By Matthew Rothschild on October 16, 2012

Pop quiz: Can you name the last time a woman hosted a Presidential debate?

Was your answer within the last two decades?

Ouch, no good—the first and only time a woman moderated was in 1992, when ABC anchor Carole Simpson oversaw performances (and really, that’s all they ought to be called) from Clinton, Bush I, and Perot. Partial credit to those who remember Gwen Ifill and Martha Raddatz, but frankly that’s being generous: A true political junkie knows that they only spearheaded Vice-Presidential showdowns.

Everything changes tonight when Candy Crowley of CNN manages the microphone in the Big Apple in the second of three Romney-Obama rumbles.

But please, let’s not get too exultant. Twenty years have passed with nothing but dudes playing political impresario; that’s a pretty disturbing record, even given our media’s shoddy history of gender representation.

And what should disturb us even more is that both Crowley and Simpson are recipients of a consolation prize: The town hall debates. No questions pass from their lips; rather, they are mere conduits for the undecided voters in attendance, who toss the candidates middling (and no doubt meticulously screened) and probably toothless queries. The moderators are to be seen, and not heard—the Vanna Whites of an electoral game show.

But don’t expect Crowley to play along.

“I think it's always best when [the candidates] engage with each other,” she said to the Huffington Post, “but that doesn't mean I won't engage with them if that gets us closer to what we need.” Read: She will not be muzzled. Simpson egged her on in an NPR interview three weeks ago: “If Candy is stuck in that town hall format and there hasn’t been a voter who has asked a question about women’s rights, I think I would break the rules and just ask the question. It’s just got to be dealt with.”

Now both campaigns are petulantly objecting to the Commission on Presidential Debates: This debate was supposed to be a glorified photo-op for them, not something substantive. And so the almost-entirely male CPD faces a dilemma: Incite the ire of two powerful politicians, or let Crowley go rogue?

I’m hoping Crowley stands her ground and raises her voice.

Erik Lorenzsonn is an intern at The Progressive magazine.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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