your projection on people you think are your opponents?
10.2.2008 7:01pm
Nate in Alice:
I for one am very unethical, ejo, so my opinion doesn't matter on this.
10.2.2008 7:03pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
Stupid and irrelevant post. There is NO meaningful correlation between the two circumstances. This is just another "pay no attention to the black man behind the curtain" apologetic. A journalist with a history at NBC, the Washington Post and PBS is fair and balanced? What a howler.

You weren't facing a black presidential candidate about whom Ifill had written a fawning puff piece in Essence, were you Todd? Didn't think so.

Ethics? We don't need no stinkin' ethics round here. Liberals get a lifetime exemption. Black liberals get an exemption plus special recurring bonuses. Move along now.
10.2.2008 7:03pm
Randy R. (mail):
"How anyone can think the Gwen Ifill can be a fair moderator under these circumbstances is beyond me. "

Agreed. And yet, McCain's campaign people had no problem agreeing to her selection. So you agree the McCain campaign is filled with incompetents. And those are the same people who would people the government should he be elected president. Doesn't look good for your side.
10.2.2008 7:04pm
Public_Defender (mail):
A sure sign that you think you are going to lose is that you start complaining about the ref before the first call. This is embarrassing to the McCain campaign.
10.2.2008 7:09pm
Mary:

Her supposed conflict was generally available information, known well in advance to all the parties involved. It was on her wikipedia page, for instance.

Sorry, "if you don't catch me, its your fault" is no defense from a charge of lack of ethics.
10.2.2008 7:10pm
Obvious (mail):
Sometimes, Randy, the citizenry is much better off with incompetent government. A government that can't tie its own shoelaces is one that cannot do much to harm me.
10.2.2008 7:13pm
HoyaBlue:
McCain wants Ifill to be the moderator. They are banking on her not pulling out. Why?

Say Palin does better. They win.

Say Biden does better. They can cry foul play, and garner sympathy from voters about the biases moderator. They win.

Win-win.

With any other moderator, Palin would have to win on merit.
10.2.2008 7:14pm
R Nebblesworth:
But consent and waiver is - that's the thrust of the "wikipedia page" argument. Is it your position that McCain's campaign didn't even do a cursory internet search of Ifill before agreeing to her selection?
10.2.2008 7:15pm
PC:
Sometimes, Randy, the citizenry is much better off with incompetent government. A government that can't tie its own shoelaces is one that cannot do much to harm me.

Not sure how you are doing after the last 8 years, but ~70% of Americans would disagree.
10.2.2008 7:17pm
Jess A.:
Many people point out that the claim of bias is an asset the McCain campaign can use in whatever way they choose.

In order to deny them this pathetic out, Ifill should have recused herself. Which is more important, her moderation of a debate or the crowning of Obama? There can be only one answer to that question...
10.2.2008 7:19pm
A Law Dawg:
Sometimes, Randy, the citizenry is much better off with incompetent government. A government that can't tie its own shoelaces is one that cannot do much to harm me.

Not sure how you are doing after the last 8 years, but ~70% of Americans would disagree.



Really? Please explain then these people who simultaneously call Bush incompetent in all things and then decry that he has Brutally Oppressed them.
10.2.2008 7:19pm
PC:
Please explain then these people who simultaneously call Bush incompetent in all things and then decry that he has Brutally Oppressed them.

You don't have to be competent to oppress people. Check out Zimbabwe. Of course I have no idea what any of this has to do with Ifill being a secret Muslim.
10.2.2008 7:22pm
Nate in Alice:
This thread in summary:

Pro-Ifill: The McCain campaign agreed, knew about it ahead of time, and probably calculated that they could use this to their advantage, so stop the crocodile tears.

Anti-Ifill: It's all about ethics and conflict-of-interest professional standards. Ifill should admit she can't be objective even if the McCain people wanted her.
10.2.2008 7:27pm
Smokey:
Let's be honest. If the situation were exactly reversed, and a Republican sympathizer were the Moderator [remember, we're fantasizing here], and that Republican partisan had a book coming out under the same circumstances and timing, and furthermore, that same Republican Moderator had deliberately neglected to disclose the book deal when accepting the Moderator position, then the exact same complaints would be coming from the Democrats.

