How did Bob Schieffer do Monday night!


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.

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.
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.

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 segment
Romney: 1587 words
Obama: 1160 words
We can’t say that count is exact. But we did think that Schieffer let himself get run over as the debate neared its end.

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.


  1. I read elsewhere that in this debate, the two candidates got approximately equal time (unlike the other three, where the Democrat got significantly more time.) So, if Romney got more time at the end, Obama must have gotten more time earlier.

    Is extra time for a closing statement more valuable than extra time earlier in the debate? Who knows? Early extra time might be more valuable: by the end, viewers may have made up their minds or even stopped watching.

    I disagree strongly with Bob's implication that Schieffer should have interrupted Romney when Romney was engaging in "filibusters, eating up oodles of time." It's not a good idea IMHO to give a moderator the power to decide how a candidate should use his allotted time. The voters, not the moderator, should decide whether the candidate's comments were worthwhile.

    1. "I read elsewhere ..."

      Newsmax? Breitbart? World Net Daily?

    2. AnonymousOctober 24, 2012 11:24 AM, instead of snark, you might try google. You'd find, e.g.,
      "Matthew Wilson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University [said] “Schieffer did a better job than any of the previous moderators of keeping speaking time equal.”

      Two points:

      1. Automatically disbelieving anything reported by the other side is a good way to feel comfortable in one's beliefs. But, it leads to a distorted picture of the world.

      2. Bob sometimes accuses others of cherry-picking. In this case, Bob presented a cherry-picked statistic: the number of words in the closing statement. He should have looked at total speaking time.

    3. Quaker in a BasementOctober 24, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Good golly, Dave. I don't think you can't stretch the truth any further than that.

      You're correct that the Texas Christian University student news reports the opinion of a political science professor. After that, you're relying on the elasticity of your own understanding.

    4. Dave, let this possibility sink in: The reason the speaking time wasn't equal in the first two dehates is because that once Romney recited his memorized talking point, he had nothing left to say.

      Now that said, you spend all this time googling and researching and the best you can come up with is the TCU student newspaper quoting the poli-sci head at SMU?

      By the way, any time I am reading a political report and the reporter starts quoting, "Dr. Art Freen, head of the political science department at the University of Timbuktu . . ." I stop reading.

      That is extremely lazy reporting, perhaps forgiveable in a student newspaper because they see it so often elsewhere.

      But poli-sci professors also run the gamut like the rest of us, although most of the people who have risen to the head of the department have learned long ago not to offer anything to the press beyond boilerplate.

    5. " ...instead of snark, you might try google ...."

      DinC: you invite snark. It would be impolite to refuse.

  2. You might call the question a softball. Romney might have seen it as an open door to an elevator shaft, and hence he didn't "proceed, Governor."

    How ever poorly you might think Schieffer behaved as a debate moderator in the past, in this one, I thought he played it pretty straight down the middle, asking pointed, rather specific questions of both candidates, then letting them have at it.

    And you know what? Anytime I hear someone complain about how poor the moderator was, I pretty much know that "their side" lost the debate.

    On this occasion, Obama clearly took this one -- by a wide margin, Romney had the worst debate performance at least since Gore in Bush-Gore II, and you are still bitching that the moderator framed certain questions in the exact, precise way you would have framed them, and even seeing that good ol' "bias" where none really exists.

    1. Schieffer was terrible and "my side" won. No real discussion of Obama's secret kill list, just a vague and unenlightening rush through on drone attacks. Europe and climate change were not mentioned. Apparently, U.S. foreign policy does not extend outside of the Middle East with a heavy emphasis on Israel, other than a few mentions of China and Russia.


    2. Is the question really how "terrible" Schieffer was, which relies heavily on subjective opinion, or is it whether Schieffer tried to put his thumb on the scales and tip it to the Republican candidate?

      Because if you assume that is true, then you've got to admit he did a really "terrible" job of it.

