The Obama campaign and its followers have been complaining that moderator Jim Lehrer somehow allowed Mitt Romney to take control of the debate last Wednesday night, and that the format favored Romney because of Lehrer’s passivity. Even after it was acknowledged that Barack Obama spoke more than four minutes longer than Mitt Romney, there were still complaints.
Let them try this on for size: Lehrer interrupted Romney at least fifteen times, and Obama only five. Two of the four times Lehrer interrupted Obama it was to warn him he was over two minutes; once was to steer him in the right direction when Obama started to ramble about Paul Ryan and vouchers and Lehrer righted the ship by asking “you don’t support that?”; once was to interrupt him on Medicare, and then finally, 80 minutes into the 90 minute debate, Lehrer finally interrupted Obama when Obama was rambling about community colleges and Lehrer, tired of the interminably long answers, turned to Romney and asked, “Do you agree, Governor?”
On the other hand, Lehrer consistently interrupted Romney or tried to prevent him from having the last word when Obama had spoken first on the issue at hand. The first occurrence was roughly 16 minutes into the debate, when Romney wanted to correct Obama’s false characterization of Romney’s tax plan. Obama had spoken twice, and Romney once, but Lehrer tried to move on and not let Romney respond. Romney fought through that to get his rightful chance to speak.
Five minutes later, Lehrer again attempted to short-circuit Romney’s right to his response by claiming the debate was past the 15-minute mark, but Romney forced Lehrer to let him have his turn to speak.
This pattern of Lehrer not letting Romney have his rightful turn to speak occurred frequently. There were also numerous times when Romney was far short of the two-minute mark and Lehrer tried to move on and cut him off because Romney was scoring heavily. For example, Lehrer tried to cur Romney off after these lines:
Romney: “We’ve got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country -”
Lehrer: All right.
Romney: Spain — Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government. We’re now spending 42 percent of our economy on government-
Romney: The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas. Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant –
Romney: And, by the way, if a state gets in trouble, well, we can step in and see if we can find a way to help them –
Lehrer: Let’s go.
Romney: But — but the right — the right approach is one which relies on the brilliance of our people and states, not the federal government.
Lehrer: — and we’re going on — still on the economy, on another — but another part of it…
There was an incredible sequence discussing federal regulation where Lehrer interrupted Romney five times in roughly one minute, then, before Romney reached the 90 second mark, cut him off and turned to Obama for a response.
And of course, there was the classic moment when Lehrer interrupted Obama and Obama claimed he had five seconds left, then spoke for another 35 seconds. It was simply astonishing to see how over and over, Obama violated the two-minute mark and Lehrer let him get away with it.
There is simply no question that Lehrer favored Obama all night, and it is a measure of Romney’s greatness that night that he overcame both his opponents. In all likelihood, the moderators will be stacked against Romney all the way through the debates, and it is nice for a change that when the liberals cry about the moderators, not only are they lying, but it doesn’t even matter. We have the better and smarter candidate.