• With: Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Ellen Ratner, Richard Grenell

    PINKERTON: The next one, we're going to have Teleprompters.

    MILLER: You know, get off the teleprompter thing because if you really covered him, he really is quite fine off the cuff. He just doesn't get the hard questions.

    SCOTT: He had four minutes more speaking time during those 90 minutes than Mitt Romney did, and he made far fewer points or punches.

    RATTNER: You're asking this part of the press to comment? I mean, I got to tell you, it was not the best. And -- but I also have to say that part of it, I think, was that he didn't -- you know, we always say you invite -- invite the person in your living room for the next four years. That's who you're going to vote for president.

    And The Baltimore Sun also said that Mitt Romney won the debate because he talked a little bit about his personal journey. The president didn't talk about that at all.

    SCOTT: OK. Next on "News Watch," was the president's poor showing the fault of the debate's moderator?

    MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS. PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They're -- they're just being crushed!


    ANNOUNCER: The media gave Mitt Romney high marks for his debate performance. How will his success affect his coverage now? And how did the media rate the job of the moderator? That's next on "News Watch."


    SCOTT: PBS "News Hour" host Jim Lehrer moderated the great debate this week, but his performance didn't win him many accolades. Some of the critiques -- Robert Bianco from USA Today -- "Apparently, Jim Lehrer thinks the best moderator is no moderator at all." Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post -- "Whether letting go of the leash was a calculated, intelligent choice on his part or simply the only option for a man walking two recalcitrant cats, he definitely let go of the leash."

    "I thought the moderate did not moderate." That from MSNBC's Chris Matthews. And Howard Fineman from the Huffington Post -- "Jim Lehrer was practically useless as the moderator."

    Lehrer responded, "I thought the format accomplished its purpose, which was to facilitate direct, extended exchanges between the candidates about issues of substance. Part of my moderator mission was to stay out the way of the flow, and I had no problems with doing so."

    So let's find out what our panelists think. Rick, what about the job that he did?

    GRENNELL: Well, let's summarize. The media is upset that they weren't part of the story and that the candidates got to talk. I think it's brilliant. This is exactly what a moderator is supposed to do. You're supposed to let the candidates talk. This is not about the media.

    And shame on the media, who jump in there and say, you didn't become part of the story and you didn't wrestle with the politicians. You are not a part of the story. It's about their ideas. So let them talk. I loved it. I thought it was (INAUDIBLE)

    SCOTT: Ellen -- Ellen, you're an unabashed Barack Obama supporter. Would he have done a better job if Lehrer had done a better job or...

    RATTNER: No, I don't think...

    SCOTT: ... a different job?

    RATTNER: I think the two of them are unrelated. But I do think that Michael Calderon (ph) from Huffington Post had an interesting point, which is that Lehrer did not go to what is now new media. He didn't take any crowd-sourcing questions. He didn't go and ask people what he ought to ask. He just decided it by himself. That's not how things are done anymore.

    SCOTT: It was mostly the liberal media that trashed Lehrer's performance afterward, and it was the conservatives who were afraid ahead of time that he was going to be somehow unfair.

    MILLER: Right. Well, Stephen Colbert called Jim Lehrer the most boring man on evening news, and I think that that was certainly something of what we saw. But you know, I have to agree with Rick and with Ellen. I think that he understood that the two men wanted to engage, and he stepped out of the way. And that was a good thing.

    PINKERTON: The Lincoln-Douglas debates were between Lincoln and Douglas. There was no moderator between them. (INAUDIBLE) went on for three hours (INAUDIBLE) everybody agrees that -- everybody likes to say that would be a better model. Let's have the two debates. Well, actually, they tried that this time. They just debated. Obama got his head handed to him. And now the media are blaming Lehrer.

    Look, Packado (ph) wrote last week that the media are part of the team. (INAUDIBLE) Romney's playing against the Democratic team and the media team and they're both trying to tackle him on the field. And the fact that Lehrer wasn't a tackler -- he's now getting beat up for it.

    SCOTT: Well, and the ratings were huge for this thing, 67 million people. And they -- you know, they have a way of measuring how people stay with the program, and they stayed with it. I mean, Lehrer must have been doing something right.

    GRENNELL: Well, I think the people loved it because, again, the media was removed from the equation and we got to see the candidates talking. I'm a big Twitterer, and it was very exciting to be on Twitter during this debate and watch as people commentated. And the public actually has a role now.

    MILLER: Ten million tweets. That's a lot of tweets.

    SCOTT: One of tweets that was trending on social media was the phrase "Poor Jim," which goes back to, you know, Jim Lehrer and the work he was trying to do, herding these cats. But seemed to do a fair job.

    GRENNELL: Again, I think the summary is, is when you remove the media and the politicians get to talk to the people, it's always a good thing.

    PINKERTON: But the media don't like it.

    MILLER: No, the media don't like it.

    SCOTT: So what would be, you know, the -- if the roles of the two candidates were reversed and President Obama had come way out in front on this thing, what would be the media be saying?

    PINKERTON: There'd be stone silence about Lehrer, other than he was simply a wise man, period.


    MILLER: I mean, can you imagine if Romney had spent the entire time looking down at his notes or sneering at his opponent, how the media would have reacted?

    RATTNER: But the media reacted very -- I mean, there were very few people that thought Obama made even a passing C.

    GRENNELL: But it wasn't a pro-Romney. It wasn't that Romney did well, it was Obama wasn't there.

    PINKERTON: And look, there's going to be no shortage of reporters saying, What about Big Bird? We got to defend Big Bird? They're going to rally. They're -- they're -- they're on their backs now, the wind knocked out of them, but they're going to get up and charge ahead. And they'll be slugging around (INAUDIBLE) every last fact-check (INAUDIBLE)

    SCOTT: You know, Romney -- Romney didn't seem to make any huge gaffes, and so Big Bird has become the best that some of these media commentators can come up as an attack line.

    GRENNELL: Well, if you actually watched Carol Costello's show on CNN, you thought the entire debate was about Big Bird.