Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Two Most Important Women in America: Gwen Ifill and Rachel Maddow

By Rusty Russell, Huffington Post. Posted September 12, 2008.

A lot rests on the questions these two ask during the final sprint toward the election.

Provocative headline? You bet! But this election is really important, and that's why I'm ready to talk some...Football.

Stay with me here. In the frenzied mash that is the final sprint of the 2008 election, you could almost forget that September marks the start of another great American fall tradition. Personally, I'm anxious to watch my first NFL game just to get a break from all the violence. Most years, hardcore fans like me have memorized a thousand bits of minutia by week one. But this year many of us have been so glued to the election that we'll have to learn as we go from the seasoned broadcasters. Still, I'm pumped. I can almost hear the play-by-play:


"And there's the kickoff ... the 2008 season is underway ... Camera One follows the ball ... tight & centered in a long arc ... and there's the pickup by Camera Five ... Ooooh! Five got blindsided there, but a nifty little left-right move kept the ball in frame ... he follows the sideline after a little juke ... a little fuzzy there ... oh! What a move! A really slick handoff to the sky cam ... as ... the play comes to an end on about the 35 yard line!"


"Well, Bob, if there were any doubts, with all the speculation about the spotters -- or the man in the director's chair, I guess they've been put to rest!


"Boy, that's for sure ... And ... as Camera Three zooms in on us here in the booth ... nice focus, good color ... Week One of the National Football League's 2008 season will continue, right after this break!"

I know. Lame. This is all about the process, not the actual event. Covering the coverage. Analyzing the game that goes on at the periphery of THE GAME.

This is how the 2008 presidential election has been served up. And that is why Gwen Ifill and Rachel Maddow can be the two most important women in America. No offense, Hillary and Sarah.

Ifill will moderate the only vice-presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis on October 2nd, while Maddow rolls out her own hour-long show on MSNBC on September 8th. Ifill, moderator of PBS's Washington Week for 9 years, was also Chief Congressional and Political Correspondent for NBC. That background easily gives her the EXPERIENCE edge. (AAAAAUUUUGGGHHHH! My head's gonna explode! I'm stuck in the "experience" zone!)


Maddow is a Rhodes Scholar, for starters, which is a really big deal among smart people. I looked it up. She has a doctorate in political science, her own show on Air America Radio and a regular gig as visiting voice-of-reality on MSNBC. We watched Rachel develop her TV chops under the capable tutelage of Keith Olbermann, and Republicans chew their dentures in half every time they see her face onscreen. So, for many of us liberals, she is already a goddess. According to her website, Maddow has slapped some people around in the fields of HIV activism and prison reform. Which makes her a REFORMER. (AAAAAUUUUGGGHHH!).


These women have the opportunity to get it right, to let us hear some real answers from the candidates and explore genuine issues. And we have good reason to expect that they might. Ifill's half-hour show is a round-table with a revolving roster of guests who are all noted journalists. (Actual journalists. You should watch sometime just to get a glimpse of these rare creatures.) She could ask meaningful questions of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. To some degree, Gwen has to address the current talking points on Washington Week, but at least she explores them with people who don't just spit them back at her as "facts." Every Friday night, she covers more in thirty minutes than cable outfits sometimes touch on during entire evening lineups.


See more stories tagged with: election08, election coverage, media, political punditry, gwen ifill, rachel maddow

Rusty Russell has worked as a freelance writer and photographer for nearly 20 years. He has been a columnist for Music Row Magazine, served for six years as Nashville Editor for Guitar Player Magazine and scripted more than 200 nationally-syndicated radio programs. His articles have appeared in more than 75 publications around the world.

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