Michael Gaynor
October 15, 2012
The Daily Caller v. Martha Raddatz, Barack and Julius and moderating debates
By Michael Gaynor

It's time to abandon the illusion of moderator objectivity. Presidential and vice presidential debate moderators have political opinions and are affected by them, at least unconsciously. Moderators are not apathetic, clueless people, and such people should not be moderators The solution is to have moderators disclose their political party affiliation, if any; who they voted for in the last presidential election; and who they intend to vote for at the time of the debate, if they have an intention. That way, viewers and listeners can take that into account and moderators are less likely to be held to an impossible standard.

The Daily Caller thinks that ABC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent (and former White House Corrrespondent) Martha Raddatz should not have moderated the vice presidential debate, because she is not objective, and that she favored Vice President Biden during the debate.

The Daily Caller might not have objected to Raddatz as moderator, given her stellar journalistic career and the need for someone to moderate, but for Julius Genachowski.

Who is he?

A longtime friend of President Obama, now he is the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, having been appointed by President Obama in 2009.

In 2008 he was Chairperson of the Obama presidential campaign's Technology, Media and Telecommunications Policy Working Group, which created the Obama Technology and Innovation Plan, and advised and guided the campaign's innovative use of technology and the Internet for grassroots engagement and participation, and co-led the Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform Group for President-Elect Obama's Transition Team.

Why?

Because he and Obama go back a long way, all the way to their Columbia College days.

In The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, David Remnick related that after being elected president of the Harvard Law Review, Obama selected people Genchowski for a "masthead job."

Wikipedia: "Genachowski....entered Columbia College of Columbia University...[and] earned a Bachelor of Arts in History (1985) magna cum laude. He was an Editor of the Columbia Daily Spectator. After working in Washington, D.C., for former New York Congressman Chuck Schumer, he entered Harvard Law School and earned a Juris Doctor (1991), also magna cum laude. He was a Notes Editor at the Harvard Law Review when his classmate Barack Obama was its president. Genachowski clerked for The Honorable Abner J. Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices William J. Brennan and David Souter at the U.S. Supreme Court."

Jodi Kantor's November 15, 2008 New York Times article titled "JULIUS GENACHOWSKI; Candidates for Obama's Inner Circle" profiled Genachowski as follows:

"BEING CONSIDERED FOR: A White House adviser, perhaps overseeing technology or energy issues. He might also end up on the Federal Communications Commission.

"WOULD BRING TO THE JOB: A background as a lawyer, policy wonk and deal maker, with equally broad expertise, including technology, communications and environmentally friendly business.

"IS LINKED TO MR. OBAMA BY: Countless hours spent holed up together in the offices of the Harvard Law Review. Early in the presidential campaign, Mr. Genachowski urged Mr. Obama to capitalize on the organizing power of the Internet. He was also a prolific fund-raiser.

"IN HIS OWN WORDS:'We believe that "green" has evolved from a small movement to a major market force, that many businesses are poised to help address our alternative energy and other sustainability issues, helping us become a global leader in building new industries that meet the growing demand for green and resource-efficient products.' (Before the House Committee on Small Business, 2007)

"USED TO WORK AS: A law clerk to Abner J. Mikva, then a federal judge (a post he won after Mr. Obama turned it down); also clerked for Justice David H. Souter. He was chief counsel to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and later founded an investment and advisory firm for digital media companies and co-founded the country's first commercial 'green' bank.

"CARRIES AS BAGGAGE: A reputation for being more of a deal maker and an executive than a pure technology expert.

"BIOGRAPHY Born Aug. 19, 1962 ... attended Columbia and Harvard Law School (as did Mr. Obama) ... the child of Eastern European Jews who fled the Holocaust ... his wife, Rachel Goslins, is a documentary filmmaker whose most recent work, 'Bama Girl,' documents the 2005 homecoming queen contest at the University of Alabama ... they have three children."

Goslins then was and now is Genachowski's wife and now is Executive Director of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, an advisory committee to the White House on cultural policy. President Obama appointed her to this position in 2009.

Wikipedia:

"Prior to her appointment, Goslins worked as an arts administrator and documentary film director/producer. Her feature documentary, Bama Girl premiered at the 2008 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival and later broadcast on the Independent Film Channel (IFC). It is the story of a 'black woman at the University of Alabama who runs for 2005 Homecoming Queen, going up against a century of ingrained racial segregation, internal black politics, and The Machine, a secret coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities formed in 1914....

