Along with millions of Americans, I watched the Vice Presidential Debate last night. The first question that came to mind was “Who is this Moderator?” Her name is Martha Raddatz, and I wish I had learned more about her before the debate.
Joe Biden and Paul Ryan each accomplished their goals. Each got to recite their memorized responses to questions, whether their answers were responsive or not. Paul Ryan clearly had a mission to establish that although young, he was well informed about foreign policy matters. Biden clearly had his own mission. Doing damage control after the President’s lack-luster debate performance, Biden was charged with the mission of confronting Ryan whenever he told lies, or made misleading statements. Biden did interrupt many times to contest the truthfulness of something Paul was saying. Although Biden was perceived by some as too aggressive, he accomplished the goal of creating questions about the truthfulness of Ryan. Ryan accomplished his goal of convincing the audience that he was ready to take control if Romney should be elected, and then at some time be unable to serve.
Of course the minute the debate was over, journalists and reporters were quick to answer the question, “Who won the debate?” Some reported that Biden won. Some reported that Ryan won.Some reported that the outcome was a tie. In their haste to get the story out, each of these media sources failed to identify the real winner. The real winner was Martha Raddatz, the moderator.
Raddatz was knowledgeable and professional. She was direct and in control. She was not condescending but clearly an equal to the men she was moderating. She was in control of the debate and was unafraid to interrupt when necessary. Her appearance was appropriate for the occasion. She did not mention her children or family when she was introduced. She made no attempt to become the focus of the debate or to use this moment to attract attention to herself. The contrast between Martha and Jim Lehrer, the 78 year old anchor of the previous presidential debate was dramatic.
Raddatz was praised for her “calm-yet-firm” moderating style. She was able to “control the conversation between the two talkative candidates while letting them have brief dialogues.”
The outstanding performance of Raddatz was recognized by film critic Roger Ebert as he wrote “she makes a strong impression. Knows her stuff.” CNN reporter Roland Martin said “’Martha Raddatz is not messing around. You hear that Jim Lehrer? She ain’t allowing filibustering!’
Martha Raddatz was an outstanding choice for moderator of this debate. She is a veteran ABC News correspondent. Her list of international assignments and reporting achievements makes some “secretaries of state seem like work-shy stay-at-homes.” She has reported from Mosul and Sadr City during her 21 trips to Iraq. She began working for WCVB in Boston, before becoming NPR’s Pentagon correspondent in 1993. In 1999 she shifted to ABC News as state department correspondent and then became senior national security correspondent in 2003, a post that required extensive reporting from war-torn Iraq.
The posting in Baghdad led Raddatz to write a book, The Long Road Home, a detailed account of a platoon of American soldiers trapped and besieged by Shia militia in Sadr City, in a two-day battle that saw eight US soldiers killed.Raddatz became ABC’s White House correspondent during the second term of the Bush administration. By the end of 2008 she was named to the prestigious role of senior foreign affairs correspondent.
Raddatz is only the sixth woman to moderate or co-moderate a presidential or vice-presidential debate.
Given Martha Raddatz credentials, and stellar performance in the debate, women across the country are energized this morning because a woman was recognized around the country for her intelligence, professionalism, and competence. Predictably Sarah Palin had only criticism for this accomplished, professional performance. Palin said:
“ …the moderator allowed one candidate to absolutely run roughshod over the conversation, over the opponent,”
“That’s a tough format. It reminded me…of watching a musk ox run across the tundra with somebody underfoot. In this case, when it came to style, Paul Ryan was underfoot because of the moderator allowing Biden to do interrupting, to kind of take control of the conversation.”
For four years we have watched as Sarah Palin has damaged the image of professional women. Today we have a perfect example of an accomplished professional woman who made women proud, and an example of another who embarrasses us on a regular basis. Martha Raddatz made us proud. Palin is an embarrassment to women, to her country, to her party, and even to her family.