And rightly so. The double-dealer is unethical, no matter who they are. The predictable accusations of "racism" only make Ms Ifill more odious.

The question isn't about whether the McCain camp should have known about Ifill's book deal; that's a red herring argument [and there has been no evidence presented that they knew beforehand].

The central ethical question is: Should Ifill have recused herself because of her upcoming book?

She didn't. She undoubtedly hoped it wouldn't be a big deal. She was wrong, and she will forevermore be tainted by her unethical decision. The internet never forgets.

You can not serve two masters. That's not just in the Bible, that is in every union contract. Gwen Ifill wanted the royalties, and she wanted to be a Moderator. By trying to pull a fast one, she has lost her credibility.
10.2.2008 7:31pm
gerbilsbite:
Uh, LawDawg? You can be harmed by nonfeasance just as easily as misfeasance, and failure to fulfill an obligation is frequently harmful. Soldano v. O'Daniels; Lopez v. So.Cal. Rapid Transit Dist., etc.
10.2.2008 7:32pm
Recovering Law Grad:
Aren't McCain and Palin best positioned to determine whose service as moderator will or will not be harmful to them?

If so, doesn't the fact that the McCain campaign hasn't called for her to recuse herself evidence that they believe she will be fair?

If so, shouldn't that be satisfactory to McCain supporters and, therfore, be the end of the "controversy"?

Of course, no McCain supporter can answer question 2 with a straight face because this has nothing to do with actually seeking to ensure a fair debate.
10.2.2008 7:34pm
Blue:
Well, the only good part of this is that Ifill won't be moderating any debates in future elections!
10.2.2008 7:35pm
JOHNNY:
SMOKEY you are almost right. If the tables were turned, not only would they complain but they would have her arrested and on the way to the courthouse someone would shoot her.
10.2.2008 7:38pm
Franklin Drackman:
Whos next? Reverend Wright for the next Presidential Debate?
10.2.2008 7:39pm
Steve:
One of the 2004 debates was moderated by a personal friend of George Bush's. So what? It was a fair debate.
10.2.2008 7:41pm
R Nebblesworth:
If the situation were exactly reversed, and the Democratic nominee's campaign had waited until the 11th hour to drum up controversy and outrage over a moderator they had agreed to months ago, the appropriate response would be the same: Nate's "Pro-Ifill" summary.
10.2.2008 7:41pm
Arkady:
Oh, please, stop all the crocodile kvetching. If Palin craters in the debate, Ifil will take the blame because of her "bias". If Palin comes through it alright, it will be in spite of Ifil's "bias" and a demonstration of Palin's superior abilities. Damn, didn't you guys get the playbook?
10.2.2008 7:43pm
Arkady:
Ah, two ells in 'Ifill', I see.
10.2.2008 7:44pm
Crimso:

A sure sign that you think you are going to lose is that you start complaining about the ref before the first call

Although most people would find it completely understandable if "the ref" in question was determined to hold a small number of shares in the opposing franchise.
10.2.2008 7:45pm
Nate in Alice:
Yah Johnny, because in the U.S., liberals are the ones who peddle eliminationist rhetoric, as evidenced by the plethora of liberal homegrown terrorists.....**crickets chirping**.
10.2.2008 7:45pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

Has anyone actually read the book? I haven't. But it appears to be about race and politics. It's not all about Obama. The "age of Obama" is in the title to help sell the book, I'm sure. To call this a confict of interest is really a stretch of the imagination.


Obviously, anyone who writes a book about black success in America must be pro-Obama, because black success is anathema to Republican ideals. To even discuss the matter is to show liberal bias.
10.2.2008 7:47pm
richard cabeza:
as evidenced by the plethora of liberal homegrown terrorists

Ayers? Alinksy?
10.2.2008 7:49pm
MarkField (mail):

Alinksy?


