Tonight’s third and final presidential candidates debate – the rubber match by most accounts with Romney taking the first and Obama squeezing out a win in the second – will be moderated by Bob Schieffer. Moderating a debate should be the easy part; it’s the debaters who will be in the spotlight, or that’s how it is supposed to be.
In the second debate moderator Candy Crowley made news by correcting Romney on whether Obama had referred to the Libya attack as an act of terrorism. It was such a helping hand that Obama asked her to repeat it.
The moderator should explain the rules, indicate that time restrictions will be strictly enforced, pose the topics and questions and stay out of the debate. All the moderator should be doing while the candidates are speaking is letting them know how much time they have left and cutting them off when they try to go on. The CNN time trackeris irrelevant; both candidates should have exactly the same amount of time when all is said and done.
Thanks to a clock that airs on CNN’s screen during the debate, some conservatives saw as a sign of bias that Obama spoke for 44 minutes, 4 seconds during the debate, compared to Romney’s 40:50. This prompted CNN to count the actual words spoken by each candidate. The faster-talking Romney said 7,984 words and Obama 7,506.
Forget about counting words – what next, the number of letters in the words? – just keep a stopwatch on the debaters and shut off their microphone if the try to run on.
What Bob Schieffer needs tonight is a timer and the ability to mute the candidates. They’re politicians, they’ll try to talk all night if you let them.