A number of blogs are raising the alarm over Gwen Ifill’s selection as moderator for tomorrow’s vice presidential debate, saying she’s “in the tank” for Obama. In fact, she’s written a pro-Obama book, due out for release in the near future, entitled The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
Yes, fine, that may well be a legitimate complaint, but come on, Republicans have had to deal with biased moderators since time immemorial, and in this election season especially. The very first Republican primary debate was presided over by Chris “Thrill Up My Leg” Matthews, for cryin’ out loud. His “moderating” was so officious, intrusive, and obnoxious that even the unflappable Sen. Fred Thompson felt the need to put the MSNBC crank over his rhetorical knee after hearing Matthews sneer that Thompson’s answer was so long, he should have just “stopped at no.”
So Republicans like Sarah Palin have grown fairly accustomed to debate moderators with an ideological interest in the political well-being of their opponents. At this point, they’ve pretty much accepted it as part of the cost of doing business.
However, this year, Gwen Ifill is a different case. This time she has a financial interest in the Obama-Biden ticket prevailing.
Ifill’s book is pro-Obama, true, but that’s not the head-turning part. What caught my attention is that The Breakthrough is set for release on Inauguration Day, Jan 20, 2009. That gives Ifill’s interest in this debate’s outcome a whole new dimension that wouldn’t apply if it were set for release before the election. A book that expounds on the “bold new path to political power” for African-Americans, paved by Barack Obama’s “stunning presidential campaign” (quotes from the book’s product description), would generate considerably less interest if, for example, it were released on the day of the swearing-in of the man and woman who brought about Obama’s defeat.
In short, due to the post-election release date, Ifill is looking at a serious dent in her book sales if the Obama-Biden ticket loses. Did the Commission on Presidential Debates even ask her about this? Or at least do a Google search?
Gwen Ifill may well be a perfectly competent and even-handed moderator tomorrow (I’m certainly hoping so). However, the fact that she could lose money if McCain-Palin wins makes her too much a part of the story; Sarah Palin and Joe Biden should not have to compete with her for the spotlight. The CPD really dropped the ball in missing this looming appearance of impropriety. Perhaps Ifill will use her newly broken ankle as a medical excuse now that her book schedule is finally being examined more closely, but I doubt it.
UPDATE: Politico reports (via Allahpundit) that the McCain-Palin campaign has taken the high road, figuring (correctly) that there’s no sense whining about it, certainly not at this late date. I agree that crying “bias” would be pretty lame, but I still stand by my contention that Ifill’s book conflict is too much of a distraction.