I'm sure you don't like Alinsky's politics, but he was by no means a terrorist.
10.2.2008 7:52pm
JOHNNY:
Liberals might not be terrorists but terrorists would rather have them in office. If Gore was in office when we were attacked he would have appologized for the us being so sinful. Then he would crawl back into his outdated ozone killing carbon spewing jet and cry.
10.2.2008 7:53pm
glangston (mail):
Ifill's got a cousin at Maryland U, Professor of Law, and refers to her as my brilliant baby-cousin. Sherilyn gets a "visceral reaction" to Palin claiming she's a phony feminist like Hillary.

I'm OK with Ifill. I hope she announces her book deal at the beginning of the debate.
10.2.2008 7:53pm
Nate in Alice:
And the weather underground were not eliminationist, they were obstructionist, as is evidence by their laudable and successful efforts to refrain from even accidentally killing any innocent citizens (or anyone, besides an accident where three of them died.)
10.2.2008 7:57pm
Nate in Alice:
This is so far afield, but any rational observer would note that the Republican party has better served AQ's strategic goals over the past 8 years.

The invasion of Iraq, for example, has wittled our foreign credibility, turned off even long-time allies, and caused the price of gas to soar.

Combine that with the economic decline, and I'd say AQ is winning the war against "American Imperialism", as they see it.
10.2.2008 8:00pm
JOHNNY:
The economic decline has nothing to do with Republican decision making. Bad loans were the reason that the economy took a slight downturn. The Economy is still growing. And Oh no we don't look good to the russians (terrorists) or the french (chickens) or Iran........ wait that last one might not be a good example. We don't need them. Dems don't want to drill. Clinton had his chance (idiot). anything i missed?
10.2.2008 8:09pm
Nate in Alice:
Ah, okay, no, you didn't miss anything. I get the parody now.
10.2.2008 8:13pm
JOHNNY:
You must be of the "American Socialism" agenda
10.2.2008 8:17pm
ThomasD (mail):
So Todd, did Ifill have hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential book revenue riding on the outcome of your interview also?
10.2.2008 8:19pm
Smokey:
Nate in Alice:
"This is so far afield, but any rational observer would note that the Republican party has better served AQ's strategic goals over the past 8 years.

The invasion of Iraq, for example..."
That's not a red herring, Nate, that's more like a red whale. Nice off topic threadjack there.

Arkady:
Oh, please, stop all the crocodile kvetching. If Palin craters in the debate, Ifil will take the blame because of her "bias". If Palin comes through it alright, it will be in spite of Ifil's "bias" and a demonstration of Palin's superior abilities. Damn, didn't you guys get the playbook?
Umm, this is a question of Gwen Ifill's lack of ethics -- not political strategy from the VC peanut gallery.

What Ifill did was clearly unethical. She wanted lots of royalties from her book due out on inauguration day, and she wanted to be the debate Moderator.

When being vetted, if she had admitted the book deal, she would have simply been replaced; there are dozens of newsclones who can moderate as well, or better.

So, she deliberately didn't disclose her lucrative book deal. Gwen Ifill is unethical. QED.
10.2.2008 8:20pm
Angus:

If the situation were exactly reversed, and a Republican sympathizer were the Moderator [remember, we're fantasizing here], and that Republican partisan had a book coming out under the same circumstances and timing, and furthermore, that same Republican Moderator had deliberately neglected to disclose the book deal when accepting the Moderator position, then the exact same complaints would be coming from the Democrats.
Highly dependent on the person and their reputation. Britt Hume? John Stossel? No complaints. John Gibson or Sean Hannity? Complaints.

