The old definition of a schlemiel and a schlimazel goes as follows: A schlemiel is a guy who finds out his wife is cheating on him and jumps out a window; a schlimazel is the poor slob he lands on.

Somehow, in the latest presidential debate, I suspect CNN is going to manage to be both.

CNN's Candy Crowley is moderating the debate, which has already triggered a small fracas over whether she's free to ask follow-up questions. Both parties have complained, saying it violates the rules that were negotiated.

The main problem for CNN is Republicans — always looking for liberal media to bash — will be waiting to pounce if Crowley says anything that makes Mitt Romney even remotely uncomfortable. CNN has long been a prime target, since it professes to be neutral when all good conservatives know in their heart of hearts, the mainstream media are all wild-eyed liberals in the tank for Obama. Hence, even Martha Raddatz's performance moderating the last debate came under fire from the expected sources, including Rush Limbaugh.

Democrats, however, have shown they're not above similar charges, after panning Jim Lehrer for the first debate, where he failed to press either of the candidates, which allowed Romney to run roughshod over a sleepwalking President Obama.

Crowley — a respected journalist, but hardly a household name beyond CNN — thus finds herself in a classic no-win situation. If she intervenes at all, she'll be painted as putting her finger on the scale, one way or another. And CNN will again be fending off charges — most of them likely bogus — over political ideology. That's a shame, since CNN's real shortcomings — as I documented in its gimmick-ridden coverage of the previous debates — have nothing to do with its politics, and everything to do with its desperate desire to be liked.

So here's a prediction: No matter what happens, CNN will draw fire from all sides. Then again, that's a familiar position to be in for a network that continues to specialize in shooting itself in the foot.

 

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