Jim Lehrer has two words for the critics of his moderating job at the presidential debate on Wednesday.
And no, those two words don't rhyme with "puck chew."
In an interview with the Washington Post on Friday, Lehrer offered a resounding, "So what?" to detractors who said that Lehrer allowed himself to be talked over and treated like a doormat by the candidates.
"Yes, there were times when I pushed them, and sometimes they ran over and ignored me and all that sort of stuff. So what?" Lehrer opined. "I mean, it isn't about my power, my control or whatever. It was about what the candidates were doing, what they were talking about and what impression they were leaving with the voters. That's what this is about. It's not about how I felt about things."
Lehrer also noted that he was generally happy with the new debate format, which allows the candidates greater freedom to communicate directly with each other.
The moderator did have one small gripe with the revamp, however.
"I had wanted to cover a lot more ground in terms of subjects," Lehrer offered. "But it took longer because the candidates gave longer answers than I, in an ideal world, would have hoped. And so a lot of things went by the board because of that."
(If only there were some way to prevent that...)
Lehrer was generally positive on the new format, meanwhile, in a separate chat with Politico.
"I am confident this is the way to go," Lehrer said. "It can be tweaked and improved upon, but this is the root," he said. "It gives the candidates a chance to engage with one another, and it's more revealing than any other format I've seen."
He's not so confident, however, that he would subject himself to the process again. Lehrer had previously sworn off moderating debates, but agreed to give it another go this time. Asked if he would be up for a repeat, he told Politico, "Let's put it this way. On a zero-to-10 scale, it's negative-one."
- Jim Lehrer