When the moderator becomes the story

The postmortem of Wednesday's Iowa GOP debate seemed to skip over the nine candidates and focus squarely on the moderator.

The moderator was Carolyn Washburn, editor of the Des Moines Register and former executive editor at the Idaho Statesman.

Washburn spent a year preparing for the debate, according to the style="text-decoration:underline;">Boston Globe. However, a number of the immediate reviews haven't been good.

• Dean Barnett, a writer at the Weekly Standard, devoted the first five paragraphs style="text-decoration:underline;"> of his debate postmortem to a critique of Washburn — itself a bad sign. "At some point, the political parties will have to begin to wonder why they entrust such a critical part of our president-choosing process to people like Carolyn Washburn, people who obviously aren't up to the task."

• Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer style="text-decoration:underline;">checked nuance at the door. "That was not just the worst debate of 2007, that was the worst debate in western history, and that includes the ancient Greeks," Krauthammer told Fox News. How's that for historical perspective?

• Washburn is taking heat for style="text-decoration:underline;">this clip, in which she asked the candidates a show-of-hands question of global warming. Fred Thompson refused to partake in what he called "hand shows." Washburn refused to give him a minute to explain his position. Say what you will about trying to turn global warming into a show-of-hands question, but when you start cutting deals with one candidate, allowing a 60-second take, you'll inevitably have eight other candidates demanding their minute. Candidates are like kids that way.

style="text-decoration:underline;">One conservative blogger labeled Washburn "the debate moderator from hell," and coined a new verb, saying the GOP candidates were "Washburned."

• Comment boards were no more kind. From "Kevin," a commenter style="text-decoration:underline;"> at MSNBC.com: "I did not appreciate the tone and rudeness of this moderator. How are we ever supposed to hear how the candidates really feel when she barks at them like they are children and stop everything they say. Please refrain from using this woman for any national spotlight of any kind ever again."

I'll point out for the record that there are a lot of Kevins in the world. At least two.

I'm not going to join in the postmortem here, for two very good reasons.

First, I didn't watch the debate — I've only seen a couple clips on YouTube. The debate aired in the middle of the day — a decision that, frankly, deserves as much scrutiny as the content of the debate itself. Having spent a few months in Iowa, I can attest from experience that many Iowans work on Wednesday afternoons. But I digress.

Second, even if I had set aside the day job to watch this debate, I don't think I could be an objective judge.

I'm really trying to play it straight here, I debated (no pun intended) about blogging about it at all, but since Washburn used to live and work here, I suspect there's some reader interest in this (not just in-house curiosity).

So I'll throw it open for questions. Did you watch? Do you have a take? Do you plan to watch the Register's Democratic debate today? Is this one of those cases where a journalist has become the story? And what does that say, if anything, about the state of the presidential election?

And now you can know the rest of the story...

The DeMoinesRegister.com gives an excellent chance for us to view the debates in full:
http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

KR, for YOU, isn't 'set aside the day job' to watch the GOP Debate right before the Iowa Caususes kind of an oxymoron?

I would think the editor of a daily paper who expresses HIS opinions to the readers ought to be well INFORMED about all the candidates AND all the debates. If you had watched the debate you could relay to us an informed opinion instead of asking us krap like "is the moderator a story". You might know what the latest topics and answers are and you might have new editorial material instead rehashing a U of I story that was front page last week 12/9.
Headline 12/9: "U of I may be emerging from a serious slump"
First line today's oped: The University of Idaho appears to be emerging, however slowly, from a dark chapter in school history...

Maybe if you added a little bit to your day job, you might have already read the DesMoinesRegister editorial for today to see what they write of the debates. And then, you could add your own liberal perspective to their opinion of how the candidates did and maybe even put an Idaho twist to the story. I guess you could also just cut and paste it into your "Others Viewpoint" section, and then go back to reading the Spokesmanreview.

As for Ms. Washburn's performance. That would be a TOUGH gig!
She spent a year to prepare for the debate? That should've been a clue she is not the right person for something like a national presidential debate. To say nothing of her bad makeup and appearance her personality and tone do not fit the job.

Once again, this editorial just like many Statesman articles leaves us readers with more questions than answers and we have to do the footwork instead of reading a complete, unbias, and indepth news piece. Why???

In Defense of Kevin

His Day job doesn't really include covering a GOP Presidential Debate. Idaho doesn't vote on the GOP side until May, when the whole thing will be decided on the GOP side, or at the very least, most of these candidates will be gone.

I do think someone at the Statesman should take the time to watch the Democrat debate, because Idaho Democrats are part of Super Tuesday.

I would say if you think the serious issues addressing our nation deserve nothing more than 30 second sound bytes and the media is to be very adverserial, snippy, and rude, she did a heck of a job.

