The 2008 debates were “hideously bungled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a wholly owned subsidiary of the successful campaigns,” writes Cynthia Stead, a Massachusetts State Republican Committeewoman, in a Cape Cod Times column arguing that the League of Women Voters should once again take charge of presidential and VP debates (h/t Eric Boehlert).

And this year’s debate moderators? Per Stead:

Jim Lehrer did a respectable job of herding cats in the first debate, almost getting the candidates to answer the questions actually asked instead of ones they wanted to answer. The vice presidential debate was a ratings star, but Gwen Ifill did a terrible job as moderator, unable to get questions answered. Even the ones she chose to ask, like, ‘What is your greatest weakness’ reeked of Entertainment Tonight.

The biggest disappointment was a crusty Tom Brokaw, who spent as much time reminding the candidates that they were breaking their own format rules as the two spent answering. Bob Schieffer made a credible finish…

Stead raises the obvious: “But why were the candidates able to dictate [the debates’] format in the first place?”


Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.