Jim Lehrer criticized for moderation of his 12th presidential debate

Heading into Wednesday night, PBS Executive Editor Jim Lehrer was expected to moderate his 12th presidential debate with a firm hand. But that is not what debate watchers saw him do. Chris Wallace and Chris Matthews criticized his hands-off approach to the candidates, as did Laura Ingraham and Bill Maher. Lehrer was compared to the NFL replacement refs and to Big Bird, after GOP nominee Mitt Romney said he loved the “Sesame Street” character but would stop subsidizing PBS.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UMRJBOOIMADJYZKE42NT6NBWCU Albin

    I love the News Hour and honor the service of Lehrer in co-founding it, but he’s now two elections past his best before date as a moderator. I’ve long since switched off his ordinary News Hour interviews of major figures on major issues as being too ridiculously conciliatory and fubsy and sentimentally familiar with his Beltway friends. Quite apart from his mishandling of the debate process, viewers should consider thoughtfully his personal, repeat, personal as he said himself selection of the questions he put to the candidates on “domestic policy”. The debate took place within short drives of both Columbine and Aurora but nothing on gun crime. Following a devastating drought and recent hurricane, there were no scheduled discussion of disaster response, energy policy, climate issues, or ethanol subsidies, only Romney’s cheap shots on Obama’s green initiatives. As practical fact, Lehrer set up a monologue on Romney’s talking points and did not choose topics or command the debate to cover even a semblance of domestic issues. Not to forgive Obama for being asleep on the job, but Lehrer is unacceptable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-C-Briscoe-Jr/1502070753 David C. Briscoe Jr.

    Debates don’t need moderators and a timekeeper. This one had only one debater and no timekeeper. Can you believe Obama actually got four minutes more than Romney and still lost? Lehrer’s questions were perfect, each one challenging the candidates to draw differences between themselves. Only one answered the questions the way they were framed, albeit lying about his own record and distorting his opponent’s. The perfect debate strategy if you’re never going to be called out on it. The real question is, why is Jim Lehrer the only guy who can pronounce his last name?

  • F. Douglas

    I agree with those who feel Lehrer did fine. I think he was attempting to be like those referees who officiate championship games. These officials know that the contenders are the cream of the crop, and they should be the ones who win or lose on the field of play, so to speak. These officials (or in this case, Lehrer) don’t want to be injecting themselves into the game so much that they unfairly influence the outcome.

    It is my feeling that it is up to the debaters to figure out how the moderator is going to run the event, and then adjust their tactics/style accordingly. This is valuable to viewers — it provides another opportunity to see how well the debaters can think on their feet.

    Interestingly, most of the objections that Lehrer didn’t control the debate enough seems to come from Obama backers. And yet Lehrer (while he tried to some degree) let Obama talk for 4 or 5 minutes more than Romney.

    So did Lehrer give Obama enough rope to hang himself?

  • Clayton Burns

    The debate, as aggravated by the blank ineptitude of the moderator, was far too discursive. How many Americans will study the transcript? So far, I do not see much evidence that they are doing so. There should be a 60 minute limit, with incisive questioning. I put forward Julie Moos as someone who is capable of concentrating.
    Obama has to give up on phatic communication and deal with specifics, as he successfully did with the Cleveland Clinic. Otherwise, he just couldn’t counter Romney’s specifics, partially because he was being maneuvered onto his opponent’s ground.
    At the beginning, the moderator couldn’t seem to grasp the significance of education. He never did put a penetrating question to either Obama or Romney on the subject, despite the fact that both left wide openings.
    The moderator made Obama look worse than he is by sometimes discouraging him from engaging with some of Romney’s well-constructed little narratives.
    Don’t worry about generic summaries of encounters, Obama. Stick with specific scenarios with some bite, as Romney did to a significant degree.
    The response at CJR has been slow. We need to get at the transcripts and do the work. If debates are too discursive, we need to change the format now. Obama:
    –So at — at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in the world, they actually provide great care cheaper than average. And the reason they do is because they do some smart things. They — they say, if a patient’s coming in, let’s get all the doctors together at once, do one test instead of having the patient run around with 10 tests. Let’s make sure that we’re providing preventive care so we’re catching the onset of something like diabetes.

  • Anonymous

    Jim is not due any criticism.

    No matter whether he allowed Barry a few more minutes or didn’t cut him off when he kept talking. Jim did his job well.

    Jim stayed out of the fray, he remained just “moderator” throughout – and he did not become a part of the political race.

    And that was exactly what he should have done!

  • Anonymous

    Jim Lehrer did a fine job! He let the candidates go after each other’s positions. Artificial time limits just don’t work. They leave too much hanging.

  • Clayton Burns

    The format was dull.
    If Julie Moos, and Doug Anderson of Penn State, were to replace Lehrer, we could get somewhere.
    The division of the debates into domestic and foreign is unnatural because the lapses in American education that flow into shaky performance in international intelligence can’t be properly focused.
    The debate was symbolic of the obsolescence in public discourse that seems to have America tied up in knots.
    The New York Times editorial I found useful, even if we have the familiar misunderstanding of “refute.” As if journalists can’t bear to look up words.
    Romney’s idea of putting the federal government in its place in favor of the states is unenlightened. It would lead to failed international competitiveness.
    The President needs to fire his prep team. NYT editorial:
    –In fact, many economists have said exactly that, and, without details, Mr. Romney can’t simply refute them. But rather than forcefully challenging this fiction, Mr. Obama chose to be polite and professorial, as if hoping that strings of details could hold up against blatant nonsense. Viewers were not helped by a series of pedestrian questions from the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, who never jumped in to challenge either candidate on the facts.

  • Anonymous

    well, lehrer might not have been fully on his game, as they say. however, he DID allow a lot of direct exchanges and responses between mutt and barack, and THAT’S what a debate like this SHOULD be about, NOT being handcuffed to strictly follow a bunch of arbitrary rules. jim, you did fine.