Jim Lehrer may be the worst moderator in the history of moderation.— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) October 4, 2012
Lehrer was slammed on Twitter and the morning papers, mostly for his apparent inability to maintain any order in Denver debate hall. Both Romney and Obama regularly ignored the time constraints and steamrolled him when he tried to rein them in. They evaded his questions, rambled on with their own talking points, and even snapped Lehrer off as he tried to do his job.
Fact check. President Obama was not honest. . .when he said Jim Lehrer did a "good job." #debates— Dan Abrams (@danabrams) October 4, 2012
Observers on both sides of the political aisle called him "weak" and "overwhelmed," saying he "lost control, early and often." The 90-minute debate was supposed to be broken into six 15-minute chunks, yet each one ran so far over time that once they got to the final section there was only three minutes left for him to ask his question. He also ended some of the sections by asking if the candidates agreed that there are differences in their positions, as if that wasn't the whole point of a debate. Romney even attacked PBS—Lehrer's journalistic home—right to his face. (To which Alessandra Stanley of The York Times quipped: "Mr. Lehrer may have helped make his point.") Even lovable old Al Roker piled on:
I hope Jim Lehrer gets the license plate of the truck that drove over him in this debate— Al Roker (@alroker) October 4, 2012
But since there's two sides to every debate, an argument can be made that Lehrer did exactly what he was supposed to. As a veteran of 12 presidential debates, he certainly isn't intimidated by powerful figures and knows better then anyone how the ebb and flow of a wide-ranging political discussion can work. Even though the candidates wandered off topic and occasionally ignored his directions, it was a debate that was heavy on policy details and mostly free of barbs and distractions.
So bring on the backlash to the backlash:
I really dont get the Lehrer criticism. That was the most substantive presidential debate ever. Lehrer, not the candidates, made that happen— Conn Carroll (@conncarroll) October 4, 2012
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.