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Schieffer to the rescue?

Justin Webb | 22:28 UK time, Wednesday, 15 October 2008

So will tonight's debate moderator, Bob Schieffer, rescue US broadcasters from the woeful depths? I see no great hope in this piece, but the hopeless, incompetent, lazy, cringe-inducing performance of the "anchors" so far will not be difficult to improve tonight.

At least those crazy, prinked-up, self-obsessed ninnies who shout all the time on cable TV would get a reaction from the candidates and might see whether they can manage complete sentences they have not previously memorized.

Which, frankly, ought not to be the greatest achievement for the next leader of the free world.


  • 1. At 10:50pm on 15 Oct 2008, SaintDominick wrote:

    Bob Schieffer is an excellent journalist and a man of integrity who should do a very good job moderating the third and last debate.

    The big question is which McCain will appear tonight. I have heard conflicting strategies from commentators and policitical activities as to which would be his best approach to narrow the gap before election day. If he comes out swinging and attacking Obama's persona he will energize the GOP base, but considering the fact that they already plan to vote for McCain that doesn't seem to be a logical option. If McCain projects a statesman like image, focuses on issues, and proposes high level solutions to the problems we are having he is likely to attract wavering Independents and some Reagan Democrats.

    As for Obama, all he has to do is be himself.

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  • 2. At 10:52pm on 15 Oct 2008, mars_central wrote:

    I know setting the bar low is a well tried tactic, but they did set it on the floor for Palin (who I'm sure you're referring too). It would be nice if the candidates do get pressed into an actual debate rather than a series of stump speeches, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

    All signs point to Obama winning the White House now, so McCain may be desperate enough to try something different and suprise us all.

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  • 3. At 10:54pm on 15 Oct 2008, Stephen Derry wrote:

    Would the BBC consider seconding Jeremy Paxman or John Humphries to a US network for one debate? That would shake things up a little!

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  • 4. At 10:55pm on 15 Oct 2008, Gary_A_Hill wrote:

    Clearly, Mr. Webb, that paragon of journalistic competence and integrity, is trying to bait us here. I won't bite.

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  • 5. At 11:09pm on 15 Oct 2008, MagicKirin wrote:

    Well the CBS News would be better with Schieffer than Katie Courac. I hope he will ask some hard questions.

    Well the cable niinies like Obermann and Mathews made completed idiots of themselves during the primary debate and then the conventions that credbile ones:

    Anderson Cooper
    Bill O'rielley
    Bill Hume

    Had no oppurtunity

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  • 6. At 11:24pm on 15 Oct 2008, Libfromhell wrote:

    Yes, whatever happened to the idea that a debate ought to be...a debate instead of a collection of sound bytes? Well, it really doesn't matter because there's little difference between Obama and McCain regarding the New Depression. Both are comfortable with government bailing out Wall Street, and neither have pointed out that one has no meaningful freedom (or security) in a police state run by a plutocracy. Sometimes, though, it makes me calmer to imagine my future under American National Socialism without the hatred and scapegoating of someone semi-human and completely crass, like Caribou Barbie. What truly disturbs me, sending me to self-medication (in my defence, I've no health insurance) is a future most closely resembling Mexico. Now that the U.S. is a Third World nation, will future candidates promise us a truck farm in every neighbourhood, and a daily taco for every hard-working little worker (i.e., slave)? Could I get a side of chips with that, sans bulls**t?

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  • 7. At 11:29pm on 15 Oct 2008, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 8. At 11:33pm on 15 Oct 2008, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    are they any characters I should avoid using when posting?

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  • 9. At 11:45pm on 15 Oct 2008, sixfiftyblog wrote:

    I'm not sure you kicked up all this fuss during the primaries. Show me your entries decrying it then and then you'll be more credible now.

    The moderation of the Clinton-Obama debates was really woeful; far far worse than these presidential debates. Sure, some things could have been improved the last few debates. But at least we got to hear plenty from the candidates themselves, unmodulated by the self-important gatekeeping elite that you would like us to have.

    Better (if far from perfect) what we've had than the endlessly pinning the candidates down on their pet subjects or trying to get an answer that they - rather than ordinary voters - would be satisfied with, which is the way of more interventionist moderators of the type we are forced to have on British political TV. I like having a moderator who keeps the debate going but is very much in the background; allowing us to be the judges of the candidates, not them.

