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Debate Reaction: Debating Lehrer

lehrer_9-27.jpgThe first presidential debate, and which candidate won, has been discussed on TV, in print, in focus groups and more. But how did moderator Jim Lehrer do? Some reaction:

• Politico’s Michael Calderone writes about the difference between Lehrer and past moderators this political season. “Moderator Jim Lehrer didn’t grandstand like other high-profile journalists during the primaries, and engaged the candidates, courteously pushing them to provide more specifics on what they would actually do in office,” he writes. “There weren’t any ‘gotcha’ questions to trip anyone up, or cause a major gaffe.”

Joanna Weiss writes in the Boston Globe about the staging and Lehrer stepping out of his comfort zone. “This was a setting meticulously designed for statesmanship…red carpet, blue curtain backdrop, a giant eagle hanging from the wall, and Lehrer at a desk, sober and refreshingly personality-free,” she writes. “Except that Lehrer clearly didn’t want it this way. He may be the quintessential even-keeled PBS anchor, but he knows good TV — and compelling debate — when he sees it. And in his quiet, understated way, he tried his best to goad the two into battle.”

• The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank describes the “lukewarm” debate. “When they opened their mouths, what came out was neither hot nor cold, but a tepid gruel,” Milbank writes. “McCain was controlled. Obama was succinct. And both were so mild that moderator Jim Lehrer didn’t know what to do. ‘Talk to each other,’ he urged. ‘Say it directly to him,’ he pleaded.”

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