FAIR AND BALANCED
October 01, 2008
image: Sarah Palin vs Joe Biden (cc) Thomas Hawk
Folks appear to be up in arms over Gwen Ifill's pro-Obama book, on account of her role as moderator in the upcoming VP debate between Palin and Biden, crying foul and unfair bias and other such things. I think that's a reasonable complaint -- Ifill has a responsibility to be impartial towards the opponents, and she has received criticism for not being so during the 2004 VP debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney.
To be honest, I think the scale of the outrage is a little silly. As shown by the polls, most people are incapable of being impartial, and the people most offended are those strongly biased in the opposite direction. And I'm sure that many of them feel they would be a better choice as moderator.
Additionally, the complaint itself is rather cynical. To claim that bias will affect a debate assumes that the general public is stupid, and can be easily tricked by a biased moderator. However, I suggest that any partiality during the debate will be painfully obvious, and that it's rather newsworthy to point out unfair bias during a debate. If I was keeping score, I'd say that any negative press about unfair bias during the debate would help the McCain campaign earn a few points. And I think that the current press about the situation may already have done so.
That said, it would probably be prudent for Ifill to step down as moderator because of the appearance of impropriety, as well as her reputation from the 2004 VP debate. If the public feels it will be unfair, what better way to further support your chosen candidate than to remove as many roadblocks as possible, even if it means yourself?
Note: The image above is followed up with the following comment by the creator:
I took the transcript from Sarah Palin's VP acceptance speech at last night's Republican convention (top) and compared it to the VP acceptance transcript given by Joe Biden from the Democratic convention (bottom) using wordle.