"That's My Thing, keepin' the Faith, baby."-Adam Graham
Honest news and Commentary-http://www.adamsweb.us/blog

The Truth and Hope Report-http://www.truthandhope.2truth.com

Nobody knew...

a year ago Michael Vick would begin serving the rest of what was basically a 2 year sentence for running dog fights either.

Everybody has a bad day now and then. The GOP needed to prepare for a year to debate anyway, which they didn't.

WHO was better prepared?

No wonder the ID Statesman plummeted under Nurse Ratched

The Statesman became a mass of drivel while she was "Executive Editor". What a phony and a martinet to boot. The makeup killed me, but her pedantic role shows why she couldn't get a gig in the electronic media and went into newspapering. I am embarrased that she spent time here - but so glad Des Moines has her. Mommy and Daddy must be proud. "May I get up from dinner now, Mommy Dearest?! When she left here and went to Iowa - the collective IQ's of both states rose! Get a life Richert, you walking, talking tin man.

He got a heart...

and he made a deal for the brain so there.

Honestly. What the toothpick make antone think they are awake typing about this anyway?

OH, AUNTIE! IT WAS ALL A DREAM!

Waah Waah Waaah

The mean old moderator just ruined our party!

I'm still trying to figure out what huge sin Carolyn Washburn is guilty of...aside from the arguably questionable decision of agreeing to try to help a stage full of right wingers sound coherent.

If the local pizza place had...

catered before the show it would've been a new ballgame.

Y-reka!

I think you've got it!

Full tummies.

The answer to many of life's stressful moments.

If you didn't know CW you probably don't understand or care...

But there are many folks in Boise who did deal with Washburn, either inside the newsroom and out on the community. Further, I would bet that not every conversation with her turned out to feel like total blissful nirvana for the person on the other end.

Look, the hair any makeup comments are cheapshots. She's not up there to be eye candy for FOX news. She's there to ask intelligent questions. And she IS extremely intelligent. She's just a bit of a ... what is that word .... Sorry, can't think of it. I have an ITCH that is driving me crazy.

What I DON'T understand is why they didn't have Yepsen, who has covered politics in Iowa since I was born there in 1963 (or thereabouts), have HIM do the interview. The questions would have been far more meaningful for junkies who WOULD have bothered to tune in at the middle of the day.

Finally, CW was tough on reporters, but even harder on sub-editors during her stint here in Boise. Therefore, it was rather refreshing to hear Mr. Law & Order Prosecutor lay down his own rules on the princess of perfection.

She screwed up the Idaho Statesman -- so badly that it has taken Vicki Gowler and Bill Manny more than a year to fix it (and I'm surprised they could make so much progress so quickly). The Statesman is getting much, much better, and they're doing it with less and less staff.

But the best thing is that they jettisoned the two things that were hurting them most: CW and Gannett Corp.

To Fix It?

Do you mean doing things like putting the TV Guide in Saturdays edition?
Or setting the classified so high, noone uses them anymore?
Or sending a journalist all over the world to interview gay bar patrons?
Or weak proofreading?
Or general subpar journalism?

I do not know ANYONE who says The Statesman has gotten any better.
Pretty much status quo- sinking.

Ah, gee...be nice?

They make more than the Argus Observer and they never made a widow or chopped an article short to make room for an advertisement, never inked tops on toddlers in a plastic pool before the second Sunday edition, never printed any article saying the OnionSkin Players did the same play every year causing a moderate furor and refund requests from the 'Skinners, never printed an article that suggested the male dogs were bugging a female in heat so the owner called the sheriff's department in an attempt to "keep them away from the beeotch" (YES! they did)...

And from what I might know I don't think BPD has ever had a staff photographer serve papers on an alleged head shop.

The Statesman also never puts a picture of one of the Ontario cops in heinous crime stories without much reference to who the criminal is, to the point that a newcomer might wonder why he was pulled over by a child molester retrieved from the South (in one instance and that was the chief's picture)!

McClatchy also believes in you more in that you can read the ENTIRE story at IdahoStatesman.com instead of a bunch of snippets and, "For the full story every time subscribe"!

This website is well organized and a great compliment to Idahoans as they travel the world and seek news of home.

Rest assured that Ada and Canyon county newspapers can win awards! We don't always get the obituaries right (the assistant postmaster did NOT die, I've known him nearly 20 years)...LMAO but it's not too funny.

I thought she was doing her job...

I dunno, I watched it and I didn't think she was too bad. She has to enforce the rules of the discourse. That was her job. I actually thought it was rude of some of the candidates to basically go on well past their times until she had to say something.

Yeah, I know...

They've all adopted the MacLoughlin Group rule...run over each other, even the blonde lady from Newsweek I think it was...Ellen somebody?

Why couldn't Pat Buchanon the Nixon man be that effective as a candidate? He gets treated like the elder statesman there.

No puns from the Blogging Gallery.