Archive for October 1st, 2008|Daily archive page

Veep debate moderator may not be impartial

With the first and only Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin just over 24 hours away there is now concern about the neutrality of the moderator, PBS journalist Gwen Ifill.  The McCain campaign is saying that they think she’ll do a good job; nonetheless they’re calling into question her impartiality, largely over her upcoming book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, which is scheduled to be released January 20, 2009—Inauguaration Day.

Doubleday, the publisher says the book “surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.”  In addition to Obama, the book also deals with former Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Ifill says she has yet to even write the chapter on Obama and that her reputation as a journalist indicates that she can and will be impartial during the debate.

Some conservatives are playing this up.  In an article for National Review Online columnist Michelle Malkin says that “She’s so far in the tank for the Democratic presidential candidate, her oxygen delivery line is running out.”  Ouch.

Dick Morris, on Bill O’Reilly’s program pointed out another possible conflict of interest that I hadn’t considered.  Morris says that her book will sell much better if Obama wins the election than if he doesn’t and that she stands to make $300,000 or more in additional royalties if the ticket that Palin is on loses. 

I recall that Ifill did a very good job moderating the Cheney-Edwards vice presidential debate in 2004 and I think she is a professional journalist who shouldn’t intentionally make any decisions that would favor Biden unfairly; good reporters are used to keeping their personal views out of their work.  However, there could still be unconscious bias, which woul be just as bad.  And even if there is no bias, the perception that there could be would be bad.  Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.

Given the circumstances, Ifill probably should have recused herself, and probably shouldn’t have been asked to host the debate to begin with once it was known that Obama was the nominee.  But McCain could have vetoed her selection; it wouldn’t have been a big deal and could have been done politely and in a low key manner.  So why didn’t he?  One possibility is that his campaign wants the story after the debate to be on the media and how unfair they are to Palin and stacked the deck against her.  That this issue over Ifill is coming up the day before the debate, when it is impractical to get a new moderator or reschedule, lends credence to this possibility.

Expectations are that Biden should win, given his much greater experience and knowledge.  I think that much of the talk on this issue is being orchestrated to further lower expectations for Palin, making it easier for her to exceed them.  We’ll have to see how it goes.  The debate begins at 9:00 pm EST Thursday.

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Duggar family getting even more bigger

The already large family of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of Tontitown, Arkansas is expanding.  Again.  The well-known Duggar family already includes 17 children and Michelle is currently expecting their 18th child, a girl due on New Year’s Day.  The births of their last three children were featured on Discover Health Channel specials.

The Duggar family, just after the birth of their 17th child, in front of their house

The Duggar family, just after the birth of their 17th child, in front of their house

The Duggars, who are Baptists, are members of what is called the Quiverfull movement, a small segment of conservative Protestants who eschew all forms of birth control and promote having lots of children.  The family has it’s own website, which includes many pictures of the family and their large, well-kept home.  It is interesting to read about how they keep their enourmous family functioning smoothly.  Part of their secret is having the older children heavily involved and responsible for raising the younger children.  The site provides fascinating insight into a family that almost certainly is quite different from yours and mine.

Mr. Duggar served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999–2002, when he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Party nomination for the U.S. Senate.  He is currently a real estate agent, which probably helped him get his family’s massive house built.  Including her current pregnancy, Mrs. Duggar has been pregnant 18 times (she’s given birth to two sets of twins).  Assuming that she gives birth on New Year’s Day, and that each of her pregnancies lasted 270 days, by my calculations, when she gives birth, Mrs. Duggar will have been pregnant 56.8% of the time since she conceived her first child—back in 1987 when Ronald Reagan was president. 

One may wonder if the Duggars are single-handedly trying to solve the solvency problems of Social Security, or whether Mr. Duggar wants to return to politics and figures that it will be easier to get elected when his family and his constituency are coextensive.  (They already make up 2% of Tontitown, Arkansas’s population.)

I have no objections to the size of their family; there is no evidence of any disfunction and, indeed, they seem more stable and happy than most American families.  The live debt-free and seem to be a very close bunch.  Just maybe there is something we can learn from them?

While the media really likes the Duggars, they get made fun of a good bit in the blogosphere, much of which I think is related to the family’s very conservative brand of Christianity.  While I also find the Quiverfull Movement unusual and legalistic—and without sound theological basis—they don’t appear to be causing any harm, the kids all seem happy and well-adjusted; since the idea is unlikely to catch on there’s no reason to mock their theology and personal choices, though there is certainly a time and place for critically examining their philosophical and theological underpinnings.  But I don’t do that here.

What I will do is question their naming conventions: they’ve given all their children names begin with J but they somehow have never gotten around to naming one of them Jacob!  It’s only been the #1 boy’s name for nine years running (a trend that I claim some credit in starting).  C’mon, folks!

Anyway, best wishes to the entire Duggar family.  Hopefully Michelle’s latest pregnancy goes smoothly and their newest addition is a healthy addition to their family.  But, hopefully, if you guys have started a trend it’s not in the direction of gigantic families for everyone.