Jim Lehrer, who hosted perhaps the most interesting and revealing debate in living memory, is getting it from both sides, though mostly from the side that thinks he should have thrown President Obama a lifeline.
If the president—who came across much as he did in the infamous Clint Eastwood sketch—forgot to mention the 47 percent, shouldn’t Lehrer have done it for him?
Some Leher critics seemed to think that there is some timeline that must be followed at all costs. This concern may, in fact, be driven by the hope that the moderator would do for the president what the president claims to have done for the auto industry. Why, to mix metaphors, didn’t Lehrer jump in and rescue the drowning man? Indeed, the president asked Leher to do just that at one point, pleadingly suggesting that Leherer move onto a new topic. Lehrer, however, didn't take center stage himself, instead allowing the candidates to sink or swim on their own. This did not work out so well for the president.
Charles Kesler, who watched the debate in the Obama-friendly environs of the Harvard Club in New York, also liked the way Lehrer let go and let the candidates help or hurt themselves without an assist from the moderator:
First, more moderators should be like Jim Lehrer. Ineffectuality ought to be the prime qualification for the job. Allowing the debaters to have their say actually helped turn this into something resembling a debate rather than a joint press conference. Romney is not so good on the stump, but in this format he got in touch with his inner pitch man and business analyst, and he delivered the goods. Actually, he was even better than that. He built the rudiments of a political case against the incumbent.
Yep, that is why Jim Lehrer is suddenly a hate object. He let Romney win! I have been thinking of the outrage directed at Lehrer as a warning for Candy Crowley and Bob Scheiffer, who will host the next two presidential debates.
Peggy Noonan agrees that all this media madness about Lehrer is not without a purpose:
Jim Lehrer has been criticized as an inadequate moderator. He was old-school and a pro. He didn't think it was about him. How quaint. He asked questions, allowed a certain amount of leeway to both candidates, which allowed each to reveal himself, and kept things moving.
Most of the criticism seems to have come from those who hoped Mr. Obama would emerge triumphant. Mr. Lehrer should not take it personally. Every shot at him was actually a warning shot aimed at the next moderator, Martha Raddatz. She's being told certain outcomes are desirable.
Clint Eastwood’s President Obama will not show up next time. It will be interesting to see who shows up to sit in the moderator's chair.