Presidential Debate Moderators Are Feeling The Heat Like Never Before

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THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEW YORK ― For Lester Holt and his TV journalist colleagues who are moderating the upcoming presidential debates, the opportunity to question the future commander in chief in front of tens of millions of viewers brings prestige ― and potential pitfalls.

The high-profile anchor selected will inevitably be part of the debate story. The fear is becoming the whole story.

This is the first time in recent memory that the moderator’s role has come under such intense scrutiny in the weeks leading up to the first presidential face-off. The pressure for network executives to make sure their marquee journalists are up to speed has only increased after the widespread criticism leveled at Matt Lauer, who moderated a presidential forum Wednesday night. (The Commander-in-Chief forum, featuring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, was widely seen as a dry run for the Sept. 26 main event.)

Even before the Lauer debacle, journalists were already expressing concerns that debate moderators would refrain from challenging candidates’ outright lies. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, the moderator for the third debate, said on Sunday that he doesn’t intend to be “a truth squad” and that the candidates are responsible for rebutting one another’s claims. The other three presidential debate moderators ― NBC’s Holt, ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper ― along with vice presidential debate moderator Elaine Quijano, of CBS News, have kept silent all week as to whether or not they agree.

Wallace’s perspective prompted me to imagine Monday how, without a moderator who pushes back, Trump could get away with repeating his lie about being a staunch opponent of the Iraq War. That scenario played out 48 hours later when Lauer didn’t fact-check Trump’s false Iraq claim, along with failing to point out that the Republican nominee supported the 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya.

In response to Lauer’s poor performance, The New York Times editorial boardominously warned Friday of a “debate disaster waiting to happen.”

“If the moderators of the coming debates do not figure out a better way to get the candidates to speak accurately about their records and policies — especially Mr. Trump, who seems to feel he can skate by unchallenged with his own version of reality while Mrs. Clinton is grilled and entangled in the fine points of domestic and foreign policy — then they will have done the country a grave disservice,” the editorial board wrote.

On Wednesday night, Trump blustered his way through a primetime event without any discernible grasp of foreign policy and lied about his pre-Iraq war position. This surely isn’t the first time. In March, Trump made 71 claims deemed “inaccurate, misleading or deeply questionable” in the course of a single CNN town hall. Clinton, too, has made false or misleading statements this election season, according to fact-checkers, but with nowhere near Trump’s frequency or brazenness, such as claiming to have watched events that never happened.

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Romney Wins The Night

Many pundits on the right are praising Mitt Romney for his performance in debating President Obama last night.

There’s no question that Romney’s assertiveness and lack of deference to the moderator helped him win the debate.  There is one question though…why is he still so vague on details when discussing his economic plan for the country?

The Huffington Post

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney spent much of his first presidential debate Wednesday walking back some of his core primary positions and highlighting similarities with President Barack Obama — from keeping bank regulations in place, bringing in more teachers, maintaining taxes on the wealthy, to making sure those with pre-existing conditions have health insurance.

But the president failed to respond effectively, drifting into his professorial demeanor and barely attempting to veil his annoyance with Romney. It wasn’t pretty, but Romney won, according to the general consensus among reporters and political operatives after the debate at the University of Denver.

Romney appeared more relaxed than Obama, who spent much of his time explaining policies he would likely rather be done selling by now. He hardly looked Romney in the eye during the debate.

There is one critical caveat, of course, in determining the winner of a debate: It’s difficult to know how the millions of voters, whose prisms are radically different than those of mainstream reporters, took in the debate. But, at minimum, Romney cleared the most critical bar, by appearing presidential.

Still, one issue continued to plague Romney: details. While he said he would end Obama programs, he was vague on how he would do so without eliminating a host of components he pledged to keep.

“At some point, you have to ask, is he keeping all these plans to replace [programs] secret because they’re too good?” Obama said. “Families are going benefit too much from them?”

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Mitt Romney: It Pains Me To Fire You

Mitt Romney - Caricature

Sure Gov. Romney…sure.

The Huffington Post

Mitt Romney said Saturday night that it pains him to fire workers in order to make a company more profitable, responding to criticism from Newt Gingrich, who cited a  New York Times story on one of Romney’s ventures.

“It always pains you if you have to be in a position of downsizing a business in order to make it more successful,” Romney said. “I’m not surprised to have the New York Times try to put free enterprise on trial…It’s a little surprising from my colleagues on this stage.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney said that the laid-off workers are victims of the free market. “Sometimes investments don’t work and you’re not successful,” he said.

But Gingrich, the former House Speaker, questioned whether Romney’s private equity ventures were aimed at creating jobs or quick profit for capitalists.

Gingrich said he’s all for the free market, but “I’m not nearly enamored of a Wall Street model where you can go in and flip companies, have leveraged buyouts, basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers.”

He cited 1,700 fired workers in a New York Times story on one of Romney’s corporate raids.

“If it’s factually accurate, it raises questions,” he said.