by Carl in Jerusalem
October 4, 2012
Around the time that this post goes live, the first Presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney should be getting underway. As fate would have it, the moderator for the debate is Jim Lehrer, a partisan of PBS, and Governor Romney has come out in favor of doing away with PBS's government support (a good idea given how biased they are). Can Lehrer be a fair moderator?
Then there's the question of Lehrer's performance in past presidential debates.
In moderating the first presidential debate in 2008, Lehrer was typically terse. It was most noticeable that he tried to make the candidates talk at each other instead of talking to the people, which reporters like Evan Thomas thought gave the advantage to Obama, since McCain wouldn't look at Obama. Lehrer also asked this leading question to McCain: "Much has been said about the lessons of Vietnam. What do you see as the lessons of Iraq?"
Back in 2000, Lehrer moderated all three presidential debates. In the third one, a town hall debate, Lehrer approved mostly liberal questions from the “uncommitted” audience. Eight questions came from the left, only two could be counted as conservative, and five were requests for information without an ideological tone.
One questioner asked: “Would you be open to the ideal of a national health care plan for everybody?” Another poked George W. Bush: “You seemed to overly enjoy, as a matter of fact proud that Texas...led the nation in execution of prisoners. Sir, did I misread your response, and are you really, really proud of the fact that Texas is number one in executions?” Even Saturday Night Live satirized the bias of the “uncommitted” questioners in 2000. But they were selected by Lehrer. The responsibility for balance was his.
In 2004, Lehrer moderated the first George Bush-John Kerry debate, devoted to foreign policy matters. He pressed Bush: “President Putin and Russia. Did you misjudge him?...Do you feel that what he is doing in the name of anti-terrorism by changing some democratic processes is okay?” He asked Bush to get personal: “Are there also underlying character issues that you believe, that you believe are serious enough to deny Senator Kerry the job as commander in chief of the United States?” Bush protested: “That's a loaded question.”
In the same event, Lehrer’s questions to Kerry sounded like helpful speech set-ups
Read it all.