We will have to await the total of those who watched Wednesday night’s televised presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but given the critical state of the nation it is safe to say it was less than it might have been because it was a free flowing dialog, barely interrupted by Moderator Jim Lehrer.
I suspect Lehrer, who has had broad experience as a moderator will admit that Wednesday’s night’s performance was not among his best.
The title “Moderator’’ has become shopworn. Viewers prefer inquisitors - those more aggressively engaged, and Lehrer was apparently more engaged with the clock than he was with the substance of the debate.
What he set as two minute response limits were generally ignored by both candidates, and his efforts to divide time equally failed to Obama’s benefit. At the end of the hour and half of debate he had gained just four minutes and some seconds over Romney.
But Romney, smiling, aggressive, and apparently delighted to be on the attack predominated and did not complain.
No surprise there. In difficult times, sitting presidents have to defend their presidencies, and we are in the most difficult times of those faced for many years. The federal debt reached its all time high of 16 trillion dollars during the August convention of the Democratic Party, and there’s no apparent relief in sight.
Unemployment and partial employment numbers are politically insupportable over the long haul. Student debt looms as a long term burden.
Not all of this is Obama’s fault, but its impact is on his watch. On the bright side, he can rightfully claim universal health to be his major achievement of the past four years, but that is not universally acclaimed and remains in some peril.
Romney made it clear that if he becomes President, he has pledged himself to repeal it and leave it to each state to create it’s own system as Massachusetts did.