"Before working in the arts, Goslins was an international copyright attorney with Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher and the U.S. Copyright Office. She is married to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, and they have three children."

If all of the three children referred to by both The New York Times and Wikipedia were the biological children of Genachowski and Goslins, The Daily Caller might not have objected to Raddatz as moderator.

One of those children is the stepson of Goslins and the son of Raddatz from her marriage to Genachowski.

On August 13, 2012, Daily Caller Tech Editor Josh Peterson questioned whether Raddatz might be biased toward Obama in "Marital, personal ties link Obama administration to Commission on Presidential Debates" (http://dailycaller.com/2012/08/23/marital-personal-ties-link-obama-administration-to-commission-on-presidential-debates/#ixzz29BMGs6p0).

Peterson wrote:

"The moderator of the lone October vice presidential debate was previously married to a top Obama official, an association both ABC News and the left-leaning Commission on Presidential Debates do not view as a conflict of interest.

"ABC Senior Foreign Correspondent Martha Raddatz, whose role as moderator was announced on August 13, was previously married to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski — an Obama appointee.Chairman Julius Genachowski — an Obama appointee.

Genachowki and Raddatz were married in 1991, the same year he graduated from Harvard Law School. Their marriage ended in 1997; the two have a son together. Raddatz does not report on the FCC for ABC News.

Genachowki and Raddatz were married in 1991, the same year he graduated from Harvard Law School. Their marriage ended in 1997; the two have a son together. Raddatz does not report on the FCC for ABC News.

"Genachowski and classmate Barack Obama worked together on the Harvard Law Review, Genachowski as notes editor and Obama as the publication's president. They graduated in the same class. ABC did not consider the disclosure of Raddatz's ties to an Obama appointee necessary when it issued a press release announcing that the Commission on Presidential Debates had selected her to moderate the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican nominee Rep. Paul Ryan.

It's unclear if Raddatz knew Obama during the 1990s when she was married to Genachowski. Neither she nor Genachowski responded to The Daily Caller's request for comment.

"ABC declined The Daily Caller's request for comment through spokesman David Ford, who also told TheDC that Raddatz would not be responding.

"Commission on Presidential Debates co-chair Mike McCurry said his organization did not take Raddatz' prior marriage into account when selecting her.

"'We selected the moderators based on their reputations for integrity and journalistic impartiality among other things,' McCurry told TheDC. 'What counts is the quality of their work, not who they may have been married to in the past.'"

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am personally aware of Raddatz's concern for her hard earned reputation. In a 2008 article titled "Thoughts on the Presidential Race" (www.webcommentary.com/php/ShowArticle.php?id=gaynorm&date=080702), I cited a Raddatz report as an example of "ABC News' shameless selective reporting" based on a bogus report to the effect that ABC had shown 5 GIs being asked by Raddatz how they were going to vote in November — 3 for Obama and 2 for Clinton — without mentioning 54 for McCain." Raddatz politely emailed me evidence that I had been deceived by a bogus report and I promptly posted an apology — " Apologies to Martha J. Raddatz & ABC News" (www.webcommentary.com/php/ShowArticle.php?id=gaynorm&date=080722).

The Daily Caller did not drop the matter after ABC and Raddatz declined to respond and The Daily Caller re-raised it shortly before the debate.

Peterson reported, in "ABC News scrambles to downplay Obama's attendance at VP debate moderator's wedding" (http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/10/abc-news-scrambles-to-cover-up-barack-obamas-attendance-at-vp-debate-moderators-wedding/#ixzz29BLP7aaF):

"After TheDC made preliminary inquiries Monday to confirm Obama's attendance at the wedding, ABC leaked a pre-emptive statement to news outlets including Politico and The Daily Beast Tuesday, revealing what may have been internal network pressure felt just days before Raddatz was scheduled to moderate the one and only vice-presidential debate Thursday night.

"Both Politico and The Daily Beast jumped to ABC and Raddatz's defense. The Huffington Post, a liberal news outlet, joined them shortly thereafter, while calling 'unusual' ABC's attempt to kill the story before it gained wide circulation.

"Genachowski — called 'Jay' at the time of his wedding, sources told TheDC — and Raddatz would go on to have a son together before their divorce in 1997. They have both since remarried to other people.

