11/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Picking Gwen Ifill: McCain's Latest Stunt?

As we hurdle closer and closer to the dramatic showdown between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin tonight, the right is on fire about the moderator Gwen Ifill, the veteran PBS journalist (and African American woman) who is currently writing a book called "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." The book isn't even written yet, but right wingers are assuming its pro-Obama and I've received emails from one with a re: line that says, "You've got to be kidding me!"

Even John McCain has gotten into the act.

"Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn't writing a book favorable to Barack Obama," McCain told Fox News yesterday. (Emphasis mine).

Okay. You've got to be kidding me!

Who is this "they," John? Did the Democrats and the "liberal media" force Gwen Ifill to be the moderator all of the sudden?

Everybody knows that debate moderators are agreed upon as part of an intense negotiation by both campaigns that covers everything from whether or not the candidates will be standing at podiums or sitting down, to the length of response time for each question, to the choice of moderators.

Gwen Ifill's book deal was announced publicly weeks before the McCain campaign agreed to making her the moderator. It's already up on! McCain can feign ignorance about Gwen Ifill and who she is, but I think McCain's campaign purposefully agreed to Ifill because of who she is. Think about it.

By pretending he had nothing to do with the choice, crying foul in phony outrage, and manufacturing a fake scandal out of this, McCain can distract from the real question of this debate: Is Sarah Palin is qualified to be Vice President? Clearly many Republicans and prominent conservatives don't think so, and polls show the majority of Americans agree. McCain is in a free fall due to his own lack of leadership in the financial crisis and because Sarah Palin's disastrous interviews made Katie Couric look like Edward R. Murrow. So why not talk about Gwen Ifill instead?

Worse, no matter what happens in the debate... If Sarah Palin appears to endorse Hamas again, or can't name a Supreme Court case she disagrees with other than Roe v. Wade again, or calls for attacking Pakistan again, or says she has foreign policy experience because she can see Russia from Alaska again, or can't name a single newspaper she reads again... well, the Republicans can just blame Gwen Ifill.

Maybe John McCain is a lot savvier at picking a debate moderator than he is at picking a running mate.