Stephanopoulos and Presidential Debates

When I read today that Rand Paul was calling for a ban on George Stephanopolous as a presidential debate moderator because he contributed money to the Clinton Foundation, I wondered about the slippery slope Paul was setting up. If bias proved by deployment of money was a problem, how could anybody from Fox News ever moderate a debate?

But my second thought was to remember the incident in April 2008, when Stephanopolous and Charles Gibson moderated a Democratic presidential debate that was so outrageously vapid and corrosive that a whole bunch of progressive writers composed a letter of protest to ABC. I signed it myself, and later noted this was actually the only occasion when the famous JournoList was ever used to coordinate anything (the letter was first posted there).

Perhaps I’m having a senior moment, but I don’t remember if George’s behavior improved in 2008 (he did get a lot of Republican complaints about his questions in a general election debate). And I’ve always wondered if TV news-readers were necessarily the best moderators or panelists.

I don’t watch the man’s Sunday show, if I can help it, so help me: what do you think of Stephanopolous substantively as a journalist, or as a debate moderator?

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.