Sure sign that President Obama’s media cheerleaders are worried about his upcoming debate performance? Four days before the first debate, Gwen Ifill of PBS has an op-ed in The Washington Post downplaying the importance of . . . debates. Or, as she puts it, “debunk[ing] five myths about presidential debates.”
Myth Number One: “Voters use debates to decide.”
As Ms. Ifill explains, “Gallup polls going back decades show precious little shift in established voter trends before and after debates.”
Her article consists largely of some pretty pallid pabulum, the tired clichés you might expect from a public television host whose expertise on the subject arises from her experience as moderator of the 2004 and 2008 vice presidential debates. The moderator shouldn’t argue with the debaters, for example; the candidates don’t get to approve questions in advance; the best zinger doesn’t necessarily win a debate. Yada yada yada. Her point about the impact on voters of debates isn’t exactly hot news, either. But timing is everything, isn’t it?
So, given that we all know that Mr. Obama doesn’t exactly shine without his teleprompter, and that Mr. Romney is pretty good in a debate, would it be too cynical to suggest that Ms. Ifill and The Post are engaging in a bit of preemptive self-comforting?