Let’s hear it for Jim, Martha, Candy and Bob for moderating this campaign season’s presidential and vice-presidential debates. Some moderators got higher marks than others (and some got flat-out criticism) but I can tell you this: it isn’t just an honor to moderate a debate at that level, and a professional achievement, it is a huge responsibility and a jumbo-sized stress cocktail!
Moderators have to know and research the issues almost as well as the candidates themselves, they have to listen like crazy during the exchanges, and then they have to decide how to react to something that comes up — all while 60 million people are watching on television. Being at the helm of a high-profile encounter can be the most draining on-the-job experience a journalist can have. What you’re seeing on TV is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is going on in the moderator’s head.
I know, nobody forced any of the moderators to accept the assignment (although Jim Lehrer has publicly said he feels a sense of duty to moderate, if asked,) but I think all of this year’s national moderators deserve the public’s thanks for their role in giving voters a sense of who the candidates are and what kind of leaders they would make. Bravo.