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Ranking The Presidential Debate Moderators

Nandini Ruparel |
October 23, 2012 | 2:31 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


Was Bob Schieffer the best debate moderator? (Creative Commons)
Was Bob Schieffer the best debate moderator? (Creative Commons)
Much of the criticism of the presidential debates—of the candidates themselves and the debates as a whole—can be traced back to the moderators. They determined the tone and flow of the debates, ranging from passive-aggressive to flat-out argumentative. As such, they've been subject to many criticisms. Even so, some moderators stood out in a good way. Here are the moderators, from best to worst:

1. Bob Schieffer (CBS)

Bob Schieffer was the only moderator to fulfill his role. He was unbiased and askied questions that mattered about Libya, Israel and China.

"Whatever his biases, and he has biases, Bob Schieffer didn't show them tonight," said Brent Brozell, the head of Media Research Center.

Let's not get too excited though, he didn't address certain issues (the European Union crisis anyone?), and both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama got severely side-tracked halfway through the foreign policy debate with the U.S. economy and talked about American education instead of the actual topic at hand—something that should have been immediately addressed.

 Schieffer has been criticized for accidentally calling Osama bin Laden "Obama bin Laden", making the debate a "sleepier" and, in relation to his inability to keep the debate on track for some minutes, being "Lehrered" (referring to the very passive Jim Lehrer—see below).

2. Candy Crowley (CNN)

 Easily the most controversial of the moderators, Crowley clearly stated from before hand that she would be active in the debate. She was advised on moderating, even before she became the moderator. Both sides took issue with vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz for being to strong and attempted to limit Crowley's role in the debate.

Of course, as a town-hall style debate, the moderator wasn't supposed to play much of a role. However, she was strong and controlling, and kept the debate moving—even fact-checking Romney at one point—making her at least an effective moderator. 

Crowley has been criticized, however, for the fact-check and for being biased towards Obama.

3. Jim Lehrer (PBS)

Jim Lehrer was easily the worst of the debate moderators. He failed to keep the candidates on track and was unable to prevent them from going over their time limits. And while he's been a moderator for a while, he clearly missed the boat on this one. Both conservatives and liberals criticized his lackluster performance.

The saddest was when Romney said he was going to cut PBS funding right in front of Lehrer, who is the anchor of PBS NewsHour. Unfortunately, Lehrer's loss of control during the debate reflected poorly on the debate as a whole and therefore made him the worst of the moderators. 


Reach Staff Reporter Nandini Ruparel here.




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