Chris Wallace’s Moderating Secret

Our advice would be that Republicans in the future agree to attend debates only if they’re moderated by Mr. Wallace or someone who has demonstrated similar ideological breadth in questioning politicians of both parties.

WSJ – Chris Wallace’s Moderating Secret

He asked questions based on premises from the left and right.

Fox News anchor and moderator Chris Wallace asks the candidates a question during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Fox News anchor and moderator Chris Wallace asks the candidates a question during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

WSJ Editorial Oct. 23, 2016

Chris Wallace is receiving widespread praise for the way he moderated the third presidential debate last week, and deservedly so. He was fair to both candidates, firm in handling their interruptions, and did his best to draw out the candidates on their substantive differences.

But there’s another reason he was more effective: He asked questions that would never have even occurred to the other moderators. Mr. Wallace’s personal politics are a mystery to us, but his position as an anchor at Fox News (where we have a weekly TV show) means he is exposed to political points of view that are alien at most other media outlets.

The best example was Mr. Wallace’s first question on the Supreme Court. First he let Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump explain the philosophies that would inform their nominees for the Supreme Court. But then he drilled down into gun control and abortion in ways that media big shots rarely do.

On guns, he challenged Mrs. Clinton on her opposition to the Supreme Court’s Heller decision that ruled the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. Her evasive response showed she doesn’t believe in such an individual right. On abortion, Mr. Wallace teased out Mr. Trump’s views on Roe v. Wade, but he also challenged Mrs. Clinton on her support for abortions at any time during pregnancy.

Most journalists share a center-left worldview that means they are rarely challenged about their underlying ideological assumptions. Mr. Wallace was effective because he asked questions based on premises from the right and left.

That’s a credit to Mr. Wallace but it’s also a lesson for Republicans. Our advice would be that Republicans in the future agree to attend debates only if they’re moderated by Mr. Wallace or someone who has demonstrated similar ideological breadth in questioning politicians of both parties. They’d be doing themselves and the country a service.

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