Well in advance of the Presidential debates, the two campaigns sign a secret contract that outlines every single detail of what will transpire. The dates, locations, moderators, podiums, even the pens and paper the candidates use is fair game. The agreements also put limitations on what the moderators may and may not do.
It is fun to ask Jim Lehrer how he will be moderating the debate, but the truth is he has to abide by very strict rules. As The Huffington Post’s Jack Mirkinson notes, the 2004 contract includes this paragraph:
“If any proposed moderator fails to execute a copy of this agreement at least seven (7) days prior to the proposed date of the debate he or she is to moderate, the two campaigns will agree upon and select a different individual to moderate that debate.”
In other words, the Commission on Presidential Debates, along with the two campaigns, tells the debate moderators that they can do it their way or take the highway.
Now, a handful of advocacy groups as are asking the Commission and campaigns the make the agreement available before the debates, in the name of transparency. With the first debate less than a week away, time is ticking for that transparency.