In his first post-debate interview, Jim “#PoorJim” Lehrer said that his apparent inability to control President Obama and Mitt Romney in Denver last Wednesday was all part of the plan: “I’ve always said this and finally I had a chance to demonstrate it: The moderator should be seen little and heard even less,” he told Politico. “It is up to the candidates to ask the follow-up questions and challenge one another.” That seems like a pretty nontraditional take on the role of a debate moderator — particularly coming from a man who, until recently, was called the “safest” one in the business — but it’s Lehrer’s explanation and he’s sticking to it.
Lehrer went on to say that the new debate format (each question was followed by a two-minute answer from the candidates and an eleven-minute back-and-forth) was designed to allow Obama and Romney to “talk directly to one another, in an extensive way, about things that matter,” as opposed to an opportunity for the moderator to “[conduct] a pseudo-interview.”
As for the near-universal criticism of his performance, Lehrer acknowledged that he “[understood] that there were a lot of tweets.” But, he added, “I didn’t follow it carefully … I’m not suggesting that everything I did was terrific. But we’re defining terrific here, in front of 67 million people. So yes, I’ve heard some of the criticism, but it’s not keeping me awake at night.” Nor is he losing any sleep over the prospect of losing his job to Romney’s potential budget slashing. When asked about his reaction to the candidate’s mid-debate promise to cut federal funding to PBS, Lehrer said, “I had absolutely no reaction. It didn’t surprise me at all.” Perhaps he should have warned Big Bird, then.