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Oct 20

Written by: Diana West
Saturday, October 20, 2012 4:21 AM 

An essay by George W. Ford:

Is CBS News coordinating a one-two punch with the Obama campaign in Monday's third debate? This is a question worth asking as it is certainly possible that CNN coordinated with the campaign in the second debate, and failed to inform beforehand the Romney campaign and the public they were doing so.

Did Candy Crowley simply intervene on the president’s behalf during the exchange on Libya? Or was she, prior to the debate, ordered or prodded by the campaign to do so? In other words, did she act merely as a biased journalist/moderator, or did she know ahead of time that her help would be needed by Obama to maintain the fiction that the US government did not place the blame for Benghazi on an American film maker?

When Obama said, “Get the transcript,” it is obvious that the order was directed at Crowley, and that the words meant she must either pick up and read from a piece of paper he had reason to believe was lying on the moderator’s desk, or at least acknowledge that Obama was right.

How would Obama know she had a printout of the Rose Garden comments? How did he know she would back him up? What gave Obama the confidence in front of a national audience, days before the election, that she wouldn't embarrass him by responding, "I don't have transcripts, Mr. President, but perhaps you would like to restate for the audience your Rose Garden comments?"

When exactly did we start ordering debate moderators to produce a silver bullet on demand? Is this a rabbit that moderators were always able to pull out, but no candidate ever had the brains to ask until October 16, 2012?

The anger in Obama’s voice when he said these three words was directed at Crowley, who stuttered out a low volume and uncertain response. The same anger was evident in the president’s follow-up order. “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?”

Would Obama have brow-beaten Crowley if he weren’t certain she was holding the transcript, or would summarize a few words for him? James Taranto has an innocent explanation for this. He thinks that Obama was aware that Axelrod had fully educated Crowley beforehand in a TV interview about the wording of the Rose Garden remarks, and therefore Obama’s “get the transcript” directive was nothing more than saying, in effect, “Candy, you might want to recall that just yesterday my campaign manager David Axelrod explained that a careful reading of the transcript reveals that the Governor is wrong -- I actually did call the attack blah blah blah.”

Taranto may be right. On the other hand, that is not at all what Obama said. He said, “Get the transcript,” and Crowley apparently knew instantly to spit out the required words. One way to read this is that Obama knew for a fact that Crowley would hear those three words and save Obama, which means collusion. Another way to read this is Obama took a very big gamble, as this highly unusual command could have back-fired on live TV if Crowley didn't play ball.

Does anyone believe that the Romney campaign could have made a similar arrangement for certain transcripts to be placed on the moderator’s desk? And that by barking out his orders she would produce instantly the words he needed to win a debating point? For example, transcripts of Obama’s comments on the future financial viability of new coal plants in the US could come in handy for a challenger.

While there's no direct evidence, there's a plausible argument to be made that the Obama campaign coordinated this stunt with CNN and CNN covered-up the agreement. Who might have participated in this effort? Did Crowley have support from CNN? Was she acting solo? Did she make a public stink about not wanting to be a female wallflower in order create a cover story for the secret deal she had with the Obama campaign? A cover story that would prepare the media and public for an “interventionist” style of moderating? Is this what she meant by her innocent-sounding “apples and oranges” example? Did the Romney campaign know that Crowley could “get the transcript” on any topic, as the Obama campaign possibly knew?

Will reporters ask CBS News if transcripts will be laying in front of Bob Schieffer on October 22nd, and if the president will be permitted to request an on-the-spot fact-check? Will this facility also be available to Romney?

I don't expect these questions to be asked. It is a lot easier for the press to debate the difference between “acts of terror” and “terrorist attack.”

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