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article imageOp-Ed: VP Debate Spotlight Shifts to Moderator Gwen Ifill

By Johnny Simpson     Oct 1, 2008 in Politics
Now that it has been disclosed that PBS jockey and VP debate moderator Gwen Ifill has a gushing book on Obama due out Inauguration Day, a conflict of interest both political and monetary, should she now step down? Short answer: I hope not. Here's why.
Susan Duclos caught the scoop on this first, as usual.
I can't make up my mind if she's DJ's Lois Lane or Clark Kent.
Definitely got Jimmy Olson beat.
But I digress.
Now that the news has broke that Gwen Ifill is clearly in Barack Obama's corner by both her ebullient political support for the Messiah and a new testament on her love for OB coming out Inauguration Day of all times, what should she do?
Should She Stay or Should She Go?
If it were me as a journalist, I would do the honorable thing and step down. Idealistically, I believe reporters must remain above the fray so they may objectively look down and impartially relay what they see, as a third person unconcerned with the matter might.
As politicians, idealistically, must never lie to their constituents.
We all know the realities are far different.
That said, I actually look forward to seeing Gwen Ifill in the thick of it still. She won't step down unless ordered to do so, as I believe she sees herself in the right. She can look at herself and see the split brain thing, where her emotional right brain is praising Obama effusively and heftily pushing a book on said effusion (due out the same day McCain is sworn in, by the way), and with her cool, calm and professional left brain sees the impartial observer presiding over a very important presidential debate.
Psychologists might call the physical manifestation Split Brain Consciousness. The political variety I prefer to call Doublethink, which requires holding two diametrically opposed positions at the same time. As, say, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann no doubt believe they are being totally objective journalists even after NBC booted them from lead reporting on the presidential race.
But that's okay. This is actually a big plus for almost all involved but Gwen Ifill, who will be tap-dancing in a political minefield tomorrow night. The slightest whiff of favoritism and a good portion of the voting electorate will be screaming for her scalp. Not only could it be damaging to her career, it does not help He Who Lights Up Her Life.
As for Palin and Biden, they will still be under a very large microscope, but some of that magnifying power may end up on Gwen Ifill as millions focus in on her every word more than perhaps even Palin's and Biden's.
That might be a shame for the debate, but I don't think so. I believe that because of today's fateful revelations now burning up the wires, Ms. Ifill will be on her best behavior like a well-dressed child in church, fully aware that keen parents' eyes are watching. And millions of viewers may just be hanging on the edge of their seats for the candidate's answer if they believe Ifill either tossed Biden a softball, or Palin a hand grenade.
This is good for journalism in general, and perhaps Ms. Ifill in particular. She will be watched as never before, and must behave accordingly. Perhaps some of that awareness and caution might transfer to her job at PBS.
Anyway, should be a lively and highly-rated debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.
And now, if Gwen Ifill is both lucky and well-behaved, it won't become a Hitchcock movie.
Then again, I like Hitchcock movies. Don't you?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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