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Gwen Ifill: Biden and Palin each had an agenda (and it wasn't debating each other)

October 5, 2008 |  7:00 pm

So how did the moderator of Thursday's debate between vice presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden think it went?

"The understanding was that we were going to have a debate," Gwen Ifill told Tom Brokaw of NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning. But, she went on, it didn't exactly turn out that way.

"The moderator's job is to control their debate.  If they have decided, as Joe Biden decided, that he was going to debate John McCain, and [Palin] decided she was going to give a stump speech to the American people, there's very little a moderator can do other than say, 'No, no, no, listen, I asked a question.  Please, please answer.' "

In repeatedly switching topics from the question that was asked to one of her talking points, Palin "blew me off, I think is the technical term," Ifill told Brokaw, who will moderate Tuesday's debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.

Ifill's performance as moderator received mixed reviews, even from the same publication: On the same day that the Los Angeles Times' media writer, James Rainey, praised the host of PBS' "Washington Week" for showing "reason, fairness and class," she was blasted in a Times editorial as "singularly inarticulate."

But there's one aspect of the experience she appeared to really enjoy: "I got to say, being portrayed by Queen Latifah is not a bad thing," Ifill said of the 2002 Oscar nominee who portrayed her in the debate sketch on "Saturday Night Live."

-- Leslie Hoffecker

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