October 2, 2008

Much ado about…Gwen Ifill? Soft bigotry of low expectations for Gov. Palin

Posted in 2008 debate, 2008 Elections, media coverage, PBS, Presidential campaign, Sarah Palin, Senator Barack H. Obama, soft bigotry, U.S. Economy, VP tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:12 am by realitytax

Seriously? The extremists with an audience are out in full force today ranting that Gwen Ifill, the moderator of the much-anticipated October 2 Vice Presidential Debate, isn’t without bias. Michelle Malkin, for example, is outraged that Ifill has a book in the works about Senator Barack Obama. Mind you, it hasn’t been released yet, so Malkin could be just a shill trying to help Ifill’s publicity in advance, but I think the motive is likely more insidious.

Gwen Ifill, of PBSMs. Malkin could be lowering expectations of Governor Palin’s performance – even setting up an excuse in advance. Something along the lines of: “Nobody could expect the Governor to do well with a liberal ostensibly moderating the debate…” I realize Malkin’s an avowed opponent of multiculturalism, but to set up the “soft bigotry of low expectation” on the eve of the debate seems more than a little disingenuous.

I admit that despite being a fiscal conservative I find the Governor’s reported biblical literalism out of step with my preferred post-Darwinian point of view. I realize, too, that any number of proud social conservatives have expressed reservations over Palin’s readiness and/or suitability for the position of Vice President. But it behooves us to grant Governor Palin her time in the limelight, to approach the evening with as open a mind as is possible as we focus on the issues important to the voters – the economic bailout being considered by congress, deregulation, Iraq, taxes, and health care to name a few obvious issues more important than the fact a professional journalist from a non-commercial network is also an author. It’s not time to distract us by creating false controversy about the moderator.

Yes, it’s false controversy, though the echo chamber that surrounds right-wing pundits was in full fettle today. Ultimately even the Fox network (surely at least as “in the tank” for the Republican ticket as Ms. Ifill is accused of being for the Democrats) had to concede that Senator McCain has the utmost respect for Gwen Ifill, and is more than satisfied that she’ll serve ably and professionally as a moderator.

In fact, we arguably learn more about a candidate from a slightly adversarial interviewer (or moderator) than we would from somebody lobbing easy questions.  Governor Palin is something of an unknown on the national political scene in the U.S., and the campaign has not to this point made her very available for interviews or press conferences.  This is her chance to shine – and I, for one, expect her to do a creditable job in the spotlight.  This is not her first debate, and anyone ready to be Vice President surely has to be ready, willing, and able to handle questions from a PBS moderator in a controlled situation.  

Much ado about nothing

Will Ms. Ifill present more rigor than Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric?  Probably so. The late Tim Russert might have been rugged in this sort of context, but Gwen Ifill? Why are the right-leaning pundits so concerned? Why are they making this about people, not issues? And even if she is up against a more experienced, worldly debater in Senator Joe Biden, she’s been prepping for weeks; it’s show time! 

She’s not being asked to talk to Jon Stewart, after all.

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