ABC News’ Martha Raddatz delivered just what Team Obama needed in Thursday’s vice presidential debate, a mere week after the president bumbled his way to a failure in his first one-on-one tussle with Republican Mitt Romney.
Raddatz channeled her ABC News colleague, former Bill Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos, while moderating Thursday evening’s showdown between Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, conducting the event with questions and timing that benefited Biden.
Stephanopoulos infamously bombed a GOP primary debate in January, inserting his own politics and probing candidates about marginal issues. Raddatz fell prey to some of his problems Thursday night, adding a seeming unwillingness to control the flow of the debate personified in Biden’s many interruptions of his opponent. (RELATED: Stephanopoulos struggles with fairness during NH debate)
Raddatz also wrapped up the evening with a decidedly softball question that had no impact on domestic or international policy, or on presidential politics. “If you are elected,” she asked, “what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?”
Her performance came shortly after The Daily Caller reported that President Barack Obama attended her second wedding, to Obama’s current Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski. The two have since divorced and are remarried to separate spouses. (RELATED: ABC News scrambles to downplay Obama’s attendance at VP debate moderator’s wedding)
Unlike PBS’s Jim Lehrer, who allowed Gov. Mitt Romney and Obama to debate openly without interruption, Raddatz inserted herself into the discussion and created openings for Biden to attack Ryan.
She often stopped Ryan when he picked up momentum. (RELATED: Ryan spokesman: “I’m not sure I would say” Raddatz was fair)
Raddatz’s first question concerned the terrorist attack in Libya that killed America’s ambassador to the North African country. She allowed Biden to speak uninterrupted for several minutes.
When she turned to Ryan, Raddatz let the Wisconsin Republican give half an answer before interrupting with a challenge to Romney’s reaction on the day following the attack.
“I just want to ask you about — right in the middle of the crisis. Governor Romney, and you’re talking about this again tonight, talked about the weakness, talked about apologies from the Obama administration,” Raddatz interrupted. “Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?”
Biden interrupted Ryan on the first of many ocasions, shortly after he began his response, accused Ryan of making up “malarkey” in his answer. Raddatz failed to gain control of the situation, playing along with the vice president instead of returning to Ryan’s answer. “Why is that so?” she asked Biden of his accusation, opening the door for a lengthy answer.
Raddatz soon would tee up additional unchallenged soundbites for Biden, and he responded with quick, catchy answers.
And instead of allowing Ryan to respond to Biden’s claim that U.S. intelligence sources told the administration a YouTube video was responsible for a spontaneous attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi — a different story from what Congress heard this week from the State Department — Raddatz questioned Ryan on his contention that the current occupant of the White House makes frequent apologies for U.S. actions overseas.
“Mr. Ryan, I want to ask you about — the Romney campaign talks a lot about no apologies. He has a book called called ‘No Apologies.’ Should the U.S. have apologized for Americans burning Korans in Afghanistan? Should the U.S. apologize for U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses?” Raddatz asked.
“Oh, gosh, yes. Urinating on Taliban corpses? What we should not apologize for…” Ryan started to answer, before Raddatz interrupted him again.
“Burning Korans? Immediately [apologize]?” the ABC reporter jumped in.
When Biden claimed that Barack Obama has “spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he’s spoken to anybody,” Raddatz failed to challenge him. Obama declined to speak with Netanyahu during the recent United Nations General Assambly in favor of making a television appearance on a comedy show.
Raddatz instead asked Biden to clarify his claim that Ryan’s contentions amounted to “a bunch of stuff.”
When Biden fumbled his answer, Raddatz thanked him “for the translation.”
As the debate shifted to domestic policy, Ryan began to directly challenge Biden by noting that the unemployment rate in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania is”10 percent. … You know what it was the day you guys came in? 8.5 percent.”
“That’s how it’s going all around America,” Ryan began his next attack, before Biden interrupted again — with Raddatz standing on the sidelines.
“You don’t read the statistics,” Biden jabbed, talking about unemployment rates. “That’s not how it’s going. It’s going down.”
At the point where Ryan was poised to respond, Raddatz chimed in. “Two-minute answer,” she said.