While most of the media focuses on the performance of VPs during the debate, Richard Wagner deems that we should be focusing on the fact that Tim Kaine showed a complete lack of respect to Elaine Quijano, a female moderator.

Richard Wagner deems that we should be focusing on the fact that Tim Kaine showed a complete lack of respect to Elaine Quijano, a female moderator.

Some in the mainstream media is praising the clearly biased moderator Lester Holt while slamming Elaine Quijano.  However, we should be focusing on the fact that Tim Kaine showed a complete lack of respect for her, and how she performed under the circumstances.

Exposing the double standard: Who accuses Kaine of “mansplaining”?

Donald Trump, when interrupting Hillary Clinton, is accused of “mansplaining”.  The moderator, when interrupting Trump and repeating his questions (even when they’re based on falsity), is praised for doing his job.  

Meanwhile, Tim Kaine can interrupt both Mike Pence and the moderator as many times as he likes.  Who accuses Kaine of “mansplaining”?  I guess if you’re pro-choice and have a “D” next to your name, you can treat women however you like.  VOX, to their credit, criticized Kaine for his hypocrisy, running with Clinton on a “we respect women” platform, while not showing such respect to Elaine Quijano.  But they still are critical of Elaine’s moderating skills.  

However, VOX, like the others who are critical of Quijano’s performance, fail to explain what Quijano should have done under the circumstances, at least in a way that is consistent.  They also don’t seem to be holding her to the same standards as other Presidential debate moderators.

Why Pence and the moderator avoided Kaine’s interruptions

Chotiner (cited above) to his credit, did compare Kaine’s constant interruptions to “a child who couldn’t sit still.”   However, he criticized Quijano for moving the debate along when Pence was asked, once again by Kaine, to answer all of the mudslinging accusations he’d made against Trump.  Pence was prepared to answer, but Quijano was prepared to move on as time was running out.  So once again, from Chotiner’s article, moderator Quijano is supposed to somehow maintain control over the debate, while simultaneously letting it go off on a tangent.  Had Quijano allowed that tangent to continue, she would have effectively allowed Kaine to take control of the debate.  

Pence was willing to respond.  However, to listen to some of the spin from mainstream media, he was avoiding it.  Some even claimed that Pence is “running away” from Trump.  The truth is, as I’ve shown above, these accusations have been refuted over and over again, and this is clearly a sleazy tactic from the Clinton campaign to manufacture new true with repeated lies ad nauseum.  Aside from that, Pence was likely wanting to answer the moderator’s questions.  Clearly stabilizing Syria where millions of lives are at stake is more important than Donald Trump calling Rosie O’Donnell “fat”.  

My two criticisms of Quijano’s performance
  1. She made a mistake early in by giving Kaine the impression that it’s OK to interrupt and steer off topic whenever he likes.  When Kaine began his rude interruptions and Pence started to object, Kaine asked, “this is a discussion, right?” and Quijano made the mistake of agreeing without clarifying.  She probably didn’t realize that by giving Kaine an inch, he was about to take a mile.  She did correct this mistake and things continued, and spent the rest of the debate doing her best to minimize interruptions and keep the candidates on topic.
  2. Quijano should have rebuked Kaine.  It’s clear in retrospect that Kaine was being very rude, while Pence was a gentleman.  I’m not saying Pence was perfect, but he was more willing to acknowledge Quijano’s role as the moderator than Kaine, and usually would ask for permission when he wanted to interrupt and address something before moving on.  Kaine, on the other hand, showed a complete lack of respect to Quijano, and minimal respect to Pence.  Quijano was likely nervous, as most anyone would be, and was likely putting most of her effort into keeping a level tone and being impartial.  However, Kaine’s behavior certainly warranted a rebuke, and she should have called him out directly.
If I were grading Quijano, I’d give her a “B” for this

Isaac Chotiner with Slate has argued

Quijano lost control of the debate early on, and never regained it. The candidates were told to speak for a set amount of time, and then discuss the issue at hand more freely with one another. Not only did both candidates, especially Kaine, keep interrupting the initial answers, but Quijano never allowed discussions to flow afterwards…”  

So, Quijano was supposed to maintain control over the debate, while simultaneously letting go control of the debate by letting the candidates (largely from Kaine’s interruptions) go off indefinitely on tangents.  Definitely lose/lose for Quijano.  What I will agree to is that a moderator’s performance should be judged by how well they kept the candidates on topic and by how well they enforced time limits and insured equal time between the candidates.  

If I were grading Quijano, I’d give her a “B” for this.  They were able to go off topic somewhat, but she always got them back on topic within a minute.  At one point, she stopped them both, saying, “Gentlemen, the people at home cannot understand either one of you when you speak over each other.  I would please ask you to wait until the other is finished.”  To say she did a terrible job simply because of those minutes lost to interruptions (mostly be Kaine), would require in the interest of fairness that nearly every presidential debate moderator be also considered terrible.  Except maybe Lester Holt because he wasn’t so much a moderator as he was Hillary Clinton’s co-debater.

Consider, however, the Primary Debates, as well as the Presidential debates between Obama and Romney.  In all of these debates, you will find candidates interrupting each other, over-talking the moderator,  insisting on a few more seconds when the moderator tries in vain to move the topic onward.  

The moderator is only one human being with a voice, and can only do so much.  Unless we’re prepared to give the moderator the authority to cut off the microphone of the candidates, that it’s inevitable that these things will happen.  Compared to other moderators, Quijano’s performance was at least on par.

Richard Wagner is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He conducts independent study on the American conservative movement and foreign policy. When he is...

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