"A source who attended the 1991 wedding told TheDC that Obama was also a guest there, and remembered that a man by the name of 'Barry Obama' was among the guests dancing at the reception.

"In August, The Daily Caller first connected Genachowski, an Obama appointee, to Raddatz following her selection as the vice presidential debate moderator by the left-leaning Commission on Presidential Debates....

"Carol Platt Liebau, a political commentator who was a Harvard Law Review colleague of Genachowski and Obama, wrote that 'despite being a year below both men on the Review and not close personal friends with either of them,' she remembered Genachowski and Raddatz's relationship as 'quite public' during those days, and that 'Raddatz visited Boston frequently.'

"Genachowski's friendship with Obama would continue through the campaign trail in 2008 and into the White House: He aggressively fundraised for Obama in 2008 as a campaign bundler, and served on the presidential transition team before winning his appointment to chair the FCC. "On Monday evening ABC spokesman David Ford grudgingly confirmed Obama's attendance at the wedding, after shielding Raddatz in August by declining to comment when The Daily Caller first reported the story.

"'This is absurd,' Ford said, in the same statement now circulated by ABC's media allies on the left.

"When pressed further on Tuesday for a specific number of Harvard Law Review members in attendance at the wedding, Ford could offer none, despite circulating the same unverified approximation through sympathetic media outlets earlier that day in order to discredit The Daily Caller's reporting.

"Ford also could not provide The Daily Caller with a specific number of Harvard Law Review members who worked with Obama and Genachowski during that year. A photo taken of the Harvard Law Review during Obama and Genachowski's final year of law school contains 70 people. "The ABC spokesman's assertion that 'nearly the entire Law Review' attended the wedding cast doubt on the significance of Obama's attendance. But Ford's unwillingness to document that claim now suggests that Obama was among a close circle of fewer Harvard classmates who were personal friends of Raddatz and Genachowski.

"Instead, Ford maintained his ambiguity in subsequent statements to The Daily Caller, identifying only one other Harvard Law Review classmate of Obama and Genachowski who attended the wedding.

"When TheDC asked Ford via email Tuesday night for further specifics on actual numbers, he did not respond with any.

"The FCC, the Obama campaign and the Romney campaign also did not respond to The Daily Caller's request for comment."

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Ryan, stated that he has "no concerns" about Raddatz moderating the debate.

That's what Raddatz did.

After the debate, Matthew Boyle of The Daily Caller blasted her performance, in "ANALYSIS: Raddatz channels Stephanopoulos in lopsided VP debate moderating performance" (http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/12/raddatz-channels-stephanopoulos-in-lopsided-vp-debate-moderating-performance/#ixzz29BjDbgW6).

According to Boyle, Raddatz (1) "delivered just what Team Obama needed in Thursday's vice presidential debate, a mere week after the president bumbled his way to a failure in his first one-on-one tussle with Republican Mitt Romney," (2) "channeled her ABC News colleague, former Bill Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos, while moderating ..., conducting the event with questions and timing that benefited Biden, (3) "fell prey to some of [ABC colleague George Stephanopoulos's] problems [with inserting his own politics and probing candidates about marginal issues, (4) "add[ed] a seeming unwillingness to control the flow of the debate personified in Biden's many interruptions of his opponent," (5) "inserted herself into the discussion and created openings for Biden to attack Ryan" and (6) "often stopped Ryan when he picked up momentum."

Boyle offered this example:

"Raddatz's first question concerned the terrorist attack in Libya that killed America's ambassador to the North African country. She allowed Biden to speak uninterrupted for several minutes.

"When she turned to Ryan, Raddatz let the Wisconsin Republican give half an answer before interrupting with a challenge to Romney's reaction on the day following the attack.

"'I just want to ask you about — right in the middle of the crisis. Governor Romney, and you're talking about this again tonight, talked about the weakness, talked about apologies from the Obama administration,' Raddatz interrupted. 'Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?'

"Biden interrupted Ryan on the first of many ocasions, shortly after he began his response, accused Ryan of making up 'malarkey' in his answer. Raddatz failed to gain control of the situation, playing along with the vice president instead of returning to Ryan's answer. 'Why is that so?' she asked Biden of his accusation, opening the door for a lengthy answer.

"Raddatz soon would tee up additional unchallenged soundbites for Biden, and he responded with quick, catchy answers.

