Candy Crowley wants to bypsass debate rules....
In response to recent Crowley comments about asking follow-up questions, the candidates contacted the PDC:
In the view of both campaigns and the commission, those and other recent comments by Crowley conflict with the language the two campaigns agreed to, which delineates a more limited role for the moderator of the town-hall debate. The questioning of the two candidates is supposed to be driven by the audience members themselves — likely voters selected by the Gallup Organization. Crowley’s assignment differs from those of the three other debate moderators, who in the more standard format are supposed to lead the questioning and follow up when appropriate. The town-hall debate is planned for Tuesday at 9 p.m. E.T. at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
According to the town-hall format language in the agreement, after each audience question and both two-minute responses from the candidates, Obama and Romney are expected to have an additional discussion facilitated by Crowley. Yet her participation is meant to be otherwise limited. As stated in the document: “In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.” The memorandum, which has been obtained by TIME, was signed by lawyers for the two campaigns on Oct. 3, the day of the first presidential debate in Denver.
The new rules were negotiated with the memory of both candidates in the 2008 TH debate watching as moderator Tom Brokaw virtually hijacked the debate, pushing voters into the background. The TH format assigns primacy to the voters:
Throughout the long-running talks between the Chicago, Boston and the Commission this election season, there was unambiguous agreement on their shared goal to limit as much as possible the on –camera role the moderator would play in the 2012 town hall debate. In fact, according to one source, the key language from the MOU written up by the campaigns (“the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic”) was taken directly from the words used by a Commission official during an early discussion about the debate formats. In short, as far as the campaigns are concerned, there should be no new follow up questions in the town hall debate.
TIME reports that the two campaigns hope that by airing publicly their concerns this will deter Crowley from violating the rules, or else at least keep her violations to a a minimum.
Crowley tartly responded to anticipatory critics, as reported by Politico:
“I understand that I’m there. I’m not a fly on the wall,” she told POLITICO recently. “We don’t want the candidates to spout talking points. That doesn’t help voters … I’m going to react organically to what’s happening.”
In a move that has unnerved both campaigns, Crowley, the host of CNN’s “State of the Union,” is indicating she intends to play an active role in a debate meant to be dictated by an audience of independent voters.
“Once the table is kind of set by the town hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about x, y, z?’” Crowley told CNN earlier this month.
The CPD warned Crowley to follow the rules, but will not put anyone on site to see that they are enforced.
On Crowley's behalf, Fox News's "Campaign Carl" Cameron called her fair-minded & "a pro"; she will, he said, try to get specifics for voters. The formidable Jennifer Rubin, uber-blogger of "Right Turn" at WaPo, defends Crowley's activist bent:
It is ironic, of course, that now this anti-conflict, anti-directed debate probably hurts Obama. He’s the one who could use some help from the moderator and some highly charged exchanges to make some headway against Mitt Romney (and to show the president has a pulse). Romney probably benefits from a series of monologues, minimizing the chance he’ll get nicked up.
But still, each in his or her own way, Lehrer and Martha Raddatz kept the debates they moderated moving and made sure the candidates engaged each other. In the town hall-style debate, the restraints on Crowley are a really disservice, in large part because she is one of the best, most even-handed interviewers.
Bottom Line. Tonight is the latest test of efforts by candidates to minimize the role of debate moderator. Too many news folks see debate questions as a chance to gain the approbation of their peers, rather than help inform voters by facilitating constructive exchanges between the candidates.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Conservative Politics