Magazine September 19, 2011, Issue

Reality Shows

Then-Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (left) and then-Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama are introduced at their first debate, held at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, September 26, 2008. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy–Nixon to Obama–McCain, by Jim Lehrer (Random House, 224 pp., $26)

In the world of presidential campaigns, Jim Lehrer has become an institution: He has moderated, or served on a questioners’ panel for, eleven presidential and vice-presidential debates. In doing so, he has played such an important role that at one point, in 2000, Al Gore’s team even studied tapes of Lehrer’s previous stints as moderator to help prepare their candidate. The effort, while perhaps a good idea, failed. As Newsweek described it, “All [Gore’s] preparation . . . could not alter Gore’s basic character trait, his must-win combativeness.”

Lehrer has, to his apparent chagrin, at times become part of the campaign

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A review of Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy–Nixon to Obama–McCain, by Jim Lehrer.

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