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"In his quiet but intense way, Jim Lehrer earns the trust of the major political players of our time," notes Barbara Walters. "He explains and exposes their hopes and dreams, their strengths and failures as they try to put their best foot forward."
From the man widely hailed as "the Dean of Moderators" comes a lively and revealing book that pulls back the curtain on more than 40 years of televised political debate in America. A veteran newsman who has presided over 11 presidential and vice-presidential debates, Jim Lehrer gives listeners a ringside seat for some of the epic political battles of our time, shedding light on all of the critical turning points and rhetorical faux pas that helped determine the outcome of America’s presidential elections—and with them the course of history. Drawing on his own experiences as "the man in the middle seat", in-depth interviews with the candidates and his fellow moderators, and transcripts of key exchanges, Lehrer isolates and illuminates what he calls the "major moments" and "killer questions" that defined the debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain.
Often times, these moments involve the candidates themselves and are seared into our collective political memory. Michael Dukakis stumbles badly over a question about the death penalty. Dan Quayle compares himself to John F. Kennedy once too often. Barack Obama and John McCain barely make eye contact over the course of a 90-minute discussion. At other times, the debate moderators themselves become part of the story—and Lehrer is there to give us a backstage look at the drama. Peter Jennings suggests surprising the candidates by suspending the carefully negotiated rules minutes before the 1988 presidential debate—to the consternation of his fellow panelists. Lehrer himself weathers a firestorm of criticism over his performance as moderator of the 2000 Bush-Gore debate. And then there are the excruciating moments when audio lines go dead and TelePrompTers stay dark just seconds before going on the air live in front of a worldwide television audience of millions.
Asked to sum up his experience as a participant in high-level televised debates, President George H. W. Bush memorably likened them to an evening in "tension city". In Jim Lehrer’s absorbing insider account, we find out that truer words were never spoken.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By carole on 05-28-12
Jim Leher is a jewel of a journalist.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
His story of presidential debates is fascinating.
What does Jim Lehrer bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
In his voice I experienced his humility, his willingness to pass credit on to family and friends, and his joy at doing the job.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Any additional comments?
I enjoyed experiencing the debates backstage and the anecdotes related to each.
By Randall on 03-05-12
Mildly entertaining series of war stories
Is there anything you would change about this book?
Maybe an introductory chapter which describes the overall history of debates as a vehicle to political decision making.
How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?
Perhaps make it a bit less Lehrer-Centric. The author focusses on his own first hand knowledge of the debates he has been involved in, which includes most of the biggies over the last thirty years or so. The book would perhaps be a better read if it had a broader scope of discussion.
Did Jim Lehrer do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?
Yes--good birds eye view of high-powered politicians.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
Perhaps. It would depend on who writes the script, and stuff like that.
Any additional comments?
I like the Lehrer News Hour; I liked a Lehrer novel about bus drivers; however this book was kind of a dud to me.