Margaret Hartman assesses Jim Lehrer's performance:
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Jim Lehrer was "seething" over complaints that he was an uninspired choice for moderator of 2012's first presidential debate. … Between losing control of the conversation and getting into sharp exchanges with both candidates, Lehrer would probably be happy if the worst thing people were saying about him right now is that he's the "safe" choice.
Rather than prodding the candidates on their responses, Lehrer focused on trying to keep them within the 15 minutes allotted for each segment and ensuring that they were given equal speaking time. Yet, he failed even in in that task. At the end of the debate, Wolf Blitzer said that by CNN's count Obama spoke for four more minutes than Romney.
He was great. Give that man a MacArthur genius award or a Pulitzer or something. All debates should be moderated this way. Step back and let the candidates argue with each other. It's revealing, much as Obama on this occasion may regret it. There was far more substantive engagement on issues–or the opportunity for it, at any rate–than the usual preening-moderator formats allow.
A reader quips:
After Jim Lehrer's performance in this debate, I now support cutting PBS from the federal budget.