  3. I like Bob Schieffer. He did fine, or as well as one could expect. Throw an issue out there at the candidates, get out of the way, and let them spar. Step in when it gets out of hand, or when a discussion loses focus and momentum and requires conclusion. Like a referee in a prize fight, his presence shouldn't be notice, but only briefly felt in necessary moments. Being a presidential debate monitor is a thankless job. Salient moments should reflect the exchange between the candidates and not the moderator. I thank you Bob Schieffer for a job well done.

  4. Bob, Romney's is a worse groaner. President Ford could have been ssaid to be commenting on a subjective matter. Romney's failing here is basic geography. Iran is in the headlines practically every other day. Not knowing basic geography speaks to an uninforned uncaring attitude.

  5. Bob, Romney's is a worse groaner. President Ford could have been ssaid to be commenting on a subjective matter. Romney's failing here is basic geography. Iran is in the headlines practically every other day. Not knowing basic geography speaks to an uninforned uncaring attitude.

    1. From

      Q. Why did Romney say that Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea”? ...when 1) Iraq stands between Syria and Iran, and 2) Iran already has the Persian Gulf, not to mention the Indian Sea?

      A. Romney was speaking in the context of the debate topic on foreign policy and the sanctions restricting the finances and trade of Iran. Although Iran is indeed located on the seacoast of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the international trade sanctions have restricted and impeded its ability to transport armaments and other goods through its own seaports. To defeat these trade sanctions, Iran has resorted to using its air transportation to transport goods through an air corridor in Iraqi airspace into Syria and its seaports, such as Latakia.

      P.S. Even Dave Letterman is now calling Obama a liar. Watch Dave here.

    2. One long non-sequitur.

    3. Comparing a fleet to horses is a stretch. That was a clanger. Even worse comparing ASW minesweepers, cruisers, frigates, aircraft carriers, subs to bayonets is also patronizing and silly.

      Syrian ports do actually function as smuggling routes into Iraq and Iran. Via the Med. Romney didn't even want to debate. He was there simply to point out that foreign policy is moribund without the money to spend on it and back up demands or threats.

    4. But it's not a "stretch" in your view to compare the Navy of today to the Navy of 1916?

      Since you are bending yourself into a pretzel explaining why Syria really, really IS Iran's "path to the sea", perhaps you can come up with a similar silly explanation of whatever point Romney was trying to make about the Navy. I sure can't figure it out, unless he was suggesting that the Navy then was stronger because it had more ships.

      Oh, and Mitt didn't say the Obama foreign policy was "moribund." He actually said he agreed with it and would do the same thing.

      Or in the words of Jon Stewart: "Follow me! I'm right behind the President!"

  6. Word count is an obvious spin. Dems had more time to impart their message in all four debates. Stop spinning the nonsense.

    Obvious inaccuracy about Libya was "true in the main" as acknowledged consistently before and after the debate, and by the admittedly challenged moderator. Obama has consistently misled on this topic and this has been reconfirmed today with the release?/reveal? of white house emails. Release yourself from this loser for the liberal view.

    Obvious inaccuracy about Iran and Syrian ports. As confirmed yesterday, today and beyond, you can only say Romney was wrong if you ignore geopolitical reality. Iran can't get squat done in their own ports because of the aggressive embargoes and other penalties being levied appropriately by Obama and much of the international community. But, by utilizing Syrian ports that the Iranians have graciously offered to build out at their own cost, suddenly China can purchase a boatload load of oil while skirting the international boycotts.

  7. I think you have it wrong.

    For the record I'm biased to the right. Scheifer was reasonable. Romney really didn't even want to debate. He agreed with most of Obama's specific policies but felt that we are getting nowhere trying to please the Arab Street. We can be belligerant to Arabs and they kill us. We can be nice to them and they kill us. He also linked our problems to a failing economy which necessitates huge defense cuts. These are all perfectly valid observations by a challenger. He overstepped no bounds and the moderator was attempting to get Romney to say something dumb.

    Also Syria is Iran's window to the Med. that's all he meant. You know that.

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