The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

02 October 2008

Talk Radio, Blogs Fill Void Left By GOP Leadership


Hosts, Blogs Lead While Republicans Reluctantly Follow


As we await
tonight's much- anticipated vice- presidential debate, a related controversy has revealed just where the real conservative leadership exists during this critical election year.

After it emerged yesterday that debate moderator Gwen Ifill has an upcoming book that appears to glorify Barack Obama, her impartiality was rightly questioned by many, led by Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and many, many others. Could Ifill possibly be fair?

Since then, however, a consensus has emerged that Ifill will be under the gun to be as fair as possible, as Jessica Heslam reports in today's Boston Herald:

The pressure is on Boston’s own Gwen Ifill as the PBS veteran prepares to moderate tonight’s much anticipated vice presidential debate amid revelations she’s writing a flattering book on Democrat Barack Obama.

The timing of the tome, “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” which is scheduled to debut on Inauguration Day, has also called into question Ifill’s impartiality as referee of the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden debate, which is shaping up to be the most watched in history.

“It’s probably not the greatest thing on Earth that she is in that role and it’s probably going to really force her to be fully even-handed,” Thomas Patterson, professor of government and the press at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, told the Herald yesterday. “If anything, she’s got to be really careful with her questioning of Sarah Palin.”

Even Rush Limbaugh agreed on today's show that the situation had worked out just fine, with attention now focused as much on Ifill's performance as Palin's:

RUSH: Of course, you ought to hear how the Drive-Bys are spinning this Gwen Ifill thing. Frankly I don't mind this Gwen Ifill thing the way it's turned out because she's going to have to bend over backwards to be fair, all eyes are going to be on her more than anything else tonight including Sarah Plain. Well, maybe a toss-up with Sarah Palin.

But besides that, is it not outrageous, simply outrageous that somebody who has got a financial stake -- a huge financial stake in the victory of Barack Obama, who did not tell the debate commission about the book -- is still moderating this thing? And the Drive-Bys are circling the wagons. Listen to Howard Kurtz. Grab audio sound bite number one. Howard Kurtz here.

This is yesterday on CNN's Newsroom. The anchor, Rick Sanchez, spoke with Kurtz and said, "Do you know if she will mention her book at some point and say, 'Look, I want to know this is on the record. Yeah, I'm writing a book. It has nothing to do with what I'm doing'? Will it affect her performance in any way?"

Now, however, the flap has been overshadowed by the backstory: why does the GOP leadership follow behind talk radio hosts and bloggers so reluctantly?

For its part, the McCain was dragged into this kicking and screaming, only after a concerted effort by bloggers and hosts to convince them they should fight back.

Finally, McCain has addressed the subject:

“Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn’t writing a book favorable to Barack Obama — let's face it," McCain said on "Fox & Friends." "But I have to have confidence that Gwen Ifill will handle this as the professional journalist that she is."

"Life isn’t fair, as I mentioned earlier in the program," he added.

But Hannity didn't wait for that, taking the question straight to Governor Palin yesterday:

HANNITY: Let me ask you one last question. There's been this issue that the moderator of tomorrow night's debate, Gwen Ifill, is apparently writing a book to come out the time the next president takes office, and apparently, I actually have the tape, and I'll play it for you. This is Gwen Ifill talking about the book and it seems very favorable to Barack Obama, I want to ask you out of this if you're concerned about it.

IFILL: My name is Gwen Ifill. I am the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and a senior correspondent for the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. The title of the book is "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." It's taking the story of Barack Obama and extending it to cover a whole new generation of black politicians who are doing similar things in different ways.

HANNITY: Your thoughts, Governor, is that a concern at all to you?

PALIN: You know, I'm not going to let it be a concern. Let me just tell you that John McCain has been in an underdog position before, and this ticket, I think it is safe to say, is in an underdog position. But that's what makes us work harder. It makes us want to communicate more clearly and profoundly with the electorate, letting them know what the contrasts are between these two tickets, It's motivating to me, even, to hear Gwen's comments there because, again, it makes us work that much harder, and it provides even more fairness and objectivity and choices for the voters on Nov. 4, if we try that much harder.

