Driving around today and listening to the radio, I heard several liberals complain about Jim Lehrer, the moderator of last night’s debate. The specific grievances against Lehrer were a bit fuzzy. Some seemed unhappy that he occasionally reminded President Obama of the time limits, and pointed out when Obama ignored the limits after being reminded of them. One would think that this is a core function of a debate moderator.
Others seemed unhappy that Lehrer didn’t ask tough questions. Why didn’t he ask Romney about his 47 percent comment, or about Bain Capital, or about flip-flops?
But it isn’t the moderator’s jobs to push one side’s talking points, although the Democrats might reasonably expect some moderators to push theirs, given past performances. This is the job of the candidates, and Romney was up to it.
Obama could have raised the matter of the 47 percent or Bain Capital, but chose not to. Apparently, he’d rather leave this for attack ads, an approach that has the advantages of (1) not undermining his likeability and (2) not giving Romney a chance to respond in real time.
Lehrer was actually a fine moderator. He brought up key topics and allowed the candidates to have something approaching a true debate about them. It’s not Lehrer’s fault that Romney won that debate.
The whining about Lehrer reminds me of the following, very old Washington joke: The acoustics in Congress are terrible; you can hear every word those darn congressmen say.