The liberal tilt of questions selected by CNN’s Candy Crowley was so obvious, even the gang on NBC’s Today — hardly a conservative bastion — thought it remarkable. Correspondent Chuck Todd opined Wednesday morning: “The President also benefitted from many questions posed by the so-called undecided voters, covering issues near and dear to his liberal base....”
Going into Tuesday night’s debate, the MRC calculated that since 1992, moderators have called upon voters with a liberal agenda twice as often as those with a conservative agenda. The citizens selected by Crowley matched that tilt exactly, with six pro-Obama/liberal-themed questions, vs. three pro-Romney questions, and two others scored as neutral.
Even worse, Crowley interjected herself into the debate to validate President Obama’s claim that “the day after the attack [in Libya], I stood in the Rose Garden and told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror....”
Crowley endorsed Obama’s version, telling Mitt Romney: “He did, in fact, sir, call it an act of terror.”
Not according to the transcript, which has Obama only speaking generically about how “no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation,” not assigning that label to the violence in Benghazi. Among many others, the Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, pointed out the obvious: “He [Obama] did not say ‘terrorism’ — and it took the administration days to concede that it [was] an ‘act of terrorism’ that appears unrelated to initial reports of anger at a video that defamed the prophet Muhammad.”
Indeed, back on September 30, Crowley on her CNN Sunday program State of the Union, hit Obama advisor David Axelrod on exactly this point: “Why did it take them [the White House] until Friday [September 28], after a September 11 attack in Libya, to come to the conclusion that it was premeditated and that there was terrorists involved?”
In other words, Crowley knew the Obama administration initially tried to deny the Libya attack was terrorism, but suggested otherwise when it truly mattered, on a debate stage with tens of millions watching.
Add it all up, and Crowley’s posture on Tuesday night was that of a pro-Obama participant, not the impartial moderator that voters expect.
Apart from Crowley’s Libya blunder, her key role was to select the questions for the night. The Gallup polling organization located 82 undecided voters for the night, but Crowley and her staff chose the eleven that would actually get a chance to ask the candidates a question. Crowley showed a clear bias for liberal themes that must have pleased Obama. Examples (edited for brevity):
# In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
# I attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you [Governor Romney] and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush?
# Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?
Crowley tapped this question a voter pressing Obama from the left on gun control: “During the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?”
Yet, there were no similar questions pushing Romney from the right. Indeed, the pro-Romney questions (about high gas prices, the voter who is not as optimistic about Obama as he was in 2008, and the attack in Libya) incorporated criticisms of Obama’s tenure, but none suggested a conservative or anti-liberal philosophical agenda.
The toughest question for Obama was the question about his administration’s obvious failure to provide necessary security for the Libyan consulate that was attacked on September 11: “The State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?”
On CNN after the debate was over, Crowley talked with colleagues Dana Bash and Soledad O’Brien about the selection of questions, boasting about the most obvious liberal selections and suggesting she had even more such agenda questions ready to go: “We wanted to cover subjects that maybe folks hadn’t heard about....Gun control and immigration and women’s issues were the three big ones. Climate change — I had that question, for all you climate change people.”
On ABC after the debate, panelists Matthew Dowd and Donna Brazile both tried to pre-empt criticism of Crowley’s partisanship as conservative sour grapes. Dowd (a onetime George W. Bush strategist who now appears to be firmly left-of-center), taunted: “I think what this may lead to is a bunch of conservatives and Republicans attacking Candy Crowley, and when that happens, that is a sure sign that President Obama won this. When you start attacking the ref, or start attacking the umpire, it means you left a lot of plays on the field, and when you see that, you know they know they lost.”
One-time Gore 2000 campaign manager Donna Brazile agreed: “When Republicans lose debates, they always find something wrong with the moderator or the referee.”
But conservatives should be allowed to point out the obvious: Crowley first tipped the debate agenda in favor of Obama, and then jumped into the fray herself to support Obama on a key factual question.
If she had done the same for Mitt Romney, her news media colleagues wouldn’t be praising her the next day; they’d be slashing her as a partisan stooge.