Who the heck is Bob Schieffer: Last Wednesday, Rachel Maddow authored a sometimes-sensible segment about tonight’s debate.
With concern, she stressed the large number of Romney foreign policy gurus who come from George Bush’s old team. Then, she snarked a bit:
MADDOW (10/17/12): What’s the big next event in the campaign? Foreign policy debate—where Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have precisely zero experience between them combined and 17 of the campaign's 24 announced advisers on foreign policy are Bush foreign policy people.We all got to share a laugh about Ryan’s dumb stupid mistake. And Rachel expressed her shock, just shock, to think the dumb stupid Romney campaign would stage an event with Condi.
And President Obama has frankly not even hit Mitt Romney yet for the way his foreign policy apes the catastrophic foreign policy of the Bush/Cheney years. I mean, the Romney campaign knows that punch is coming, right? How do they inoculate themselves against that? How does the Romney/Ryan campaign protect itself against the other shoe that everybody knows is about to drop, which is the withering allegation that if you squint at Romney and Ryan on foreign policy, what you know you`re going to get is act two of the Bush and Cheney foreign policy.
What’s their defense on that? Really?
Paul Ryan does a photo op today with Condoleezza Rice? Was Paul Wolfowitz not available? Yes, they had Paul Ryan go to a Cleveland Brown football practice with Condoleezza Rice today in Ohio, a practice at which Paul Ryan misidentified the Cleveland Browns quarterback and called him by the wrong name in front of a whole bunch of reporters. That the Cleveland paper noted, quote, "Ryan pleaded for mercy when he realized his mistake."
In our view, this is the sort of topic Maddow tends not to get. (Assuming she’s playing it straight.) Our assumption? They wouldn’t have Ryan out with Rice unless they had favorable polling.
Just because Rachel recoils when Condi appears, that doesn’t mean that other folk do. Some slice of the public must think well of Rice or she wouldn’t be out there.
(Note: Among other things, Rice is pro-choice. This may have been part of the effort to moderate Romney’s image on women's issues.)
That said, we noticed that Maddow skipped one famous name from Bush's extended foreign policy team. That famous name belongs to Bob Schieffer, moderator of tonight’s debate.
No, Schieffer wasn’t part of Bush's team—but his brother, Tom Schieffer, was! Tom Schieffer was Bush’s ambassador to Australia (2001-2005), then to Japan (four more years).
Before that, Tom Schieffer was co-owner of the Texas Rangers with his co-mogul, Bush. In the process, brother Bob became personal friends with the governor or soon-to-be-governor. In our view, a more meticulous journalist would not have formed that particular friendship. (Ditto for PBS' Gwen Ifill, sharing the home-cooked meals with Condi to which she once publicly copped.)
In a 2003 profile, Howard Kurtz described the good old days when Bob Schieffer would pal around with team owners rather than terrorists:
KURTZ (1/13/03): During the ’90s, [Bob] Schieffer also struck up a friendship with George W. Bush when his brother Tom—now the U.S. ambassador to Australia—became partners with the future president in the Texas Rangers. Bob and W. went to ball games together, played golf, attended spring training. “He’s a great guy—that doesn’t mean I agree with him,” says Schieffer, adding that the situation became “a little awkward” when Bush ran for the White House but that he’s never gotten favorable treatment."Attended spring trauining?" And by the way: On some occasions, Schieffer did give favorable treatment to Bush. But that’s a fairly old story.
Watching Maddow last week, we thought of Kevin Drum’s instant classic, “the hack gap.” Tonight’s debate is about foreign policy. Sensibly, Maddow was troubled by the number of old Bush hands who are now part of Romney’s team.
Well sir, the brother of one of those old Bush hands will be running the whole show tonight!
That’s where the hack gap comes in. The conservative world would bellow and wail if such a connection were floating around in the other direction.
Maddow didn’t mention this evening’s old boy tie. Given the way the hack gap works, we’ll guess that she may not have heard.
When Schieffer met Dubya and Kerry: Incredibly, Schieffer moderated one of the debates in 2004 between Candidate Bush, his old golf pal, and the fake phony wind-surfing Kerry.
Schieffer posed twenty questions in all. The seventh went to Candidate Kerry.
It was a different kind of question. It had never been asked before:
SCHIEFFER (10/13/04): Senator Kerry, a new question for you. The New York Times reports that some Catholic archbishops are telling their church members that it would be a sin to vote for a candidate like you because you support a woman's right to choose an abortion and unlimited stem-cell research.History was made that evening! In no previous presidential debate had a candidate ever been asked if it’s a sin to vote for him!
What is your reaction to that?
In his “reaction,” Candidate Kerry seemed to suggest that it wouldn’t be a sin. Schieffer asked Bush to state his views on the point, then posed the next question to him.
Here’s the way that question started. Schieffer said it was time to move on:
SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, let's have a new question. It goes to you. And let's get back to economic issues...Might it be sinful to vote for Bush? His old golfing pal didn’t ask!
Tonight, Schieffer is back in the saddle again. We'll guess he doesn't plan to ask if it's sinful to vote for a Mormon. He’s brother to part of the old boy team whose revival has Maddow upset.