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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Moderator Keeps a Low Profile Before Final Debate

Before Candy Crowley's turn as the moderator of the second presidential debate, the veteran CNN political correspondent treated her coming role much like an actress would a new film release.

She granted interviews to newspaper and magazine writers (USA Today, McClatchy, Politico), posed for photo shoots (The New York Times Magazine) and sat for television and radio segments (National Public Radio and local news broadcasts across the country.)

But scan the news articles and blog posts about the final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday, and you won't see much from the mouth of Bob Schieffer, the CBS “Face the Nation” host who will moderate.

Perhaps he is mindful of the criticism that Ms. Crowley faced after last week's debate. Conservatives jumped on her for interjecting with a real-time fact-check over Mitt Romney's assertion that President Obama had not initially called the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya, an act of t error.

Rush Limbaugh, for instance, called Ms. Crowley's move an “act of journalistic terror.”

On his program on Sunday morning, Mr. Schieffer made only a passing reference to his role on Monday night, saying that he had spent the last month studying up on foreign policy matters, the subject of the debate.

Whatever his reasons for staying mostly quiet, he wasn't sharing them. He did not respond to a request from The New York Times asking for his reflections. He has gone to such lengths to protect his objectivity that he even recused himself from CBS News's coverage of the previous debates this month.

He did, however, grant a recent interview to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where he helped cover the assassination of John F. Kennedy as a reporter.

“People pay too much attention to moderators,” he told the newspaper. “We're like the umpires. You only hear criticism from the losing team.”