Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of Washington Week on PBS and senior correspondent for The NewsHourWith 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.