Matt Towery

Most political pundits know that presidential debates, particularly these absurd "town hall" debacles, are more about who makes a gaffe or has an "oops moment" than about who brings the better policy to the table.

But before I make my case with regard to the pushing of "gaffes" in one particular direction, let me disarm the same media I will later take to task (of course, you can never really disarm them ... they have a permanent round of journalistic bullets to fire).

I know conservatives and Republicans are upset over the perceived bias of Tuesday's debate moderator, Candy Crowley. But I really don't blame her for her performance. First, these stupid town hall settings are as unwieldy as the open floor space the candidates are left to roam about like lost cats. And Crowley was left to do the impossible, herding them.

No, she should not have been the "official fact-checker" of the debate. But observers seemed to only hear her validate a few words that Obama actually did say after the attack on diplomats in Libya but chose to ignore Crowley's acknowledgment that the administration took weeks to shake off the myth that our ambassador was killed as part of an overreaction to a movie trailer.

And even the most left-leaning of media sources admitted that President Obama had a terrible first debate. But they had to, or they would have lost the credibility needed to make mountains out of molehills when it came to alleged gaffes by Mitt Romney.

First, it was Big Bird who came to symbolize an alleged Romney "oops" moment. In the first debate, one of the actual examples Romney gave in terms of hard cuts he would make in the federal budget was funding of PBS.

I can understand where the "elite media" saw a gaffe, because in 1995 Newt Gingrich as speaker spoke of cutting funding of PBS and I had a political heart attack. But times were better then, and the tolerance for cutting federally funded entertainment was much lower. Romney tried to soften his position by saying that he loved Big Bird, but basically the bird would have to feather his own nest.

So what happened after the Big Bird comment? The Web filled with Big Bird spoofs, and the folks at "Saturday Night Live" (yes, I watch and laugh regardless of who might be the target) brought Big Bird himself onto the program. To SNL's credit, they also captured Vice President Biden's outrageous reactions in the VP debate perfectly.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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