My dictionary defines "moderator" as "the nonpartisan presiding officer of a town meeting." On Thursday, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill will serve as moderator for the first and only vice presidential debate. The stakes are high. The Commission on Presidential Debates, with the assent of the two campaigns, decided not to impose any guidelines on her duties or questions.
But there is nothing "moderate" about where Ifill stands on Barack Obama. She's so far in the tank for the Democratic presidential candidate, her oxygen delivery line is running out.
In an imaginary world where liberal journalists are held to the same standards as everyone else, Ifill would be required to make a full disclosure at the start of the debate. She would be required to turn to the cameras and tell the national audience that she has a book coming out on Jan. 20, 2009 -- a date that just happens to coincide with the inauguration of the next president of the United States.
The title of Ifill's book? "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." Nonpartisan my foot.
Random House, her publisher, is already busy hyping the book with YouTube clips of Ifill heaping praise on her subjects, including Obama and Obama-endorsing Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick. The official promo for the book gushes:
"In 'The Breakthrough,' veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama's stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power. … Drawing on interviews with power brokers like Sen. Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict and the 'black enough' conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history."
Ifill and her publisher are banking on an Obama/Biden win to buoy her book sales. The moderator expected to treat both sides fairly has grandiosely declared this the "Age of Obama." Can you imagine a right-leaning journalist writing a book about the "stunning" McCain campaign and its "bold" path to reform timed for release on Inauguration Day -- and then expecting a slot as a moderator for the nation's sole vice presidential debate?
Yeah, I just registered 6.4 on the Snicker Richter Scale, too.