Keeping them honest
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 11:10
Tuesday night, President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney met at Hofstra University in New York for the second of the election season’s three presidential debates.
This debate, which provided the opportunity for undecided voters to directly ask the candidates questions in a town hall format, was widely touted as President Obama’s chance to recover from his disastrous performance in the first debate. Based on immediate post-debate reactions, it appears as though he has accomplished this objective, as the consensus seems to be that Obama won this debate.
But there was a particular exchange during the debate, which had nothing to do with who the winners and losers are, that should dominate the public discourse in its aftermath.
This was a truly incredible moment that took place during Gov. Romney’s response to a question on the Obama Administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. During this response, Romney charged that Obama did not acknowledge the attack on the U.S. Consulate was a terrorist attack until several days later. Obama interjected that he had, in fact, referred to it as an "act of terror" the day after the attack in a speech he made in the Rose Garden. After Romney doubled down on his assertion, the moderator of the debate, CNN’s Candy Crowley, stepped in and did the unthinkable – she corrected Romney. This prompted a round of applause from those attending the debate, and Twitter exploded with posts praising Crowley for setting the record straight.
Although it is certainly encouraging to see the moderator keeping the candidates honest, especially after Jim Lehrer’s passive performance, it’s a testament to the sad state of our political discourse when a journalist actually doing her job is viewed as such an extraordinary incident.
Shouldn’t we always expect the moderators to call the candidates out when they are lying?
Throughout this debate, as well as the preceding one, both candidates made contradictory statements on matters of fact pertaining to a plethora of issues. Every time this happens, one of the candidates is stretching the truth. Why don’t the moderators set the record straight? Why does the post-debate pundit-fest center on "Big Bird," and who drank too much water, and who "won"? Our press has a responsibility to set the record straight when the candidates lie, and unfortunately this is a responsibility that generally is not fulfilled.
Prior to the debate, Crowley asserted that "she is not a fly on the wall" and that she would "react organically" throughout the debate, posing follow-up questions to the candidates and pressuring them to stay on topic. Amusingly, these comments prompted both Obama’s and Romney’s campaigns to complain to the Commission on Presidential Debates out of fear that Crowley would be too assertive during the debate. After the debate, it’s easy to see why the candidates were afraid, and Crowley should be applauded for taking a stand for the truth.
But wouldn’t it be nice if someone would call the candidates out on their bulls--t during the other 85 minutes of the debate?