After the first presidential debate in Denver, things got really bizarre or fascinating: suddenly a boisterous, um, debate began online, on television, and over watercoolers across the country not just about the candidates’ performances but the man tasked with refereeing the candidates, lifelong journalist and longtime PBS broadcaster, a man moderating his twelfth Presidential debate, Jim Lehrer. We wanted to know what it felt like to draw the ire of the left, so long his fans, who felt that Romney ran roughshod over him. And we wanted to know how it felt to have the praise of Sean Hannity and others at the other end of the political spectrum. We wanted to know what would he do differently. And what advice he has for Candy Crowley and Bob Schieffer, who’ll be officiating the last two debates. So we called him at his home in Washington DC to find out:
GQ: Will you watch the next debates?
Jim Lehrer: Oh sure, absolutely I’m going to watch all the debates.
GQ: What’s your advice for the moderator of the other debates?
Jim Lehrer: Oh, it’s always the same for everybody: just remember that it isn’t about you. If you can do that, you’re 99 percent there. Moderators should stand up in front of a mirror and say “It’s not about me; it’s not about me; it’s not about me; it’s not about me” so you don’t—because what’s so easy, particularly in a single-moderator format—it’s like holding dynamite in your hands. You have a lot of power.
GQ: I wonder if you feel that they’re not being asked enough questions in general.
Jim Lehrer: Well, probably. Probably so. I’ll tell you: my frustration, to be specific, on Wednesday night and speaking of questions, was because things did run over, there were a lot of questions that I was going to ask that I didn’t get to. Not questions so much as subjects I was going to get to, and I was not able to do that.
Read the Full GQ&A with Jim Lehrer Here