Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said what we expected them to say in last night’s debate. There were a few zingers, a few odd questions from the “undecided” town hall audience members, but each candidate held his own.
To me, the most striking thing to come out of the debate was the behavior of the moderator.
I don’t know much about Candy Crowley. I don’t watch her show. Last night when I tuned in to the debate, Crowley was presenting the introduction. She was strong, engaging, professional. Bravo, I thought. An accomplished woman at the helm.
The narrative took a startling turn when Crowley inserted herself into the candidates’ exchange about our security failure on September 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya.
You may have seen the conversation. It started when audience member Kerry Ladka asked a question about reports the State Department refused requests for extra security in Benghazi. As the dialogue ran on, Obama insisted he called the incident that cost the death of four American citizens including Ambassador Christopher Stevens “an act of terror” the very next day after the attack. Romney insisted Obama went to Vegas for a fundraiser the very next day after the incident, then took two weeks for his administration to call the attack terrorism.
Romney called Obama on the carpet, and Crowley took it upon herself to defend Obama. Watch here or read the debate transcript.
Remember, Crowley was the supposed to be the moderator. She spoke from a position of authority. The audience laughed at her comment. Obama was indignant. Romney must have been shocked. I certainly was. Crowley tried to clarify her point, but it was too late.
The terrorist attack in Benghazi and Obama’s handling of it are a fresh failing of his administration. Benghazi reflects the kind of Middle East volatility Americans fear most. In Benghazi, we see our national security, foreign policy, religious freedom, military power, good will, and constitutional government intertwined and threatened. We see American interests spilled out in the blood of our people who were killed. We see ourselves in the photos of Stevens’ bruised corpse.
Was Crowley part of an orchestrated effort to help the President save face? She hardly had to be coached.
I’m not even sure she meant to be malicious. Her response, inappropriate and inaccurate as it may be, was the natural outpouring of
her beliefs. She didn’t need a conspiracy to dictate her words. She’s entitled to her opinion, but last night she was supposed to be the unbiased moderator. Instead, she tipped the scales.
Does Romney lose? Probably not. Does Obama lose? No, he stands to gain. Does Crowley lose? I wonder if she’ll even be called out for it by her peers. Many of them seem to feel the same way she does. In their eyes, she did no wrong.
The debates are for the benefit of the American voters as we decide how to cast our votes. We expect a fair, level playing field. We want to hear the candidates answer the questions, and we expect the moderator to take extra care not to be or appear to be biased. When the moderator slips and shows us weighted scales, she doesn’t disrespect the candidates alone. She disrespects the electoral process and the voters. She damages the credibility of her profession and of the political process we follow to elect leaders.
When that happens, like it did last night, we the people are the real losers.