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Please make a note of where you are located right now, what you are wearing, and the sounds and aromas wafting outside your window, because today offers one of the rarest occurences in the history of the cosmos: President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and members of Daily Kos are all in complete agreement.

We are all worried about how CNN's Candy Crowley will moderate Tuesday's Presidential debate.

Now the specific reasons may differ, of course, but for this one truly bipartisan moment in our Republic, we are united in wariness.

In fact, the Obama/Biden campaign and the Romney for Plutocrat campaign, jointly--I repeat--jointly contacted the Presidential debate commission to air their concerns about Candy Crowley's comments in recent interviews, that suggest she will not abide by the rules and format that have been agreed to by both campaigns.

The Guardian UK reports on the story broken by Mark Halperin at Time magazine:

The president and his Republican challenger had agreed that the town hall-style debate in Hofstra, New York, would mostly involve them fielding queries from audience members, with limited participation from Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent.

Crowley, however, appears to have other ideas, and has given a series of interviews over recent days stating her intention to follow up on audience members questions, rather than merely be "a fly on the wall".

Both candidates reached agreement over the terms of the debate in early October, with a memorandum of the agreement, obtained by Time, showing that Obama and Romney intended for the moderator to have little influence over the topics discussed:

"In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic. … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period."

However as the moderator Crowley, a veteran political journalist who will be the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in 20 years, is not strictly bound by the agreement. Time reported that the agreement between the campaigns merely states that "the commission shall provide each moderator with a copy of this agreement and shall use its best efforts to ensure that the moderators implement the terms of this agreement".

It appears to have been comments made by Crowley over the past week which have spooked both candidates' campaigns into contacting the commission. Crowley, who anchors CNN's State of the Union programme and has covered US politics since the 1970s, has given repeated interviews insisting she will not simply be holding the microphone when her moment in the spotlight comes on Tuesday.

Mark Halperin offers context on why both campaigns prefer moderators not to dominate town hall formats:

In an unusual departure from the normal hostility that exists between the Obama and Romney campaigns, both parties wholeheartedly agreed with the commission’s wish to avoid a repeat of what occurred four years ago. In 2008 NBC News’ Tom Brokaw moderated the town-hall session between Obama and Republican nominee John McCain, and the two campaigns and the organizers felt that Brokaw redirected the topics too severely from the audience queries and asked too many of his own questions, limiting the number of citizens who got a chance at the microphone.

Appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, Brokaw said, “[It's] tricky for the moderator. I said that Candy Crowley ought to get combat gear after I went through that four years ago.” Brokaw told TIME, “I am satisfied citizens in the hall and online got a fair hearing.” Brokaw also said that while there was some media criticism of the job he did, he heard no complaints directly from the campaigns and that a commission official even praised the debate as “good television.”

Throughout the long-running talks between Chicago, Boston and the commission this election season, there was unambiguous agreement on their shared goal to limit as much as possible the on-camera role of the moderator in the town-hall debate. In fact, according to one source, the key language from the memo of understanding written by the campaigns (“the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic”) was taken directly from words used by a commission official during an early discussion about the debate format. In short, as far as the campaigns are concerned, there should be no new follow-up questions in the debate.

Read more:

The big questions that were looming prior to Tuesday's debate were about what President Obama and Mitt Romney would do. Now as we await the Debate of the Millennium, the big question will be: what will Candy Crowley do?


Appearing on "The Situation Room" on Monday, Crowley made clear to Wolf Blitzer that follow-ups would be happening, whether the campaigns or the CPD liked it or not.

"As was the case in the Charlie Gibson town hall meeting [in 2004] and the Tom Brokaw town hall meeting [in 2008] in presidential campaigns past, there was a time after that for follow-up and for furthering the discussion," she said.

"Facilitating the conversation," Wolf Blitzer said. "Whatever you want to call it," Crowley said.


WWCCD? What will Candy Crawley do?

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