The softball, the filibuster and the unrecognized groaner: How did Bob Schieffer do Monday night?
Right at the start, his evening began with a high, arcing softball for Romney. This was his very first question:
SCHIEFFER (10/22/12): The first segment is the challenge of a changing Middle East and the new face of terrorism. I'm going to put this into two segments so you'll have two topic questions within this one segment on the subject.Right in his opening question, Schieffer invited Candidate Romney to say that the administration has been misleading us rubes. When the softball returned to earth, Romney let it go.
The first question, and it concerns Libya. The controversy over what happened there continues. Four Americans are dead, including an American ambassador. Questions remain. What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure? Was there an attempt to mislead people about what really happened?
Governor Romney, you said this was an example of an American policy in the Middle East that is unraveling before our very eyes.
Was that a valid question? We’ll let you decide. As it turned out, Romney didn’t want to go there.
This very morning, CNN did. It seems they don't plan to stop.
We thought Schieffer did a capable job as the evening proceeded. That said, we thought he disappeared in the final segment, when Romney staged several filibusters, eating up oodles of time.
The segment started with Obama. You’d think he’d get the extra words, if either candidate did.
But as the witching hour approached, Romney began to filibuster—and Schieffer pretty much disappeared. In effect, Romney got to deliver two closing statements. Schieffer pretty much let him.
We performed a rough word count of this last segment. We excluded the formal closing statements. This is what we got:
Word count, final segmentWe can’t say that count is exact. But we did think that Schieffer let himself get run over as the debate neared its end.
Romney: 1587 words
Obama: 1160 words
One final reaction—and this has nothing to do with Schieffer:
For the second straight debate, Candidate Romney made an egregious factual error. In last week’s town hall debate, he insisted Obama had never said something that he had actually said several times.
In this debate, Romney rearranged the geography of the Middle East, making a highly peculiar statement about Iran’s route to the sea.
As you may know, some errors are more equal than others when we conduct our debates.
In the first Bush-Gore debate, Candidate Gore made a few tiny errors. These errors were treated as a major scandal by the mainstream press. Candidate Bush’s groaning misstatements about his own prescription drug plan were quickly pushed out of view.
In 1976, Candidate Ford made a very strange statement about Poland. This famous misstatement lives on today in the children’s Great Debate Moments.
Romney’s weird misstatement this week wasn’t as large as Ford’s. But this was the second straight debate at which he made a large groaner.
If Romney has been somebody else, the press corps might have let him have it! But because they’re so full of liberal bias, they let this week’s groaner go.