Non-Partisan Commission Announces Debate Details

5 09 2008

My favorite part is that the veep debate October 2 will be DURING Banned Books Week! So we should lobby to get a question about that to Gwen Ifill, seriously, wanna help?


August 5, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Paul G. Kirk, Jr. and Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., co-chairmen of the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), today announced the moderators for the 2008 general election presidential and vice presidential debates.
The moderators, and the schedule and locations for the debates (as announced on November 21, 2007), are as follows:

First presidential debate
Friday, September 26
The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Miss.
Jim Lehrer
Executive Editor and Anchor, The NewsHour, PBS

Vice presidential debate
Thursday, October 2
Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
Gwen Ifill
Senior Correspondent, The NewsHour, and Moderator and Managing Editor, Washington Week, PBS

Second presidential debate (town meeting)
Tuesday, October 7
Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn.
Tom Brokaw
Special Correspondent, NBC News

Third presidential debate
Wednesday, October 15
Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
Bob Schieffer
CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent, and Host, Face the Nation

Each debate will begin at 9:00 p.m. EST.


The format for the debates, announced on November 21, 2007, will be:

* Each debate will have a single moderator and last for 90 minutes.

* In the first and third presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, the candidates will be seated with the moderator at a table.

* One presidential debate will focus primarily on domestic policy and one presidential debate will focus primarily on foreign policy. The second presidential debate will be held as a town meeting in which citizens will pose questions to the candidates. The vice presidential debate will cover both foreign and domestic topics.

* During the first and third presidential debates, and the vice presidential debate, the time will be divided into eight, ten-minute segments. The moderator will introduce each segment with an issue on which each candidate will comment, after which the moderator will facilitate further discussion of the issue, including direct exchange between the candidates for the balance of that segment.

* The participants in the town meeting will pose their questions to the candidates after reviewing their questions with the moderator for the sole purpose of avoiding duplication. The participants will be chosen by the Gallup Organization and will be undecided voters from the Nashville, Tenn. standard metropolitan statistical area. During the town meeting, the moderator has discretion to use questions submitted by Internet.

* Time at the end of the final presidential debate will be reserved for closing statements.


The CPD 2008 Candidate Selection Criteria, announced on November 21, 2007, will be the exclusive means of determining the candidates to be invited to participate in the debates. For more information, please visit




26 responses

5 09 2008

So Nashville TN gets to be the whole nation’s representative “town” for the town meeting debate format?? LOL – Kay Brooks and her band of conservative creationist homeschool brothers will love that . . .

1 10 2008

Gwen Ifill is not a good choice as moderator of the V.P. debate. Having written a pro-Obama book, she is clearly in his camp.

Can she be canceled as debate moderator? It will be difficult, if not impossible for her to be fair.

She oozed disdain for Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republic National Convention.


1 10 2008

I just heard Joe, of Morning Joe, spouting this line. The “pro-Obama book” that is today’s talking point from the right is, apparently, about the rise of African-Americans in politics. And was in the works long before Ifill knew she was to be a moderator.

But what the heck. If your candidate is sucky on the issues, go with what you’ve got.

FWIW, I glanced at something on DailyKos saying some liberals weren’t happy with her either.

Maybe that bodes well for her being “fair and balanced.” 🙂


1 10 2008

Huh? What talking point is this?
Googling “Gwen Ifill pro-Obama book” — oh, I see. World Nut Daily. Got it.

You should probably change the phrase so it sounds like “actual analysis” or at least your own opinion, instead of the latest strategic script to distract from the obvious critical issue of Palin’s scary status as sexist stunt prop for cynical old men.

1 10 2008

Both campaigns have veto power over each moderator. If the McCain camp is desperate enough about Palin actually contending as a candidate now, I wouldn’t blame them for trying to discredit Ifill as professionally unqualified for the role, but her personal biography is better than Palin’s by far and it’s simple fact that Gwen Ifill has already proved herself in past presidential debate moderation. And as a woman, maybe the only woman if I recall correctly. (Also one of the very few African-Americans, right?)