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  • 10. At 11:47pm on 15 Oct 2008, BienvenueEnLouisiana wrote:

    Does anyone notice that conservatives seem to be winning elections in Europe and Canada, while liberals seem to have the upper hand in the American elections?

    Last night on C-span (yes I watched C-span) the Canadian elections were on and the Conservatives gained seats, holding on to a Conservative minority gov. While watching Canada's election results I was reminded of similar trends in France, Germany, and Austria.

    If Obama wins, he will be a liberal Democrat presiding over a majority Democrat Congress. I guess Barack Obama's popularity abroad shows just how relative the terms Conservative and Liberal are huh.

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  • 11. At 11:48pm on 15 Oct 2008, mars_central wrote:

    #5 Why go for Bill O'Reilly? These days he's just a parody of Stephen Colbert :D

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  • 12. At 11:49pm on 15 Oct 2008, justcorbly wrote:

    The debate moderators are not being paid to act as journalists.

    Yes, the format sucks. It's a debate in name only. But that's what all participants want.

    It's worth remembering that, unlike the UK, skill at debating is seldom needed by American political leaders. No Question Time here. A President is better advised to develop the political skills needed to engender and manipulate the political support to sustain his legislative agenda.

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  • 13. At 11:50pm on 15 Oct 2008, Mike Mullen wrote:

    McCain has a seroous problem. If he goes for personal attacks to energize the Republican base he alienates the middle ground undecided voters, however many are left. If he plays the statesman and keeps it civil some of the base may just give up in disgust, they never liked McCain much anyway.

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  • 14. At 00:09am on 16 Oct 2008, cannonballmartin wrote:

    Let Ralph Nader debate. If you want it spiced up, that's the ticket. What are they afraid of?

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  • 15. At 00:14am on 16 Oct 2008, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    it would be great to see the candidates position on the massive change that is going to confront all of us in the next 50 to a hundred years. I suspect Obama has an idea, and McCain an intuition, but the truth may be unpalatable to the American public and it will not be discussed. It is a shame because of all the nations on the earth I think the US is probably the most capable of dealing with the challenges ahead. The arguments about tax credits or cuts are almost irrelevant. Who can lead the US into the 21st century? Obama is winning me over, does he understand the potential of his country (if healed), does McCain? can they convince us? I'd go for Obama, but he needs to sell the vision

    UK citizen, by the way, just very interested ...

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  • 16. At 00:26am on 16 Oct 2008, Tony Kennick wrote:

    They should of course get Jon Stewart to anchor one of these debates.

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  • 17. At 00:42am on 16 Oct 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    It will be Bob Schieffer to the rescue!

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  • 18. At 00:44am on 16 Oct 2008, mars_central wrote:

    9 and 12

    The problem is, with wallflower moderators the candidates aren't answering the questions at all. Palin even said "I'm not going to answer the question, I'm going to talk to the American people." (she may have thrown in a "you betcha" and a couple of winks, I don't recall) We have that already, they're called speeches.

    Why have a debate if you aren't going to debate?

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  • 19. At 00:47am on 16 Oct 2008, HabitualHero wrote:

    I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this debate. I'll keep trying though.

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  • 20. At 00:47am on 16 Oct 2008, Candace9839 wrote:

    Brokaw was appalling but Lehrer and Ifill did an excellent job. Will need to wait and see if McCain takes the bait and tries to attack Obama on Ayers (or Wright) or sticks to the economy, the issue most people care about.

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  • 21. At 00:49am on 16 Oct 2008, David Cunard wrote:

    the hopeless, incompetent, lazy, cringe-inducing performance of the "anchors" so far . . .

    Oh, come on Justin! I don't see that you are any better than they, now that you are reduced to providing links with a few sentences in between as "commentary". Accept is (and the USA) for what it is and get used to the fact this is not a British election

    #8. selfevidenttruths: "are there any characters I should avoid using when posting?"

    There sure are: JohnAAA, vivaelcid, AndreainNY, Marcus AureliusII and MagicKirin.

