Thursday, October 02, 2008

McCain Doesn't Think Ifill Is Ready To Lead...A Debate...

(AFP/Getty Images/Robert Giroux)
PBS journalist Gwen Ifill, moderator of the vice presidential debate, is wheeled into the Washington University debate site in St. Louis, Missouri. Tension mounted Thursday before a high-stakes vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and her Democratic rival Joseph Biden as new polls showed she may drag down the Republican ticket.

McCain Laments Selection Of Ifill Mike Allen

(AFP/File/Jeff Haynes)
Moderator Gwen Ifill speaks to the audience at the 2004 vice presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Republicans braced for Thursday's high-stakes vice presidential debate amid fears Sarah Palin could stumble badly before millions of viewers as she takes on her more experienced Democratic rival Joseph Biden.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Senator John McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his choice for vice president at a rally Friday in Dayton, Ohio.

Hours ahead of the vice presidential debate, Sen John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized the selection of PBS's Gwen Ifill as moderator because she is writing a book called "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

“Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn’t writing a book favorable to Barack Obama — let's face it," McCain said on "Fox & Friends." "But I have to have confidence that Gwen Ifill will handle this as the professional journalist that she is. ...

"Life isn’t fair, as I mentioned earlier in the program."

Ifill is moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and senior correspondent of "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." She is viewed as one of Washington's fairest journalists.

The propriety of her selection as moderator for tonight's debate between Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was questioned by conservatives after the Drudge Report drew attention to her book, to be published in January.

McCain took a different tack the day before, telling Fox News in another interview: "I think that Gwen Ifill is a professional, and I think that she will do a totally objective job because she is a highly respected professional. Does this help that if she has written a book that is favorable to Senator Obama? Probably not, but I have confidence that Gwen Ifill will do a professional job. And I have that confidence."

Palin told conservative radio host Sean Hannity on Wednesday that the supposed conflict would just make her "try harder." Here's their exchange:

HANNITY: Let me ask you one last question. There's been this issue that the moderator of tomorrow night's debate, Gwen Ifill, is apparently writing a book to come out the time the next president takes office, and apparently, I actually have the tape, and I'll play it for you. This is Gwen Ifill talking about the book and it seems very favorable to Barack Obama, I want to ask you out of this if you're concerned about it.

IFILL: My name is Gwen Ifill. I am the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and a senior correspondent for the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. The title of the book is "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." It's taking the story of Barack Obama and extending it to cover a whole new generation of black politicians who are doing similar things in different ways.

HANNITY: Your thoughts, Governor, is that a concern at all to you?

PALIN: You know, I'm not going to let it be a concern. Let me just tell you that John McCain has been in an underdog position before, and this ticket, I think it is safe to say, is in an underdog position. But that's what makes us work harder. It makes us want to communicate more clearly and profoundly with the electorate, letting them know what the contrasts are between these two tickets, It's motivating to me, even, to hear Gwen's comments there because, again, it makes us work that much harder, and it provides even more fairness and objectivity and choices for the voters on Nov. 4, if we try that much harder.

Here is McCain's exchange on "Fox & Friends," as released by the Fox News Channel:

HOST BRIAN KILMEADE: Right now a recent study says and the polls reflect that Barack Obama is gaining ever since this crisis has landed in everyone’s kitchen table, why is that?

McCAIN: Because life isn’t fair. ... He certainly did nothing for the first few days. I suspended my campaign, took our ads down, came back to Washington, met with the House folks and got on the phone, and also had face to face meetings.

HOST GRETCHEN CARLSON: Do you think it will work to your advantage [having Ifill moderate the debate given her book] because people will really be looking at her questions?

McCAIN: Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn’t writing a book favorable to Barack Obama. Let’s face it. But I have to have to have confidence that Gwen Ifill will handle this as the professional journalist that she is. ... Life isn’t fair, as I mentioned earlier in the program.

Copyright © 2008 Capitol News Company, LLC.

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