Debate Moderator Favors Biden; ABC Colleagues Cheer: 'Martha Raddatz for President'
Reviewing the questions posed at Thursday night's vice presidential debate, ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz clearly favored Team Obama. Out of 48 discrete questions and follow-ups, a plurality (19, or 40%) incorporated a pro-Obama/Biden or anti-Romney/Ryan agenda, vs. 25% (12 questions) that skewed in the other direction and 35% (17 questions) that were neutral or purely information-seeking.
Raddatz showed almost no bias in her foreign policy questions, which split down the middle: eight pro-Romney vs. seven pro-Obama (not counting the neutrals). But on domestic issues, especially on the budget and taxes, she practically joined Joe Biden in pounding on Paul Ryan, with a dozen questions that incorporated liberal campaign themes, compared to just four based on a conservative premises, a stark three-to-one liberal tilt.
But either oblivious to Raddatz's bias or thrilled by it, ABC pulled out all of the stops in patting their colleague on the back. Immediately after the debate, anchor Diane Sawyer hailed "the great Martha Raddatz." Closing out the primetime coverage, Sawyer gushed: "If we seem very proud, we've always known what a great journalist she is. We're happy everybody else does, too."
The love-fest continued on this morning's Good Morning America: "We're hearing a whole lot of praise for our friend and colleague, Martha Raddatz," George Stephanopoulos cheered. Fill-in co-host Amy Robach enthused: "Martha Raddatz for President!"
Wrapping up his debate re-cap, correspondent Jonathan Karl agreed: "Now, there will be a lot of discussion over who was stronger last night, Biden or Ryan. But I've got to tell you around here, there was one clear consensus winner and that was the moderator, Martha Raddatz, who taught the world what we all know around here, George. You don't mess with Martha."
On foreign policy, Raddatz did put Team Obama on the defensive regarding their blundered response to last month's terrorist attack that killed the U.S. Ambassador in Benghazi, Libya. Raddatz confronted Biden: "The State Department has now made clear, there were no protesters there. It was a pre-planned assault by heavily armed men. Wasn't this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden?"
She followed up by zeroing in on the Obama administration's false claims that the attack was a "spontaneous" protest: "Why were people talking about protests? When people in the consulate first saw armed men attacking with guns, there were no protesters."
But she also hit Ryan with a manufactured liberal complaint, faulting the timing of Romney's initial statements about the Obama administration's apologies over an inconsequential anti-Muslim film: "Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?"
But the near-balance she showed on foreign policy was absent when it came to domestic policy. Raddatz used Democratic talking points to hit Ryan on his plan to reform Medicare: "What is your specific plan for seniors who really can't afford to make up the difference in the value of what you call a premium support plan and others call a voucher?"
Echoing Biden, Raddatz repeatedly pounded Ryan for details of the Republican tax simplification plan: "You have refused to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics?" After listening to Ryan's answer, Raddatz inserted herself again: "No specifics, again." Then again: "And you guarantee this math will add up?"
Raddatz also sounded like an Obama surrogate when it came to the need to restore the defense budget, repeatedly hammering Ryan: "You're going to increase the defense budget.... I want to know how you do the math and have this increase in defense spending?...What national security issues justify an increase?"
Raddatz's only pointed question to Biden on the budget asked him what policies "beyond raising taxes on the wealthy" he would suggest to "substantially reduce the long-term deficit?" When Biden immediately began talking about raisiing taxes on the wealthy by letting the Bush tax rates expire in January, Raddatz did not pull him back to her premise as she did repeatedly with Ryan.
Raddatz ended the debate with a neutral question asking the two about the Catholic faith and the abortion question, but followed up with a liberal question to Ryan: "If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?"
Debate moderators are supposed to ask the questions that voters -- of both parties, and of all ideological stripes -- want answered. To her credit, Raddatz found balance when it came to her area of expertise, foreign policy, but sounded like a conventional liberal journalist on everything else.
[Thanks to MRC's Geoff Dickens and Scott Whitlock for their help in compiling these statistics and rounding up the transcripts.]