The winner of last night’s debate: One moderator and three girls (5×8 – 10/12/12)

Why we should listen to kids, traveling the country with offers to help, the future of marriage, our disgraceful past, and facing reality in our schools.


And now we know the difference a moderator can make in the direction a nation takes at an important time. Think about that for a second. Then think that a few months ago, some schoolchildren felt compelled to start a petition campaign to have a woman serve as a moderator for a presidential debate, something that’s never happened in their lifetime.

HuffPo covered their effort in the summer…

“Women and men will never be truly equal in our country until they’re one and the same in positions of power and both visible in politics,” the girls write on the petition page. “There is no reason why a woman shouldn’t have a chance to show what she’s capable of by moderating debates in the upcoming election.”

“It’s important for teenage girls to see women with political power,” Elena Tsemberis told “The more we only see men in positions of authority, the more girls teach themselves to believe we’re not as worthy or important or capable as men.”

The head of the commission that puts these debates together — a woman, by the way — couldn’t be bothered meeting the kids when they presented the petition. They were turned away. “They were very dismissive,” one of them said.

“It’s embarrassing that the Commission on Presidential Debates is afraid of us,” one said.

And a month later, when the outfit announced Candy Crowley of CNN would moderate a debate, no credit was given to the girls who fought for a woman. Geezers Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer surrounded Crowley on the schedule, and Martha Raddatz got the B-squad — the vice presidential candidates.

And last night, Raddatz hit it out of the park. Says the New York Times editorial team today…

Ms. Raddatz acted like a working journalist instead of a television personality from her first question, on Ambassador Stevens’ death: “It was a pre-planned assault by heavily armed men,” she said. “Wasn’t this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden?”

Later, she pressed Mr. Ryan. “Governor Romney, and you’re talking about this again tonight, talked about the weakness; talked about apologies from the Obama administration. Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?”

“Mr. Ryan,” she said, “I want to ask you about — the Romney campaign talks a lot about no apologies. He has a book called ‘No Apologies.’ Should the U.S. have apologized for Americans burning Korans in Afghanistan? Should the U.S. apologize for U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses?”

Mr. Ryan’s response: “Oh, gosh, yes. Urinating on Taliban corpses?”

Women have moderated a vice presidential debate before, and yet it took schoolgirls in Jersey to point out and put pressure on the fact one hasn’t been allowed on the big stage in 20 years.

A lot of people, perhaps, shrugged when the kids pointed out why that matters.

Last night Raddatz showed why.

It was a great night for us all, and the country should be proud of three kids with a better grasp on things than the bigshots who run it.


Somewhere out there in the world today, Robert Bence is riding a Harley looking for people he can help. He’s a former Special Forces member, introduced to us this week by Daniel Alvarez, the gentleman trying to kayak between northern Minnesota and Key West. Daniel met Mr. Bence while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. He criss-crosses the country now offering to help people with whatever they need help with. He’s got a notion to hike to the highest point of every state.

He made it to Minnesota abut the time Alvarez was hitting St. Cloud, he writes…

Over the last few months, Bob sent texts from different places. I’d wake up in the morning and see Pie Town, New Mexico, or Casa de Luna flash across my phone. Most people wouldn’t be able to find them on a map, but they’re seared into the minds of long-distance hikers, special places that we all know. He sent names too, names I knew like Sweep and Bounty Hunter, the kind of names you get on long-trails where people call me Out of Order and him Wilderness Bob. Every time I read a text, I hoped he’d pick a northern route home when he turned East.

“I’m 200 miles away from you,” he texted me last night. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

That’s how I ended up in a forgotten corner of a park along the river near Saint Cloud listening to Bob tell me about his trip and how he’s been traveling all over helping people.

“That’s just what I decided to do this time,” he said. “Go ask ‘how can I help you?'”

“It sounds great,” I said.

“No,” he said. “I’m asking you, you, what do you need? Can I help you?”

I’m tracking Mr. Bence down. Look for a future post. He’s got NewsCut written all over him.


From “On Being”:

Redefining the definition of marriage is a monumental cultural transition. But we’ve reduced our public deliberation of this matter – even inside our religious institutions – to a matter of votes and laws. The reality is, even one-third of Democrats still express opposition to gay marriage. But younger people of every political and moral persuasion are coming to a collective comfort level and consensus. Jonathan Rauch is a gay man and gay marriage advocate who respects the values and concerns of social conservatives and wants them taken seriously. David Blankenhorn is a self-identified liberal democrat and long time family and marriage advocate, who testified for gay marriage opponents during California’s Prop. 8 ballot initiative. But he has recently withdrawn his legal opposition to gay marriage, acknowledging the emerging moral consensus. They have developed a friendship that has surprised and changed them both. We’ll listen in on their common struggle to respond compassionately to both sides of our human and civilizational encounter with same sex union, and to discuss it in terms of civil society and a pro-family agenda.

The marriage amendment has also been a hot topic in Minnesota schools, the Pioneer Press reports today.


We did this to people once. We took U.S. soldiers, put them in the desert and then exploded a nuclear bomb. We used them as rats. And bigshots stayed a safe distance away to watch, after telling the young men they were in no danger.

“It’s just a disgrace,” Joel Healey told Story Corps, in an interview broadcast today on NPR.

Related: Sergeant Major Basil Plumley, who served in three wars, died at the age of 92 on Wednesday. Command Sgt. Maj. Plumley gained fame for his part in the the battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in 1965. That fight was depicted in the book and movie We Were Soldiers Once … and Young.


Is it time to start talking about teen suicide a little more openly?

The Fargo Forum reports today that a freshman student was in a freshman algebra class in Fairmount, ND (southeastsouthwest of Fergus Falls) yesterday. “The class started at 8:30 a.m. The students said about 10 minutes later the boy handed his girlfriend a note, told the teacher ‘I’m sorry,’ and then shot himself.”

Bonus I: How do you tell which talking heads on TV have the right facts. It’s a mystery, really, isn’t it?

Bonus II: When pets come home…

Bonus III: An up-close look at the new light-rail cars in the Twin Cities. (

Bonus IV: Finally, someone (else) has pointed out the message that PBS supporters send when they can only come up with Big Bird as its symbol.


Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan met in their only head-to-head debate before the election. Today’s Question: What did you think of the Biden-Ryan debate?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The World Press Institute brings 10 Fellows to the U.S. each year. These journalists get immersed in American life and reporting under the First Amendment. This year’s fellows are getting an up close look at American elections. A few of them speak with Kerri about how their countries view American elections and international affairs. What’s going on in their countries that we wouldn’t always hear about here through our media?

Second hour: BBC documentary on Kofi Annan.

Third hour: Personal finance with Ruth Hayden.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Rebroadcast of the vice presidential debate.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – Is marijuana medicine? Join Ira Flatow for a look at the evidence on cannabis.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Writer Ava Duvernay is a part of a new wave of black independent filmmakers. Her new film, “Middle Of Nowhere,” took nine years from conception to finish, but it brought her a best director award at the Sundance Film Festival. NPR will have more on her latest movie and her unusual journey from marketing movies to directing them.