After Debate, a Harsh Light Falls on Jim Lehrer
The new format for the presidential debate prompted plenty of partisan debate online — as did the performance of the moderator, Jim Lehrer.
Mr. Lehrer’s light touch was widely criticized during and after the debate on Wednesday night, particularly by Democrats who felt that President Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, effectively moderated the debate himself. Speaking to CNN after the debate, Stephanie Cutter, the president’s deputy campaign manager, said, “I sometimes wondered if we even needed a moderator because we had Mitt Romney. We should rethink that for the next debate.”
But conservatives suggested that critiques of Mr. Lehrer were just excuses for Mr. Obama’s own poor performance in the debate.
Mr. Lehrer, 78, the former anchor of the “NewsHour” on PBS, moderated 11 presidential debates between 1988 and 2008. He had sworn off moderating future debates until the Commission on Presidential Debates convinced him to come back earlier this year.
He said he was persuaded by the potential of the new format: it allowed for six 15-minute conversations, each starting with a question and two-minute answers from each candidate. The format was appealing to Mr. Lehrer, who has consistently said that his job as moderator is to get out of the way and get the candidates talking.