Even the AP took notice, highlighting both Malkin's assertions and Ifill's dismissive response:

"I've got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I'm not particularly worried that one-day blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation," Ifill said. "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."

The day before the Joe Biden-Sarah Palin debate, columnist Michelle Malkin wrote in the New York Post about Ifill's book, saying "she's so far in the tank for the Democratic presidential candidate, her oxygen delivery line is running out."

In its online description of the book, Doubleday says that Ifill "surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama's stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power."

Now, Obama's left-wing attack team has responded, trying to minimize Ifill's conflict of interest by confusing the issue:

But the right-wing blogosphere is going bonkers over the news Ifill is writing a book on black politics that will contain a chapter on Barack Obama. Ifill says her book isn't just about Obama, it's about the evolution of black politics that Obama's rise to the Democratic nomination represents. Also, she said the Obama chapter has not even been written yet.

In an age where Washington journalists like Tom Brokaw, Bob Woodward and Barbara Walters - don't forget Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and all those FOX News folks - all have written books about politics but still play an active role covering the campaign, it seems strange to claim Ifill's book-writing somehow prohibits her from hosting this debate. Unless, of course, some folks are just grasping for straws.

Can you imagine the outcry were O'Reilly, Hannity or Rush to be chosen as debate monitor? It would be unthinkable, so what is Ifill doing in there?

Far and away the best point on this subject all week has been made by Peter Kirsanow at National Review Online. Your Radio Equalizer can't emphasize enough the importance of this:

The conclusion of McCain's convention speech exhorting us to "fight, fight, fight" has been quickly forgotten. There's no honor in failing to challenge brazen media bias and distortion. It does the nation no good when voters cast ballots based upon false or misleading information. Right now it looks as if the same politicians who engineered the Fannie Mae/ Freddie Mac train wreck are going to win in November. The most liberal candidate with the most radical associations of any presidential aspirant in history is poised to win because the media, with virtual GOP acquiescence, has portrayed that candidate as mainstream.

The GOP seems to depend on Rush Limbaugh to correct the record, and query where we'd be without him? But the GOP better start doing its job and forthrightly, aggressively challenge blatant media transgressions each and every time they occur.

The economy's at stake. Success in the war on terrorism is at stake. The Supreme Court is at stake. Do your duty. And part of that duty is not meekly surrendering to rank media bias.

Bingo! Why are we now at the point where it is up to Limbaugh, Hannity, Malkin, O'Reilly, National Review Online and several other sites to make a lingering stink about these matters, hoping that days later the GOP and McCain campaign will finally get a clue? It just doesn't make sense.

There will be a steep price to pay for this on election day.

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  • If Obama loses, Ifill will be lucky if she sells 5 of her books on the Messiah. However, if Obama wins, then Ifill stands to pocket between $350,000 to over $1+ million in royalities for her book. And they think she will ask neutral questions???

    Prediction on the Ifill questions:

    Moderator Ifill:
    Senator Biden, what is your position on the miniscule amount of Federal aid and financial support to union members in Scranton, Pennsylvania?

    Senator "Plugs" Biden:
    Blah, blah, blah.

    Moderator Ifill:
    Mayor Palin, what is your position on the remarkable and ongoing success of the local community organizers in Salihorsk, Belarus as mentioned on Page 153, paragraph 2 of my new book?

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 02 October, 2008 18:54  

  • I will eat my words from my earlier post. Gwen Ifill did just fine. The questions were fair.

    Sarah Palin obviously enjoyed the night. Her smile and enthusiasm was contagious.

    Joe Biden did OK, but gaffed on the Iran nuclear issue.

    The debate was all about Sarah Palin, and she delivered a strong message of energy and change.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 02 October, 2008 23:33  

  • clearly, Ifill went out of her way to appear impartial and play it safe.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 03 October, 2008 09:58  

  • Here is an easy way to confirm Palin hit a homerun in the debate... check out today's reaction by the liberal MSM.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 03 October, 2008 14:56  

  • Here's an easy way to confirm Palin lost the debate: The opinion polls all said Biden won (including Fox News' scientific poll), and Obama's lead increased in post-debate polling.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 October, 2008 12:04  

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