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  • 22. At 00:59am on 16 Oct 2008, mars_central wrote:


    I was thinking that and it would get more young people interested. Him or Bill Maher would be great in my opinion. Or Stephen Colbert, his speech at the While House Press Dinner thingy shows that he has no problem with saying what he wants to power, let alone potential power.

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  • 23. At 01:13am on 16 Oct 2008, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    21 lol

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  • 24. At 01:35am on 16 Oct 2008, regular_josephina wrote:

    Oh Justin, Justin,
    You set your expectations too high! This is America after all. We don't even expect our VP nominees to actually know what the VP is supposed to do.

    I wish we could get a British journalist over here to interrogate Palin live. You guys are a lot meaner. Maybe we could send her and McC to American Idol and have Simon rate their arguments as "A" for Atrocious.

    P.S. Justin, I wish they'd get YOU to moderate.... I can see it now - every time McC says "my friends" you get to say "NO, you haven't answered the question!" Sounds like a good deal to me.

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  • 25. At 01:38am on 16 Oct 2008, allmymarbles wrote:

    As is my usual practice, I will not watch the "debate." The highlights will be on video tomorow so I can miss all the boring bits. As to who "won," the change in gambling odds will tell it all.

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  • 26. At 01:40am on 16 Oct 2008, Stephen Derry wrote:

    #22 mars_central

    Conservatives would argue any of those figures have too much inherent bias. What would really be interesting is instead of having the candidates debate each other (which they won't), get each campaign to nominate anyone they choose to interview the other. Then televise Limbaugh v Obama and Maher v McCain (they're the ones I'd probably pick anyway!).

    Or, as someone else suggested, get Nader to question/debate them both.

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  • 27. At 01:49am on 16 Oct 2008, eightypercent wrote:

    # 21 - Nice one David C.

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  • 28. At 01:49am on 16 Oct 2008, allmymarbles wrote:

    21. David.

    "#8. selfevidenttruths: "are there any characters I should avoid using when posting?"

    "There sure are: JohnAAA, vivaelcid, AndreainNY, Marcus AureliusII and MagicKirin."

    I agree with all of the above, with the possible exception of MarcusAureliusII. He is sometimes obnoxious enough to be fun.

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  • 29. At 01:53am on 16 Oct 2008, clueduprock wrote:

    #10 BienvenueEnLouisiana:

    I'm not sure you fully understand the situation of Barack Obama and European politics.

    1) Conservatism may be on the way up in some places (e.g. Switzerland, Austria) but not in others. In the UK, the Conservatives will probably win the next election, but that is not on the radar yet and the current financial crisis is actually making the government look good against the Conservatives. My point is, it's not universal.

    2) Barack Obama is considered "liberal" in America but, with the same policies, would probably be on a conservative party in Europe. In fact "liberal" is probably a distraction on this front, as in Europe it literally means how liberal someone/something is, nothing to do with left-wing.

    3) True, Barack Obama's popularity in Europe is down to the fact he is not a Republican. The last 8 years have exagerrated this. But, as mentioned above, being more left-wing than the Republicans really doesn't mean much around the world, and certainly not in Europe. Obama's European popularity is mostly down to his freshness, his articulate confidence, his relaxed intelligence, and his clear and obvious outlook on making change for America and America's relations with the world. McCain is talking about change but despite his "maverick" credentials, I don't think anyone in Europe believes it. He is from the same party as Bush so, rightly or wrongly, Europeans see McCain as the current candidate for the last 8 years.

    I think that all makes sense. I've tried to describe everything neutrally, others may put me right...

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  • 30. At 01:54am on 16 Oct 2008, clueduprock wrote:

    #21 David_Cunard:

    Very funny! =]

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  • 31. At 01:55am on 16 Oct 2008, clueduprock wrote:

    Wow moderators are hot tonight!

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  • 32. At 01:59am on 16 Oct 2008, clueduprock wrote:

    #24 regular_josephina:

    I'd love to see it, except every time McCain says "my friends", Justin would scream out "I am not your damn friend!"

    (Followed quickly by "Maybe I could be but just stop assuming it!", just for balance...)

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  • 33. At 02:12am on 16 Oct 2008, kecsmar wrote:

    Im sure Joe the plumber is enjoying getting some great free publicity out of this debate..may be he'll make some money now???

