There was a bit of a Jim Lehrer love fest before last night's debate. But then last night happened and the public quickly turned on the PBS anchor. If you ask him, though, he did exactly what he was supposed to, thank you very much.
He "may be the worst moderator in the history of moderation," they said. He "lost control," they shouted. The debate format was essentially thrown out the window, to the degree that the final fifteen statements were trimmed down to three minutes because of previous overrun. The public was outraged. Jim Lehrer was overwhelmingly declared the loser of last night's debate.
Not so, Lehrer told Politico's Dylan Byers. Lehrer thinks he did a perfectly fine job:
"I thought the format accomplished its purpose, which was to facilitate direct, extended exchanges between the candidates about issues of substance," Lehrer said. "Part of my moderator mission was to stay out of the way of the flow and I had no problems with doing so. My only real personal frustration was discovering that ninety minutes was not enough time in that more open format to cover every issue that deserved attention."
We feel you on the time restriction, Jim. That's why we're proposing an overtime rule. Last night's debate was supposed to be free of nitty gritty policy talk, and yet that's mostly what it devolved into. Things go long when you talk policy because policy is complicated. It is difficult to explain. So, for the next debate, let's have a thirty minute overtime booked in case of emergency. If they happen to go long, you extend the broadcast. 67 million people tuned in so you shouldn't have a problem selling ads. If you can do it for the NFL, you should be able to accomodate the future President(s).
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.