Republicans would have a point if it was Keith Olbermann as moderator? But Gwen Ilfill??
10.2.2008 8:26pm
ThomasD (mail):
as is evidence by their laudable and successful efforts to refrain from even accidentally killing any innocent citizens

So, robbing a bank with an unloaded gun is therefore 'laudable?'
10.2.2008 8:27pm
Fishbulb (mail):
This is irrelevant. The candidates rarely answer the questions at these debates anyway; they usually just respond by repeating their prepared talking points on the general subject of the question. It's a feature of the nonpartisan dumbing down of the political discourse. The identity of the moderator makes no difference.
10.2.2008 8:29pm
Nate in Alice:
Yes, I think taking extra precautions to protect innocent civilians is laudable, in the context of criminal activity. I'm not saying I condone any of it (I don't), but I think it's a distinction worth noticing--Bill Ayers is not Tim McVeigh. That's something that goes unnoticed too often.
10.2.2008 8:32pm
bbbeard (mail):
Well, I've read through 102 comments so far and none of you seem to be aware of the concept of "Code of Ethics".

I urge you to review the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:

SPJ: "Journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived."

I urge you to review the American Society of Newspaper Editors Code of Ethics:

ASNE: "Journalists must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety as well as any conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict."

In fact, I urge you to visit this PBS website that lists multiple Codes of Ethics that various news organizations have posted:

NYTimes: "...staff members should be vigilant in avoiding any activity that might pose an actual or apparent conflict of interest...."

WaPo: "This newspaper is pledged to avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest, wherever and whenever possible."

etc.

So: how on earth does anyone conclude that Ifill is acting ethically? If you think there is no perception of a conflict of interest, you are not paying attention.
10.2.2008 8:45pm
JK:
Why is everyone so sure that Ifill's book would sell better if Obama won? If anything I'd guess that bitter former Obama supporters would be more likely to buy a book about race &politics, than happy ones.

She's writing a book about race and politics, and put Obama's name in the subtitle to attract eyes. I don't see why this is terribly different than anyone writing a book about politics. Now maybe people writing political books shouldn't be moderating debates, but the idea that this is particularly egregious because "Obama" appears in the title seems a bit silly.
10.2.2008 8:48pm
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
Ifill is very friendly with that other black radical Muslim, Condi Rice.

Folks, this is just the Republicans doing what they do best: Working the refs.
10.2.2008 8:55pm
New Pseudonym:

Justice RobertsAlito Kennedy, Stevens, Breyer & Ginsburg is an are unfair impartial judges; does this mean that they shouldn't recuse themhimselfves from a case involving a company that they owns?

Fixt. Retrolled


Todd's got it right. Only Judges are required to recuse themselves. The standard elsewhere is disclosure. Gwen should make a statement at the beginning of the debate and then we can jusge for ourselves whether she is impartial or not.
10.2.2008 9:11pm
EH (mail):
Am I the only person who sees this thread as a textbook case of begging the question? Who, exactly, would be an agreeable, unconflicted and "ethical" moderator? Chris "Congressman Paul, ... you're basically saying that we should take our marching orders from Al Qaida?" Wallace?

Willful ignorance is no way to participate in a thread. Since all choices derive from ethics (Spinoza), everybody uses them and there is no such thing as "unethical." You have to be able to articulate the ethical standards you desire, and saying that someone doesn't have ethics is tantamount to calling them psychotic, which is not the case with Ifill.
10.2.2008 9:21pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Ifill also didn't disclose that she has an employment relationship with PBS, which gets some government funding. Ifill also did not disclose that she was a woman.

She really shouldn't try to hide these kinds of things.



Liberals might not be terrorists but terrorists would rather have them in office.

Osama has done well under Bush
10.2.2008 9:21pm
EH (mail):
bbbeard:
So: how on earth does anyone conclude that Ifill is acting ethically? If you think there is no perception of a conflict of interest, you are not paying attention.


Bias is inherent in all of us, so please to be listing your favorite "objective" moderators? Is anybody in the press even eligible under your standard?
10.2.2008 9:24pm
Anderson (mail):
she seemed really smart, well-prepared, and fair.

Great! Can we make *her* vice-president?

Liberals might not be terrorists but terrorists would rather have them in office.

