Yes, a lot of people are saying (and a CNN poll) that Vice President Joe Biden won the debate with his constant questioning of the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket, his foreign policy prowess and his use of every single synonym for the word liar, but it was moderator Martha Raddatz who we are declaring the winner. Unlike Jim Lehrer, who moderated the Presidential Debate, Martha asked about topics we actually want to hear answers on, like abortion. She didn’t sugar coat anything. And when she wasn’t satisfied with a candidate’s answer, she pushed back. She made that debate exciting.
By bringing up the topic of abortion she put herself miles ahead of Lehrer as that issue and the female gender in general wasn’t even mentioned during the first Presidential debate. She gave women a shot in this debate, as The Washington Post said. “We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion,” she said last night. Ryan said he believes life begins at conception and that he respects others’ views, but not their rights. Biden said, unlike Ryan, he does not see how he can impose his beliefs on others. “I do not believe,” said Biden, “that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body.”
She also pressed on the candidates’ answers in a politely agressive and smart way. She cut through all the “malarkey” on topics including taxes, Medicare, Social Security, the budget deficit, terrorism and Afghanistan. She made Ryan spell out exactly what the different loopholes were that he would eliminate in order to cut taxes without reducing the deficit. According to The New York Times, she returned to that point six times and asked Ryan, “ “I want to know how you do the math and have this increase in defense spending?” Though she is being criticized for going a little light on Biden, she asked him tough stuff too. When Biden said Ryan was just saying “a bunch of stuff” she said, ”What does that mean, ‘a bunch of stuff?’” Martha even pulled out the shame on you card at the end of the debate asking each candidate to talk about the tone of the race, and whether they were, indeed, “embarrassed by that.”
She also controlled the flow of the conversation well. Unlike Lehrer who often had to fight to get a word in, Radditz was firm but poised and they covered a lot of topics. ”Let’s move to Iran.”And the politicians did it! “[You] try to listen, and you try to react to what they’re saying,” ABC’s Raddatz said on Good Morning America. “Sure, I had a lot of follow-ups written, I had a lot of questions written. But when you’re there, you’re in the moment, you really have to go with what’s happening. So when they were talking to each other, when they were going after each other, you do, you want to step back from that. Yet when I hear things, I think, I gotta jump in there, I gotta jump in.”
Raddatz had to overcome some gender bias with this gig as her predecessor Gwen Ifill in 2008 drew major criticism because she was writing a book about politics and race at the time. She also had to overcome political bias as Obama attended her 1991 wedding to Julius Genachowski, a former Harvard Law School classmate of the president whom he appointed chair of the Federal Communications Commission. The media acted like they had just discovered Watergate with this 21 year old secret. ”Is it too much to ask of our corrupt media overlords that if the president of the United States was a guest at one of your staffers weddings that maybe that staffer shouldn’t moderate a vice presidential debate?” wrote Breitbart’s John Nolte. Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show Wednesday that Raddatz should tell viewers whom she voted for in 2008 and whom she plans to vote for in November. Limbaugh claimed that ABC was “trying to do everything they could to keep [Obama's presence at her wedding] from being discovered.”
Female moderators are a rare breed. Candy Crowley will be moderating the second Presidential Debate next week, marking the first time in 20 years a woman has done this task. Women, even though most talented and respected of journalists, for some reason, very much have to prove themselves in this arena. Raddatz clearly did that last night. She made a home run with this debate because she gave women a chance and ran that debate beautifully. She also really questioned the politicians, which is all we can ask for. Most of the world (except for Sarah Palin) also agrees that she killed it.