An old white guy attacked Gwen Ifill as “the cleaning lady” being allowed to cover the White House. Is that view of women and blacks what Palin counts as the “new energy and new ideas” she’s bringing to this race?

When Don Imus hurled a racist and sexist slur at the Rutgers University women’s basketball team during their championship game last spring, renowned journalist Gwen Ifill—a black woman—used her platform to defend the victimized girls. Then Imus went after her.

Ifill, moderating and managing editor of “Washington Week” and senior correspondent for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” spoke to a packed auditorium at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., Thursday about “politics, policy and reality—what’s really going on in Washington” as part of a lecture series presented by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. Read Ifill’s full biography on PBS’ web site.

A 30-year journalist, Ifill began her talk by thanking Don Imus for helping her get over laryngitis. She, too, was a victim of his insensitive remarks. “Isn’t the ‘Times’ wonderful,” Imus said, referring to Ifill. “It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.”

“This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field,” Ifill wrote in an April op-ed to The New York Times. “Let’s see if we can manage to build them up and reward them, rather than opting for the cheapest, easiest, most despicable shots.”

. . .”Politics can change things and it matters who holds the job,” said Ifill. “News media doesn’t tell Washington stories in a relevant way” to working Americans with everyday concerns, and the media could do a better job being relevant to these constituents by avoiding the “insider politics” that usually dominates news coverage, she said.

“I feel a responsibility to my parents, who told me there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish. I feel a responsibility to little black girls who look like me and wonder … to tell them what the world is like,” said a teary Ifill.

But with the right education, the right opportunity and the right amount of “gumption” at the right time, we all have access to better choices, she said, and “If we’re doing our jobs right, our daughters will have that as well.”

So maybe the rich white men running McCain’s campaign now are afraid Ifill will raise the equal rights for women thing, and the black thing? Of course she will be female and (gasp!) black whether or not she mentions race and sex as issues, but suppose she does ask a relevant question about either? What if Ifill dares to ask Biden about his comment about Obama as a bright, clean black candidate and then asks Palin about reports that she announced that she didn’t legally need to hire any blacks and had no intention of doing so?

Palin supposedly has a journalism degree but has not similarly proven herself as able to think like a journalist to the nation yet, much less how to OUTthink journalists. In fact, she hasn’t yet proven she could or would read Ifill’s book or ANY current events or historical book, much less newspapers of record, news magazines and other thoughtful, complex, relevant thought. From what I’ve learned so far about Palin’s personal religious background and beliefs — witch hunting, young-earth creationism, god’s plan to use Alaska a final haven on earth before destroying all human life — I’m not convinced she can even read the Bible!

Here’s her opportunity to at least show us that, if she can, how she’s at least qualified to participate in this debate alongside Ifill, as a credible candidate able to answer questions important to all the people of the United States of America, not just the conservatives or old men or evangelical-pentecostals.

Should education, temperament, credentials and directly relevant past performance matter to us as Thinking Citizens making decisions in the interest of good self-governance principles, or do we prefer a base (in both senses of the word) beauty contest for leering judges and cheering crowds, some show of phony features pleasing to the cameras, diseasing to democracy?

1 10 2008

The Boston Globe for example, thinks Palin should be asked about her cost-cutting “budget” policy of charging rape victims for their own crime evidence collection.

1 10 2008
Nance Confer

My fear is that Biden will make her cry.


2 10 2008

What if she makes him cry? Would anyone care?

2 10 2008
Nance Confer

I hadn’t considered that possibility. 🙂


2 10 2008

Lee Atwater may be dead but it will take more than that to make R white male streetfighters credible on minority politics and race (or sex, in both senses of the word!) issues. Just in the last week they were blaming minorities daring to buy houses for the subprime mortgage crisis.