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  • 34. At 02:18am on 16 Oct 2008, kecsmar wrote:

    What is a it somewhere to live or is it a commodity to make money??

    McC is saying a house is a means to make money to prosper....who dictates the price, Govt??...of course not. It is a no brainer.... in your house...and make money with a job!

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  • 35. At 02:22am on 16 Oct 2008, kecsmar wrote:

    Is it just me...or does McC always start with....Americans are hurt and angry...?? a stuck record as if the statement is enough...!!

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  • 36. At 02:30am on 16 Oct 2008, everyoneiscrazy wrote:

    Bill O'Reilly.


    Maybe to your "if you don't agree with me i'm gonna shout and throw you off my show" style of posting but to a sane person Bill O'Reilly is one of the least credible people to have the cheek to call themselves a journalist.

    Bill O'Reilly = What's wrong with america.

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  • 37. At 02:32am on 16 Oct 2008, kecsmar wrote:

    I think McC misunderstands what a negative ad actually is... Attacking a policy choice is different to calling someone a terrorist etc.

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  • 38. At 02:38am on 16 Oct 2008, David Cunard wrote:

    Surprising that Justin has not repeated his "live" blogging this evening, but so far, just over 35 minutes into the "debate", it's too much "you said this" and "you said that". Bob Schieffer's doing OK, but I wish he had held their feet to the fire over what each campaign has been saying about the other; to say that presidential campaigning is "tough" did not answer the question.

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  • 39. At 02:39am on 16 Oct 2008, Gary_A_Hill wrote:

    cannon... (#14), the Nader supporters bring this up from time to time. The fact is that there are objective criteria for who may participate in the presidential debates, which can be looked up online, and Nader doesn't meet them. There is no avoidance of Nader peculiar to his candidacy. The reason for the standards is that it is not the purpose of the debates to provide a forum for fringe candidates; the purpose is to help the American people choose a president. Some third-party and independent candidates have met the standard, e.g. Ross Perot. Nader does not.

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  • 40. At 02:42am on 16 Oct 2008, kecsmar wrote:

    I thought Obama answered the Qs about ACRORN et al very well.
    McC didn't engraciate himself in that part of the Q&A

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  • 41. At 02:48am on 16 Oct 2008, kecsmar wrote:

    McC wants to build 45 Nuc plants....does he realise that it takes about 10 years to bring a Nuc plant online???....that is beyond his 7~8years prediction to being dependent on foreign oil.

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  • 42. At 02:55am on 16 Oct 2008, kecsmar wrote:

    Not sure where Obama gets 5miilion new jobs from new energy industry comes from...seems a very exact value, almost contrived

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  • 43. At 03:08am on 16 Oct 2008, clueduprock wrote:

    ...well okay they were pretty hot. I guess at they suddenly upped ship and went to help with the debate commentary.

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  • 44. At 03:26am on 16 Oct 2008, kecsmar wrote:

    38 D_C
    i suspect because these "debates" are anything but...probably down the pub watching it!

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  • 45. At 03:35am on 16 Oct 2008, clueduprock wrote:

    Well McCain looked like he did better than the other 2 debates (I didn't see them), but surely that wasn't enough? Before tonight Obama was winning, and that debate was a draw.

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  • 46. At 03:52am on 16 Oct 2008, Orville Eastland wrote:

    Why won't they let Nader debate? It would challenge the status quo too much. (Both parties are in agreement on many issues for the most part...the bailout being just one of them...) Democrats don't want him because he would take away parts of their base. (See Elizabeth May's recent performance leading the Greens in Canada.) Republicans are afraid that Greens might get elected, and Greens, unlike Democrats wouldn't be chummy with Republicans. The same thing applies to Libertarians as well.

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  • 47. At 04:24am on 16 Oct 2008, belovedgoldplated wrote:

    Transplants are "goldplated" healthcare? Will those who already have one be cared for, or should I start making arrangements Mr. McCain?

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  • 48. At 04:43am on 16 Oct 2008, Gary_A_Hill wrote:

    Orvillethird (#46), nobody is "afraid" of the Greens. The Greens did not win a single seat in the Canadian parliament, and they won't win a single seat in the US Congress.

