Why Leadership Matters, And Why Jim Lehrer Deserves Our Thanks
Last night an estimated 50 million Americans tuned in to watch the first Presidential debate of the 2012 elections. Despite days of pre-debate expectation “lowballing” by each candidate’s team – each campaign seemed to remind us endlessly that if their respective candidate could muster the fortitude to walk and chew gum against the better matched opponent, it would be a good night – last night’s debate delivered one of the finest examples of a serious conversation about the most serious issues facing our country and the voters that we have witnessed all year.
It was also Mitt Romney’s best night of the campaign to date. To nearly every political commentator who assessed the performances, Romney emerged as the clear winner. CNN’s flash poll found Romney won by a commanding 2 to 1 margin. 67% of those polled – the highest percentage in two decades – believed the former Governor’s commanding approach won the night. As Democrats awoke this morning reeling from the aftermath of what Time’s Joe Klein referred to as “one of the most inept” debate performances by a sitting President in modern history, the left’s recovery strategy is both clear and disappointing: blame the moderator.
Despite an unblemished decades long track record of moderating a dozen Presidential debates with fairness and respect, wounded Obama supporters are now targeting Jim Lehrer with their vitriolic anger for what they perceive to have been a format unfairly stacked against the President.
For ninety minutes, Lehrer seized the opportunity to drop the façade of many of the orchestrated and scripted events of the past to allow the candidates to engage in the truly unique verbal gladiatorial combat of presidential debate. No teleprompters and no ability to survive on 30 second hope and change filled one-liners would be allowed to shape this debate. What Lehrer quickly realized last night was that in this most pivotal of debates, his job was to stand back and allow the candidates to engage, shape and ultimately define the debate. Most any other media moderator would have been unable to avoid the sirens call of hearing their own voice repeatedly interjecting into the conversation. Lehrer has no such ego in need of stroking. For those who believe that Lehrer somehow “sided” with Romney, consider this fact: President Obama had nearly 12% more speaking time during the entire debate.