Gwen Ifill is a strong woman professional. Biden has proven he’s got no problem living, working and debating with strong women from his wife and sister to his Senate colleagues, but Palin hasn’t shown any level of ability or comfort to do the same! Ask her Alaska rival Lyda Green, who Palin giggled to hear derided on a radio program as a fat bitch and bad mother, or ask her own politician mother-in-law who she refused to support.

Biden has a better “working the refs” claim to be made (which of course he won’t make) that he’s the minority at risk in this debate, the lone establishment male with no special cache among two strong, surging females tonight, thus the candidate who may well be unfairly prevented from “being himself” as prepared to be elected vice-president without some viewer-thrilling culture war appeal.

Palin can’t play the cheerleader hockey mom girl card on Katie Couric, so it went BADLY. And she sure can’t play it on Ifill. What to do, what to do? Ooh, look, Ifill’s not just a woman, she’s BLACK too — and so is Obama! That dog will hunt! So what say we manipulate this to make Ifill into Obama’s running mate the way Lee Atwater vowed to turn the black Willie Horton into a viscerally disqualifying running mate to hang around Dukakis’ neck. (Ifill’s book ought to have a whole chapter on that.)

As both woman and African-American, Ifill’s book might have instead examined the history of women in politics up through the Age of Hillary Clinton. In that case, would Biden fans be screaming foul as the uberconservatives defended him as the victim of a biased media, unfairly rigged to hobble him from being himself? Rii-ii-ght.

But her upcoming book is about race in American politics, and that’s what this new debate complaint is really about, why the black woman has to be discredited for being black AND female and a real journalist with a distinguished public issues career, the handy way to neutralize the black woman as unqualified while advancing the case for the unqualified white woman.

The real reason for Mccainiacs to be screaming about race prejudice is that Biden has proven over his lifetime and career how comfortably he lives, works and debates with blacks and other racial-cultural minorities. Palin has yet to prove any such thing. Being on the stage in contrast to Ifill and Biden makes that the most dangerous and obvious problem Palin has, the elephant in her disqualification circus, and Palin’s transparently uninformed answers about that would be devastating, and THAT is what the rich white male campaign strategists are working so ruthlessly to work around.

This isn’t about the new talking point of letting Sarah be Sarah. It’s really just more of the campaign’s dishonorable race-baiting, like setting the Reverend Wright on fire to inflame the base, and then taking race out of the game now that they can’t infllict any more damage with it, about attacking race as illegitimate in life experience and identity because it hurts rather than helps the very parochially white Palin from the very white background, with the parochially white attitudes and painfully white administration. Tonight that means their best, last shot is taking race itself away from the historic Democratic ticket, even from the neutral debate moderator. Not letting Obama be Obama much less letting Gwen be Gwen.

2 10 2008

Meanwhile, in the real world, female (but not black) conservative journalist-WaPo columnist Kathleen Parker takes her lumps for the um, conservative Country First cause?

The Omen In My Mail
By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, October 1, 2008; A17

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn’t, I should “off” myself.

Those are a few nuggets randomly selected from thousands of e-mails written in response to my column suggesting that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down.

Who says public discourse hasn’t deteriorated?

The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I’m familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.

Some of my usual readers feel betrayed because I previously have written favorably of Palin. By changing my mind and saying so, I am viewed as a traitor to the Republican Party — not a “true” conservative.

Obviously, I’m not employed by the GOP. If I were, the party is seriously in arrears. But what is a true conservative? One who doesn’t think or question and who marches in lock step with The Party?

The emotional pitch of many comments suggests an overinvestment in Palin as “one of us.” . . .

2 10 2008

Ifill questions why people assume that her book will be favorable toward Obama.

“Do you think they made the same assumptions about Lou Cannon (who is white) when he wrote his book about Reagan?” said Ifill, who is black. Asked if there were racial motives at play, she said, “I don’t know what it is. I find it curious.”

3 10 2008

To Nance, HA! Told you so — do I have prescient power of story instincts or what? 😉

Joe’s Tears: the Political Power of Paternal Love

3 10 2008
Nance Confer

My first thoughts this morning —

Palin did much better than I expected and JJ was right about who would cry! 🙂

One of the commentators said Biden often gets emotional when speaking about his family and the death of his wife and daughter.