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  • 49. At 05:19am on 16 Oct 2008, BillTyrone wrote:

    For a man that stated blandly just before the financial turmoil took the globe into a tailspin that the *fundamentals* of the US economy are sound, I thought Sen McCains team honed his predicted answer segments well tonight.

    He did better than previously which was requirement No 1 albeit requirement No 2, to actually change and win independent voter minds...... I just don't see it, although the party faithfulls in the bag already have a level of confidence restored?

    Key aspects for me were these. i) That given the golden opportunity to flag the shortfalls of Gov Palin international stateswoman experience in the Q over VP suitability, Sen Obama carefully avoided this and kept to Joe Bidens profile. ii) The continuing calmness and assuredness of Sen Obama throughout. iii) The Sen McCain body language. Someone forgot to coach him on the mega importance of this side of the proceedings and he scored very poorly in this respect.


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  • 50. At 09:54am on 16 Oct 2008, clueduprock wrote:

    To explain my previous post, having been to bed and slept!

    - McCain got points for taking the fight to Obama, throwing (as the World Service interview said) everything but the kitchen sink at him. Obama got points for defending everything.

    - McCain got points for making Obama explain Ayers and ACORN - the actual issue isn't relevant, but McCain forced him into a corner. Despite Obama's awkwardly long and detailed answers, Obama got points for defending these two points comprehensively.

    - McCain got points for being energised and feisty, Obama got points for being calm and composed.

    - Both held decent cases on abortion, even if McCain was maybe fibbing slightly about his pure "pro-life" stance. (That said, Obama was the first to actually come out with a view; McCain answered first but only came out with an opinion after seeing Obama do so.)

    - McCain lost points on body language (as #49 BillTyrone points out) for looking flustered and ill-tempered. Obama's was generally good but looked strange when chuckling to himself, head down.

    - McCain lost points for being erratic the whole debate, constantly changing tack in trying (and failing) to land a heavy blow. Obama lost points for being slightly dull and lacklustre, and not criticising McCain much at all (I refer to this wonderful piece by The Onion).

    etc. etc. etc.

    Therefore the debate was a draw. A commendable performance from McCain considering the awfulness of his recent campaign. But certainly not enough to persuade independents that he won. Crucially his strength in this debate was on character, being feisty and sharp, but was extremely unconvincing on his policies (or lack of). Obama was dull compared to his many electrifying speeches and could have done a lot better, but won on policy which is surely the most important issue right now.

    P.S. Bob Schieffer got points for making candidates answer the questions and debate with each other, but lost them on saying "climate control" instead of "climate change". Brilliant.

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  • 51. At 10:47am on 16 Oct 2008, MagicKirin wrote:

    ref #14

    A Couple of reason:

    1. The debate is between the individuals who will be the next President.

    2. If you let Nader in, you would have to let Barr and McKinney in

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  • 52. At 10:49am on 16 Oct 2008, MagicKirin wrote:

    People have to remember that there is a difference between a political debate and a real debate.

    Poltical is a PR situation. Lloyd Bentson destroyed Dan Quayle with I knew JFK. In a real debate that would not have mattered.

    In a true debate the moderators whould have had to bring both back on point.

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  • 53. At 12:48pm on 16 Oct 2008, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Self Evident,

    On characters to avoid, try Check here

    Good response, David ;-)

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  • 54. At 4:13pm on 16 Oct 2008, Robin_J wrote:

    Justin - can I call you out on the phrase "leader of the free world"? Presumably 'free' involves choosing our own leaders; presumably the "free world" includes the bit of the world that I and several billion other people live in; any office that pretends to lead us, we can jolly well all have the vote for. If someone leads us without our consent, we're not free.

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  • 55. At 7:00pm on 16 Oct 2008, jacksforge wrote:

    The debate is between the individuals who will be the next President.

    one of them is not going to win. so it is a debate between those that wish to and have the higher likelihood of being the next president.
    it could be simplified to those wishing to be the next president if Ralph and Ron were at the debate.

    PS you never did say wether the guy offering his own neck to bring peace was a terrorist ?

    Lucky to move on eh,, if not you would always be chasing your tail.

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