All eyes will be on President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Wednesday as they square off in the first presidential debate of election 2012, but equally as important as the two candidates will be the moderators of the presidential debates, and this year's selections are facing a high volume of criticism ahead of start of debate month.
The New York Times reports that Jim Lehrer, former anchor of "PBS NewsHour" and the host of the first presidential debate in Denver, is seething over the suggestion that he is a "safe" and uninspired choice to moderate the first debate. Many have questioned whether he should pass the torch (this marks his 12th presidential debate), a suggestion which reportedly offends him. According to Lehrer, “It’s a rough, rough world — I know that. And those of us who have decided to play in that world have to play by those rules. I’m susceptible to the same smears as anyone else.”
In the social media age in which millions take to Twitter to express their grievances, and those Tweets end up becoming stories in themselves, the moderators will come under extra scrutiny this year as they seek to find the right mix of hard and soft questions during each debate. After Lehrer was chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates, he was called too old and predictable on Twitter, even too white. Thanks to Twitter, Lehrer has been taking heat already on what he should or should not ask on Wednesday, something which never would have been the case during previous years of moderating.
On Tuesday, Stephen Colbert called Lehrer "the most boring man in news." (He also suggested that Mitt Romney "should just lash out randomly at Barack Obama, maybe physically get up in his face, get up in his grill."). Colbert made those comments on "Good Morning America," where he was filling in for Robin Roberts.
Keep in mind that in the Republican Primary debates, the moderators took heat even from the candidates themselves. Newt Gingrich drew applause when he blasted CNN's John King for a "trash" first question.
The moderators have a lot to prove and will undoubtedly face scrutiny, but with the internet as their audience, it will be no easy task. Here's the presidential debate schedule, including the moderators for the debates: Oct. 3, Jim Lehrer; Oct. 11 (VP debate), Martha Raddatz; Oct. 16, Candy Crowley; Oct. 22, Bob Schieffer.
PolicyMic will be live blogging each presidential debate. For live coverage, analysis, and updates, check back on Wednesday!