At any rate, I was surprised at how well Palin held it together. Not so good on the facts, maybe, but terrific when she was speaking naturally. She launched into memorized paragraphs too often but. . . much better than I was expecting.

So I guess my expectations were managed quite well. 🙂


3 10 2008

Last night was final dress rehearsal for our big musical opening tonight, so we didn’t see or hear any of it live. Favorite Daughter and I came home about midnight-thirty, exhausted and in full stage makeup, to catch up quickly before sleep. She has early classes this morning too, but at least I am able to be online for an hour or so now. Groggy as I am! 🙂

Yesterday in the pre-debate cable coverage, I was struck by a Republican strategist laying out the truth:

“It’s gonna be difficult for her to win on policy but she can do it on personality. . .

“Her husband Todd lost his job. She needs to personalize that story to herself (??) and then give America the pep talk that only a mother can do.”

R strategist staffer Andrea Tantaros to MSNBC 12:20 pm Oct 2

My initial problem with Palin is that she could BE Andrea Tantaros, signing with ad agency William Morris and becoming the next American Idol host or Kelly with Regis. And if you look at Palin’s aspirations, education and public performances — all the way up through last night– that is her talent, what she does, who she is, the brand she brings to the table. Not policy and governance expertise but polished and popular performance value. I said before that it’s eerily like Mad Men, advertising as industry, profiting no matter the product being advertised because it’s the sizzle that pays, not the nutritional value of the steak one assumes comes along with it.

July 31, 2008 —
REMEMBER the name Andrea Tantaros. The brainy brunette was known in political circles from her stints as the outspoken press secretary to Bill Weld and Jeanine Pirro. Then she became a political commentator for Fox News and MSNBC. Now she’s been snapped up by William Morris, where talent agents see big possibilities in the world of TV and beyond. Tantaros joins an impressive roster of such clients as Kelly Ripa, Ryan Seacrest, Russell Crowe and, most recently, A-Rod.

Ad-tested soundbites with phrases like “reining in spending” strung together but devoid of actual policy or political content that would make us think, like watching Superbowl ads and enjoying the entertainment value, never mind which beer brings it to us.

That’s no debate of competing world class leadership ideas for the third millennium. That’s no leadership at all; it’s not real debate or real ideas. It’s just the competition itself as entertainment, like basketball and canned condescending one-minute beauty pageant answers about “how would you change the world to make it better for all the little children?” meaning some pretty frightening power of story. It’s was the same perky pied piping she did last night and of course it works better against men, who don’t win beauty contests against women! (Geraldine and Hillary OTOH, come to the gentleman’s field of play and try to compete there. I’d be more impressed with Palin if she could play the men’s game and win, rather than just beating them at girl games and then claiming the world champ title.)

About the actual policy and governance ideas, such as they seem to be — her ticket’s approaches to our most critical governance issues simply don’t work. We all know they don’t work. Even McCain either knows it, or ought to know it by now. But I’d agree that Palin herself seems not to know, and not to need to know, anything real and practical and important. Like some kind of carefully constructed spokesmodel image whose special talent is making any product look sexy, no questions asked. As a real government policy thinker and writer myself, I look at what she’s peddling under the same label and and it looks like a cheap knock-off being sold for full price to gullible tourists in the street.

It’d be perfect to sell cigarettes to an image-adoring public, like the Marlboro Man did for decades (but if she really believes in her product while she’s doing it, eventually it will kill her too.)

5 10 2008
Betty Malone

Exactly…I can’t say it any better than our JJ..of course, so I’ll just say ditto what she said!