Which is why Osama, Oct. 2004, released a video intended to help Bush win the election.
10.2.2008 9:40pm
Smokey:
Anyone who has read bbbeard's 10.2.2008 7:45pm post, and still believes that Ifill acted ethically, should give up trying to understand what ethical behavior is. Because you never will.
10.2.2008 9:49pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I especially love the couple of posts above that note that Ifil is probably in the tank for Obama because, you know, she's black.

Hey, white men have been voting disproportionately for Republicans in the past few elections. How unfair for the Dems to have white men moderate.

And by the way, win, lose, or draw, this is indeed a pretty meaningless VP debate.
10.2.2008 9:49pm
Arkady:
Smokey:

I'll assume arguendo that Ifill was unethical. And that means what re the debate? What, in your opinion, follows from your argument as far as the debate goes?
10.2.2008 9:50pm
EH (mail):
Smokey: all behavior and choices involve ethics. Just because you don't agree with the ethical choices doesn't mean that there are no ethics in play, and are thus "unethical" (which is an oxymoron).
10.2.2008 10:01pm
MnZ:
EH, with all due respect, aren't the one begging the question?

You are basically saying: Gwen Ifill has justified because she was acting ethically. She was acting ethically because all behavioral choices involve ethics.
10.2.2008 10:07pm
MnZ:
Ooops...posted too soon:

EH, with all due respect, aren't you the one begging the question?

You are basically saying: Gwen Ifill was justified because she was acting ethically. She was acting ethically because all behavioral choices involve ethics.
10.2.2008 10:09pm
PC:
Ifill is totally in the bag for Obama. You can see it in her secret Muslim eyes.
10.2.2008 10:18pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
Again, I ask where the sudden interest in journalistic ethics has come from. Have any of you actually been watching any of the 24 hour news channels? Can you name anybody on any of those who meets the criteria in bbbeard's comment?

If they wanted to get ethical journalists, they would have gotten someone you never heard of writing for some insignificant newspaper with low circulation.

All they were trying to do was find well-known journalists that both campaigns could agree to. They did.
10.2.2008 10:20pm
John D (mail):
I've seen a lot of people jump to the conclusion that Gwen Ifill failed to disclose that she was completing work on a book, to be published early next year, about black elected officials.

This is supposition.

Yes, we know that some Republicans have suggested that Ms. Ifill might not be unbiased because she's working on this book the with name of the Democratic Presidential candidate in the title. The are not claiming that she kept this information secret.

I don't know the vetting process for selecting a moderator for the debates and I'm not going to pretend that I do. Certainly Ifill's book was no secret. I suspect that prospective moderators are likely asked if they are working on books pertinent to the campaign.

This is supposition on my part.

I suspect (more supposition) that if Ifill had not disclosed that information, that the Republicans would be touting the fact. We would be hearing not about the book, but about how Ifill didn't let them know that she was working on it.

That's not what they're saying. So let's not make that supposition.

If we want to exclude all journalists who will be commenting on the campaign from moderating the debates, we won't have anyone left to moderate.
10.2.2008 10:35pm
MnZ:

Again, I ask where the sudden interest in journalistic ethics has come from. Have any of you actually been watching any of the 24 hour news channels? Can you name anybody on any of those who meets the criteria in bbbeard's comment?


In my own case, I find it fascinating that there is a profession that prides itself on its impartiality, honesty, openness, and desire for the truth and facts in which one can:

1) Have a large financial interest in the outcome of a matter;

2) Fail to disclose that financial interest to the relevant people at the relevant time;

3) When called on the financial interest and the failure to disclose, act line it is a non-issue;

4) Have members of her profession back her up by saying that non-issue; and

5) Have members of her profession say that it was the responsibility of others to discover her potential conflicts of interest.

