As Matt Vespa at NewsBusters noted earlier this morning, MSNBC’s Howard Fineman was extremely unhappy with Jim Lehrer’s performance as moderator in last night’s first presidential debate. Vespa reports that Fineman “seemed agitated to the point of calling Lehrer ‘useless’ and equated his moderating of the debate to ‘criminal negligence.’”
In what may be seen as a surprise, the same network’s Laurence O’Donnell didn’t share that sentiment, as Mackenzie Weinger reported this morning at the Politico’s “On Media” perch:
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell praised moderator Jim Lehrer’s debate performance on Wednesday, saying that “staying out of it as much as he did was the thing to do.”
O’Donnell told POLITICO’s Alexander Trowbridge in Denver that he “liked the job Jim Lehrer did” and added that he appreciated the moderator’s lack of “grandstanding” and “prosecuting.” While many in the media post-debate blasted what they deemed Lehrer’s lackluster showing, the MSNBC host said the 12-time moderator impressed him.
“He made the moderator not a factor in the debate. He left the debate up to the debaters. If Mitt Romney was going to have a really tough question put to him, President Obama was going to have to do it. And the same thing the other way around. In fact, Jim Lehrer invited Mitt Romney to put a tough question to President Obama, and he didn’t do it. He just made a speech instead,” O’Donnell told POLITICO.
O’Donnell is, of all things, correct. It was up to Obama and Romney to challenge each other. To the extent they didn’t do it, it’s their individual fault.
Leftists are used to seeing moderators buck up their candidates when they falter. Lehrer generally wouldn’t do it, and the left should have seen it coming. Why? Because Lehrer only chose to come out of retirement to moderate one more debate because, in the words of a bitter syndicated columnist Peter Hunt, “the Commission on Presidential Debates accepted a format he lobbied for: a format with few formal questions, in which the candidates challenge each other.”
Hunt’s assessment: “It doesn’t work. The candidates don’t care to do it, and the moderator didn’t help.” Wrong, Peter — and you forgot to add “to Democrats’ advantage” to the first quoted sentence.
Last night was generally one-on-one as opposed to the normal two liberals — the candidate and the moderator — ganging up on one Republican or conservative. No wonder most liberals, most of the establishment press (see this crybaby AP report from the Associated Press’s Dave Bauder), and the undisciplined sore losers in the Obama campaign (in a separate post, Politico’s Byers reported that Obama spokesperson Stephanie Cutter told CNN that “I sometimes wondered if we even needed a moderator because we had Mitt Romney”) are so peeved at Lehrer. He didn’t do what they perceive to be his duty.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.