Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of Washington Week on PBS and senior correspondent for The NewsHour W ith Jim Lehrer, also on PBS, answered readers' questions online Thursday at WashingtonPost.com as she prepares for this week's first vice presidential debate.
A couple of her responses give great insight into Ifill's strengths as a reporter and moderator. She's confident, funny, and she doesn't mince words. (Note: Today happens to be her birthday.) Excerpts:
Motor Mouth: Have you interviewed Biden before? How in the world has he survived as a national politician for three decades without censoring his mouth? He seems to spurt out whatever he's thinking at the moment without filtering it in any manner. Has there ever been a politician like this on the national stage?
Gwen Ifill: I have interviewed Sen. Biden, and I believe you overstate.
Boston : What exactly is the format of the vice presidential debate? I think McCain wanted just straight two-minute answers, but I believe that was not the final agreement. Also, what is your favorite debate format? (And does that answer differ if you are moderating or just watching?)
Gwen Ifill: My favorite debate format is one in which I am in charge.
The current plan for the vice presidential debate is for each candidate to answer a question for 90 seconds, with an additional two minutes for follow-up/exchange. I think of it in five-minute chunks.