Can you think of another profession that would have such shameless audacity?
10.2.2008 10:39pm
MnZ:
John, she didn't disclose it. The AP reported:


The host of PBS' "Washington Week" and senior correspondent on "The NewsHour" said she did not tell the Commission on Presidential Debates about the book. The commission had no immediate comment when contacted by The Associated Press. A spokeswoman for John McCain's campaign did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages.
10.2.2008 10:45pm
Somedude127 (mail):
Terrible moderator. Don't interject yourself in the debate. Let them talk and discuss things. Don't shew them along to the next issue. Let them talk. You don't have to hit every issue on your list.
10.2.2008 10:48pm
Smokey:
Arkady:
Smokey:

I'll assume arguendo that Ifill was unethical. And that means what re the debate? What, in your opinion, follows from your argument as far as the debate goes?
Means nothing re the debate. Just sayin'.

And thanks for not being one of the mindless partisans who give a total free pass to any kind of improper behavior that furthers their cause.

Obama may well win. But after it's all over, the folks who threw ethical considerations overboard might start to realize that the final result was irrespective of their own lack of principles.
10.2.2008 11:00pm
Independent (mail):
Yo, yo, yo, Gwen, why you be so biased?

Seriously everyone, think about it.
10.2.2008 11:02pm
jbn (mail):
It's obvious that Ifill is biased. Every question from her starts "Ms. Palin, you ignorant slut."

I knew Ifill would not be able to be fair.
10.2.2008 11:24pm
Perseus (mail):
Can you think of another profession that would have such shameless audacity?

Academics.
10.2.2008 11:30pm
Obvious (mail):
Me: Sometimes, Randy [R.], the citizenry is much better off with incompetent government. A government that can't tie its own shoelaces is one that cannot do much to harm me.

PC: Not sure how you are doing after the last 8 years, but ~70% of Americans would disagree.
---
Gee, this is sort of political science 101. I wasn't trying to be profound. Just think about it. If you're in Hitler's Germany and, say, a Jew or gay or gypsy, would you rather the Nazi hierarchy be efficient or inefficient? For any government with power over you, especially if you harbor libertarian sentiments, government incompetence is preferred for the same reason divided government is preferred: less (bad) things get done.

As to the last eight years, despite Bush's inability to speak coherently, despite his inability to define basic political concepts like "sovereignty" ["It's, like, well, when they're sovereign." if I recall], despite his lack of intellectual interest [of the 200 academic economists, including 3 Nobelists, who signed an open letter saying his bailout plan was a horrible idea, he responded to the effect that he doesn't care what people say on college campuses], he has not been particularly incompetent. He has competently used the power expansion given him by 9/11 and used it to create a much more powerful state, with powers unimaginable when he took office. It's not what he ran on, which makes him a liar; but it doesn't make him incompetent.
10.2.2008 11:37pm
R Nebblesworth:
Somedude127, the duration allowed for questions and follow-ups and answers was set in advance. HTH.
10.2.2008 11:39pm
Independent (mail):
So the debate just ended and as both candidates greeted Gwen it was normal small talk with Governor Palin but it was small talk and "You did great" to Senator Biden- and then she repeated those words to him. Hmmmmmm, get real! No bias? Only if you are deaf, dumb and blind!
10.2.2008 11:39pm
R Nebblesworth:
What the moderator said after the debate is more important than how she conducted it.
10.2.2008 11:42pm
Psalm91 (mail):
"Smokey:

Means nothing re the debate. Just sayin'."

This thread is about nothing? Your posts are about nothing? Thanks.
10.3.2008 12:00am
Smokey:
Psalm91:

Just bypass my posts if your reading comprehension is that bad. It will do wonders for your blood pressure.

On the moderating: Independent caught it. The moderator was subtly partisan. A clever hack, thinking about book royalties.

But Sarah Palin was real. Even Mrs. Smokey, a 17-year Middle School principal, said so. And she is totally non-political.
10.3.2008 12:10am
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
ejo has learned the playbook well. Instead of just disagreeing with people who have different politics, he attacks them as dishonest lawyers, who are giving the profession a reputation, who are lacking personal ethical standards, etc.