When I watch Palin…I find myself thrown back to high school…when I was the smart the late 60’s…with my spectacles, and pulled back ponytail..and my idea of fun was to discuss politics with my high school history teacher…but I’d sit and watch the cute cheerleaders, giggle their way to popularity, and easily win all the “boys”..with their one liners and their flirty winks..

and lo and behold, next day, so many conservative commentators, talking our my girl..or our though she had giggled and wiggled and one line jibbed her way back into their conservative hearts.

Beauty and charm, does it always win? Same questions we smart and plain girls have been asking for ages..

5 10 2008
Betty Malone

And then I feel like a catty bitch..for even suggesting it..

So, I’m an intellectual elitist for being an Obama fan, and a catty bitch for finding Palin a fluff bucket of girlish charm

5 10 2008

Tom Brokaw is the next moderator. Should Obama partisans attack his objectivity because he’s written cultural history books glorifying WAR, which obviously favors McCain’s world view?

5 10 2008

Welcome to the club, Betty. 🙂 Ain’t it grand!


5 10 2008

And we can learn much more from this election than the personal specifics about the candidates. Look at the larger power of story in all this, about who we are as the American people now, and why. This is OUR society, not one inflicted on us by church or state. So we needn’t limit thinking about this election to the particular candidates, making it the beauty contest they want it to be. We can also observe and think about the culture we create, not just with our votes but with with our own education, work, worship, alliances, ideas and choices, tastes and lifestyles. And of course our own families. What are we contributing to the problems, and to the solutions? Are we being the change we want to see in the world, or do we even know what we want?

5 10 2008
Betty Malone

Well….that’s not so simple is it…To be the change we want to see…Because face change would not be to the liking of many Americans..and their’s obviously isn’t to mine…So, whose America wins?

5 10 2008
Betty Malone

Isn’t it really about the fragmentation of our entire society, JJ. The monolithic perfect America really never existed in the real world, but only in romantic novels and our own naive mindsets. But now, with global speech, we continue to splinter into “tribes” of like minded thinkers..So perhaps the better question is how do we find a space for our tribe..within the nation.

5 10 2008
Betty Malone

I meant global speed, not global “speech”:)

5 10 2008

Balkanization? Gee, I still hope for the new narrative that inspires us as one nation, the next power of story we all can buy into and help create. Virtually all anyway.

I was watching Peggy Noonan on Meet the Press (recorded) after the matinee late today, and it seems she’s written a book called Patriotic Grace. I watched her speak about it, and about how the young hotshots on the campaign planes with their Blackberries and competitive alpha dog natures, are destroying any semblance of “united” in the united states, and how this is a time for grownups.

And I thought about the dressing room at the show — would you guys like me to post a picture of me in makeup and costume? — all the young girls in the ensemble and then me and two other “mature” altos, and how heartbreakingly clueless these girls are yet how thirsty for real leadership. Each one has a story she’s eager to tell anyone with a friendly face, about the grownups in her own family who have failed to offer the right kind, such a sad but plucky bunch. And I look at my own beautiful, incredible, accomplished daughter who’s already a leader by example and teacher by force of will to make things better, at 18, and I think — it’s not that we don’t know what it takes. It’s that we can’t muster the will to provide it.

5 10 2008

Not to say it’s just a female thing. I heard Joe Biden’s MIL passed away, and I thought about the week HE’S had, between the bailout bill vote in the Senate and debating Palin and sending his son off to Iraq and then a death in the family, all in one week while trying to campaign for a presidential ticket!

And I’m complaining that my feet hurt and I haven’t had as much time to my own devices as I’m used to. 🙂

I’ve had unbelievably horrible and momentous weeks like that too, though. I remember the week when my dad had a stroke while I was pregnant with Young Son, and after rushing several hours to intensive care and sitting by him for days, I had to return home for my amnio appointment, and then I couldn’t travel for 24 hours back to the hospital, because I might miscarry. It was excruciating but it was also Valentine’s Day and FavD was five years old and wanted to make valentines . . .

5 10 2008

Just noticed this about Peggy Noonan on Meet the Press, as I mentioned above:

Peggy Noonan Says Palin’s Type of Populism Bad for the Country

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