"And instead of allowing Ryan to respond to Biden's claim that U.S. intelligence sources told the administration a YouTube video was responsible for a spontaneous attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi — a different story from what Congress heard this week from the State Department — Raddatz questioned Ryan on his contention that the current occupant of the White House makes frequent apologies for U.S. actions overseas.

"'Mr. Ryan, I want to ask you about — the Romney campaign talks a lot about no apologies. He has a book called called 'No Apologies.' Should the U.S. have apologized for Americans burning Korans in Afghanistan? Should the U.S. apologize for U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses?' Raddatz asked.

"'Oh, gosh, yes. Urinating on Taliban corpses? What we should not apologize for...' Ryan started to answer, before Raddatz interrupted him again.

"'Burning Korans? Immediately [apologize]?" the ABC reporter jumped in.

"When Biden claimed that Barack Obama has 'spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he's spoken to anybody,' Raddatz failed to challenge him. Obama declined to speak with Netanyahu during the recent United Nations General Assembly in favor of making a television appearance on a comedy show.

"Raddatz instead asked Biden to clarify his claim that Ryan's contentions amounted to 'a bunch of stuff.'

"When Biden fumbled his answer, Raddatz thanked him 'for the translation.'

"As the debate shifted to domestic policy, Ryan began to directly challenge Biden by noting that the unemployment rate in Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania is '10 percent. ... You know what it was the day you guys came in? 8.5 percent.'

"'That's how it's going all around America,' Ryan began his next attack, before Biden interrupted again — with Raddatz standing on the sidelines.

"'You don't read the statistics,' Biden jabbed, talking about unemployment rates. 'That's not how it's going. It's going down.'

"At the point where Ryan was poised to respond, Raddatz chimed in. 'Two-minute answer,' she said.

The day after the debate, Raddatz explained on ABC's "Good Morning America": "[You] try to listen, and you try to react to what they're saying. Sure, I had a lot of follow-ups written, I had a lot of questions written. But when you're there, you're in the moment, you really have to go with what's happening. So when they were talking to each other, when they were going after each other, you do, you want to step back from that. Yet when I hear things, I think, I gotta jump in there, I gotta jump in." (www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/10/martha-raddatz-talks-debate-on-gma-138297.html).

Raddatz is a jumper.

Peggy Noonan opined: "Ms. Raddatz acquitted herself admirably, keeping things moving, allowing the candidates to engage, probing. There was a real humanity to her presence. We just saw Jim Lehrer beat up for what was also good work. May her excellence go unpunished.(http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443749204578051542621349694.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop).

Pleasing everyone was impossible.

No matter what Raddatz did, she was bound to please some and displease others. Liberals were pleased that Raddatz brought up abortion but not that she brought up religious liberty, while conservatives were delighted that religious liberty was brought up but concerned that bringing up abortion might help Obama/Biden sell their War on Women story. Obama/Biden backers wanted Raddatz to skip Benghazigate, but she opened with it (without using that politically chargef word). Romney/Ryan supporters wanted more time on the Obama-Biden record, particularly on jobs, instead of answers to "[I]If you are elected, what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?" (The word "both" didn't belong there, since both of them can't be elected, but the question wasn't as bad as "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?) Raddatz asked for detail from both candidates, as a fair moderator should have done. Vice President Biden, an older man, was rude to her as well as Congressman Ryan, and both Raddatz and Ryan let Biden be himself and viewers and listeners decide for themselves. I'm glad they did. Raddatz asked whether abortion supporters should be "worried" instead of whether pro-lifers should be pleased, but that's not an endorsement of abortion and moderators should be cut some slack in framing questions. Raddatz did not use the "War on Women" phrase that ardent Obama/Biden supporters would have been thrilled to hear. Politics is the art of the possible, as Bismarck wrote, and moderators, like politicians, should be expected to do what is possible, not what is impossible.

What is possible is disclosure.

It's time to abandon the illusion of moderator objectivity. Presidential and vice presidential debate moderators have political opinions, and they are influenced by them, at least subconsciously. Moderators are not apathetic, clueless people, and such people should not be moderators. The solution is to have moderators disclose their political party affiliation, if any; who they voted for in the last presidential election; and whom they intend to vote for at the time of the debate, if they have an intention. That way, viewers and listeners can take that into account and moderators are less likely to be held to an impossible standard.

© Michael Gaynor

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)

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