Is it really so difficult to say, "Someone in Ifill's position should be worried even about the appearance of impropriety, just as a politician should be -- like Caesar's wife, Ifill should strive to be above suspicion"?

I keep thinking that WF Buckley is rolling in his grave to see what the GOP is coming to. Instead of making arguments on the merits, make personal attacks. It's not his party anymore.
10.3.2008 12:42am
bbbeard (mail):
EH:


Bias is inherent in all of us, so please to be listing your favorite "objective" moderators? Is anybody in the press even eligible under your standard?


Apparently you don't understand that the issue in this case is not bias, it is conflict of interest. And, yes, I do believe there are members of the media who do not have a personal financial stake in the outcome of the election.

This is a very elementary point.


all behavior and choices involve ethics. Just because you don't agree with the ethical choices doesn't mean that there are no ethics in play, and are thus "unethical" (which is an oxymoron).


You are ignorant of the distinction between personal ethics and professional ethics. The topic here is professional ethics, and you do not get to pick and choose professional ethics to suit your individual barometer. You must try to learn from this interchange and expand your knowledge of the world.

Arkady:


I'll assume arguendo that Ifill was unethical. And that means what re the debate? What, in your opinion, follows from your argument as far as the debate goes?


Ifill should have recused herself from the debate. Alternatively, she could have canceled her book deal -- but I wouldn't have, in her position. She acted unethically by agreeing to moderate this debate. She acted just as unethically as a referee who bet on a basketball game would. It is not that the referee is to be condemned a priori for biased calls, it is that one puts oneself into a situation with the appearance of impropriety.

In the case of the gambling referee who won't recuse himself, a basketball league can and should censure or penalize the ref after the fact. In Ifill's case, her journalistic employer, PBS, should censure her. I personally don't believe termination is called for, but a warning would be appropriate. Of course, I also believe PBS thinks it is chartered to lecture us about ethics without actually living up to them.

In fact I think Ifill is quite a competent moderator. Given the choices, she may have been more even-handed than most other journalists. But that has nothing to do with the fact that she acted unethically by deliberately putting herself in a position of conflict of interest.
10.3.2008 1:16am
neurodoc:
Funny that Professor Zywicki began this thread recounting his personal experience of Ifill as an interviewer, when he appeared on The Newshour with her and another guest to discuss bankruptcy reform. Tonight Ifill asked Palin for her thoughts on bankruptcy reform and the Guv ducked it altogether, not even asking to use her lifeline. Maybe if Palin had spent a little time with the professor, she would have had something to say, maybe even making some populist hay out of it.

Clear, unequivocal display of bias on Ifill's part to ask Palin a question she was not prepped for. Appalling the lengths the moderator went to in an effort to favor Biden and promote her own self-interest. Sarah took it in stride though, winking as she did and speaking directly to Joe six-pack.
10.3.2008 1:49am
neurodoc:
[I don't have to say my last paragraph was not to be taken seriously, do I?]
10.3.2008 2:17am
JosephSlater (mail):
Neurodoc:

I liked your post, but around here, it's very, very hard to do parody.
10.3.2008 11:00am
ejo:
I'm not disagreeing with your politics. I am sure there are ethical left wing journalists. I am pointing out that the people posting above who don't see an issue given her conflict of interest are ethically blind. you couldn't make an argument for her being conflict free.
10.3.2008 12:36pm
Bill Johnson (mail):
Very poor performance on her part. She should have withdrawn. It's clear that she threw softballs and allowed both parties to ramble, but especially Palin, whom she allowed to ramble without even trying to answer the question. And it's also clear that she was cowed into not pressing Palin out of fear of being called out on her obvious conflict of interest.

Poor showing, Ms. Ifill. The biggest failure, though, was the debate commission. Perhaps we should appoint them to CEO jobs on Wall Street?
10.3.2008 12:50pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Can you think of another profession that would have such shameless audacity?"

That's easy. Religious leaders.
10.3.2008 4:01pm