Just how badly did CNN's Candy Crowley destroy her first (and hopefully last) attempt as a presidential debate moderator? More than 65 million people saw that she is to debate moderation as CNN is to "news."
Barack Obama made a fatal mistake when he lied, claiming he'd labeled the Libya attack as an act of terrorism. The look on Romney's face said it all: Mr. President, here comes checkmate.
Then Crowley leapt to Obama's defense, declared a lie a truth, changed the subject, and Obama was free.
It was a travesty.
Let's get beyond the perennial partisan toe-taggers Rachel Maddow (touting Romney's "political disaster") and Ed Schultz ("The president destroyed Mitt Romney on foreign policy"), who credited Obama. Look at those who gave the bouquet to Crowley for saving Obama.
That night on PBS, John Heilemann of New York Magazine insisted the subject of Libya would have been disastrous for Obama. "The worst hand that the administration and President Obama have to play in this debate was on Benghazi, and because particularly of Candy Crowley's follow-up on that question, it allowed Barack Obama to win an exchange that I didn't necessarily think it was possible for him to win."
Obama shouldn't have won, but Crowley saved him.
The next morning, Current TV host Eliot Spitzer told Current TV host Bill Press that Crowley caused the "emotional highlight of the night" by declaring Romney was wrong. "I think that really deflated what otherwise should have been on the Benghazi issue a moment when Romney could have hit it out of the park. But instead he took the step too far. Crowley came in as sort of the voice of neutrality and took the victory away from Romney."
Crowley crushed Romney. Even Spitzer wouldn't defend Crowley as staying within a moderator's role.
Crowley knew exactly what she'd done: validate a lie. Time for damage control. Within minutes of leaving the journalistic crime scene, Crowley was back on CNN admitting that Romney was right "in the main" -- whatever that means -- but he chose "the wrong word" by focusing on Obama's cursory use of the term "these acts of terror." If Romney was correct, why not just say it?
Again, Crowley rallied behind Obama -- even repeating her verdict when the president egged her on to "say it a little louder."