ME: Is there any place for writing, “Billy Bob said it rained Thursday. The weather bureau said it didn’t. I was out that day and I say it didn’t.”

LEHRER: I would never do that. That’s not my function to do that.

ME: Is it a newspaper’s function?

LEHRER: Look, I’m just telling you what I do, ok? I’m an expert on the NewsHour and it isn’t how I practice journalism. I am not involved in the story. I serve only as a reporter or someone asking questions. I am not the story.

Back to Lehrer’s words this week (to the Sun):

It isn’t about pressing the candidates. It’s to make it possible for the people who are running for president to exchange their ideas rather than to bounce off mine.

Hey, I complained about all the “Russert-based questions” in a 2007 primary debate moderated by Tim Russert. I hear Lehrer’s it’s not about me point.

And yet Lehrer’s vision of A Presidential Debate (“the people who are running for president exchange their ideas”) sounds like an event at which a moderator would be superfluous, and one that therefore works well only if “exchange their ideas” is really, in earnest, what “the people who are running for president” aim to do at the debate. Is it?

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.