Thursday, October 4, 2012
What role did Jim Lehrer play in the outcome of last night’s debate?
The Differences Behind the Debate
Lehrer is an affable and admirable journalist at the end of a very distinguished career, but most of the sounds he emitted last night seemed to be fragmentary sputters, as he tried unsuccessfully to interrupt the candidates and maintain control of the discussion. He did not ask forceful or original questions to challenge either candidate’s assumptions or misleading statements on the trail. Instead, he again and again asked President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney simply to clarify their differences—a civic-minded sort of request, but about as far from Ted Koppel’s biting inquiry in the heyday of “Nightline” as it was possible for a moderator to move in such an important forum.
Left largely on their own, the candidates spoke in their rehearsed dialects in a random, repetitive pattern. They almost seemed disoriented by the lack of control. “Jim—I—you may want to move on to another topic,” Obama declared after twenty-one consecutive minutes of dense, mostly opaque exchanges about tax policy at the start of the debate.