Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another Programming Note

I will not be liveblogging tomorrow's VP debate, for the simple reason that I don't think there will be anything terribly consequential said or done.

The McCain campaign is trying to drive expectations for Sarah Palin down to the 10th ring of Hell. Those stories coming out in The Wall Street Journal and other venues quoting anonymous aides as being terrified of what she might say seem way too convenient. Frankly, they're reminiscent of an episode of The West Wing from its last season when Leo leaked footage of his deliberately awful debate prep performances. Campaign journalists are smart enough to recognize what's going on, but even subconsciously all that spin is going to sink in. If Palin gets through the night without mispronouncing a foreign leader's name the performance will be hailed as a tour de force.

Joe Biden's staffers, for their part, are probably going to slip some Valium into their candidate's pre-debate bottle of water. He'll be so afraid of coming off as condescending and sexist that he'd probably hesitate to speak up if Palin talks about how the conflict in Georgia endangers the several million people who live in Atlanta. He'll take the standard shots at John McCain, try to link him to President Bush, but he'll probably just leave Palin alone and hope she repeats her performance from the Couric interviews. As I said above, I don't think that will happen.

And then there's the moderator, PBS' Gwen Ifill, a journalist I like an awful lot. The right is already wailing and gnashing its teeth over the book Ifill plans to release in a couple months. One of McCain's surrogates has ominously threatened unnamed punishment should Ifill dare to ask Palin "gotcha" questions. I don't know how all of that will affect Ifill's performance. I hope not at all. But you can never tell.

So no liveblogging. I will, however, have post-debate reaction here. So look for that if your life is sad and pathetic.


Andrew said...

The Ifill picks flabbergasts me. How can this not be the very definition of conflict of interest? Your thoughts?

Andrew said...

I haven't read the book (nor has anyone else, since it's not been published yet), so it's hard to know exactly what's in it. Having read the description, however, it seems like it's not so much about as Obama as it is about the wave of new black leaders that have risen to the fore. Obama is, of course, the most prominent example of that, and no doubt Ifill and the publisher are hoping his name will sell books.

I suspect Ifill was chosen because she moderates "Washington Week," one of the more serious political pundit shows on television. She's generally amiable and doesn't arouse strong feelings from people on either side of the aisle. (Read: she's bland and inoffensive) She's generally well-respected and moderated the 2004 VP debate.

This book isn't a surprise; I heard about it a few months ago and if the McCain campaign is surprised by this than they've displayed a level of ignorance that's frankly shocking for a presidential campaign.

Still, it's hardly an ideal situation, if only because of the age-old axiom that the perception of a conflict of interest IS a conflict of interest. It gives McCain's camp easy fodder should Palin stumble and generally injects the moderator into the story in a way that's not good.

Andrew said...

Fair enough. I honestly doubt it will come into play during the debate as the questions are often as bland as the moderators. I liked the job Lehrer did the other day, though; all class, indeed.

Let the debate begin! I was looking forward to your liveblog but I suppose I can live without it this time :). Take care