“Candy: Trick or Treat,” reads the headline on the Drudge Report. It links to TIME Magazine columnist Mark Halperin who chronicles the preemptive criticism of Tuesday night’s debate moderator and CNN anchor Candy Crowley. Another link on Drudge directs readers to a NewsBusters post which was critical of Crowley for her view that Mitt Romney’s decision to select Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate was a risky one. While some would call this kind of before-the-fact criticism “working the refs” – an effort to get into Crowley’s head before the debate and ensure that she is aware of her critics wariness of even the appearance of bias – I think that kind of accusation goes too far. It is important to vet the debate moderators before this critical contest. However, to indict Crowley for bias before there is evidence to back up this charge is baseless and uncalled for.
In Halperin piece, he goes into detail about how both President Barack Obama and Romney’s campaigns are preparing to handle an activist moderator. “Sources say both campaigns are preparing their candidates for the debate under the assumption that Crowley might play a bigger role than either they or the Commission want or envision,” Halperin writes.
NewsBusters link suggests that the activism would lean in a pro-Democratic direction. They note that Crowley said that Romney’s selection of Ryan amounts to “some sort of ticket death wish.”
Crowley giving voice to inside the Beltway conventional wisdom, though, is not itself enough evidence to convict her for chronic bias. The fear that Ryan could drive down the GOP presidential ticket’s appeal to critical groups like seniors – due to Ryan’s embrace of controversial reforms to American entitlement programs – was a view shared by many political observers.
The jury is, in fact, still out on whether Ryan’s selection for the ticket will be a net benefit for Romney with those critical groups. After several initial weeks that showed the GOP ticket benefiting from their willingness to give voice to the hard truths about the future insolvency of entitlement programs, the momentum appears to have shifted back towards the president on questions like which candidate voters trust more to ensure the future of Medicare.
Crowley does not deserve criticism for bias just yet – she has a job to do first. If there is an appearance of bias, however, after Tuesday night’s town hall debate, then the speculation will have proven prescient. Until then, it is merely speculation for its own sake.
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