Everything Jim Lehrer said at the debate

Moderator Jim Lehrer looks over his notes before the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)


Everything Jim Lehrer said at the debate

Many viewers of the first presidential debate Wednesday night in Denver thought moderator Jim Lehrer, formerly of "PBS NewsHour," did not have control of the debate. Decide for yourself. Here is everything he said at the debate, including moments in which he was interrupted by the candidates.

Storified by Digital First Media · Wed, Oct 03 2012 21:55:56

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JIM LEHRER: Good evening from the Magness Arena at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado. I’m Jim Lehrer of the “PBS NewsHour,” and I welcome you to the first of the 2012 presidential debates between President Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee.

This debate and the next three — two presidential, one vice presidential — are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Tonight’s 90 minutes will be about domestic issues and will follow a format designed by the commission. There will be six roughly 15-minute segments with two-minute answers for the first question, then open discussion for the remainder of each segment.

Thousands of people offered suggestions on segment subjects or questions via the Internet and other means, but I made the final selections. And for the record, they were not submitted for approval to the commission or the candidates.

The segments as I announced in advance will be three on the economy and one each on health care, the role of government and governing, with an emphasis throughout on differences, specifics and choices. Both candidates will also have two-minute closing statements.

The audience here in the hall has promised to remain silent — no cheers, applause, boos, hisses, among other noisy distracting things, so we may all concentrate on what the candidates have to say. There is a noise exception right now, though, as we welcome President Obama and Governor Romney. Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Let’s start the economy, segment one, and let’s begin with jobs. What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about creating new jobs?

You have two minutes. Each of you have two minutes to start.

A coin toss has determined, Mr. President, you go first.

Lehrer Getting Steamrolled By Romneypoliticsbuzz

LEHRER: Governor Romney, two minutes.

LEHRER: Mr. President, please respond directly to what the governor just said about trickle-down — his trickle-down approach, as he said yours is.

LEHRER: Both of you have spoken about a lot of different things, and we’re going to try to get through them in as specific a way as we possibly can.

But, first, Governor Romney, do you have a question that you’d like to ask the president directly about something he just said?

LEHRER: Mr. President?

LEHRER: All right.

LEHRER: All right. What is the difference? Let’s just stay on taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Just — let’s just stay on taxes for (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: What is the difference …

ROMNEY: Well, but — but virtually — virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.

LEHRER: All right.

LEHRER: That’s where we started. Yeah.

Do you challenge what the governor just said about his own plan?

LEHRER: All right.

ROMNEY: Jim, let me just come back on that — on that point, which is these …

LEHRER: Just for the — just for record …

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: … the small businesses we’re talking about …

LEHRER: Excuse me. Excuse me. Just so everybody understands, we’re way over our first 15 minutes.

ROMNEY:It’s fun, isn’t it?

LEHRER: It’s OK, it’s great. No problem. Well, you all don’t have — you don’t have a problem, I don’t have a problem, because we’re still on the economy. We’re going to come back to taxes. I want move on to the deficit and a lot of other things, too.

OK, but go ahead, sir.

ROMNEY: Jim, the president began this segment, so I think I get the last word.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Well, you’re going to get the first word in the next segment.

LEHRER: All right. Let’s talk — we’re still on the economy. This is, theoretically now, a second segment still on the economy, and specifically on what to do about the federal deficit, the federal debt.

And the question, you each have two minutes on this, and Governor Romney, you — you go first because the president went first on segment one. And the question is this, what are the differences between the two of you as to how you would go about tackling the deficit problem in this country?

LEHRER: Mr. President, two minutes.

LEHRER: Mr. President, I’m sorry.

OBAMA: And — and that is not a right strategy for us to move forward.

LEHRER: Way over the two minutes.

OBAMA: Sorry.

LEHRER: Governor, what about Simpson-Bowles? Do you support Simpson-Bowles?

ROMNEY: Simpson-Bowles, the president should have grabbed that.

LEHRER: No, I mean, do you support Simpson-Bowles?

LEHRER: (inaudible) answer the taxes thing for a moment.

ROMNEY: OK.

LEHRER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, we’ve had this discussion before.

LEHRER: About the idea that in order to reduce the deficit, there has to be revenue in addition to cuts.

LEHRER: But — but Mr. President, you’re saying in order to — to get the job done, it’s got to be balanced. You’ve got to have …

LEHRER: Come back to …

LEHRER: Let’s…

LEHRER: Let’s go.

ROMNEY: But — but the right — the right approach is one which relies on the brilliance of our people and states, not the federal government.

LEHRER: (inaudible) and we’re going on — still on the economy, on another — but another part of it …

OBAMA: OK.

LEHRER: All right? All right. This is segment three, the economy. Entitlements. First — first answer goes to you, two minutes, Mr. President. Do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?

LEHRER: Mr. President?

LEHRER: And you don’t support that?

LEHRER: We’ll talk about — specifically about health care in a moment. But what — do you support the voucher system, Governor?

LEHRER: And what about the vouchers?

LEHRER: Talk about that in a minute.

OBAMA: … but — but — but overall.

LEHRER: OK.

OBAMA: And so…

ROMNEY: That’s — that’s a big topic. Can we — can we stay on Medicare?

OBAMA: Is that a — is that a separate topic?

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Yeah, we’re going to — yeah, I want to get to it.

OBAMA: I’m sorry.

LEHRER: But all I want to do is go very quickly …

ROMNEY: Let’s get back to Medicare.

LEHRER: … before we leave the economy …

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LEHRER: All right.

ROMNEY: If that’s the case, then it will always be the best product that people can purchase.

LEHRER: Wait a minute, Governor.

ROMNEY: But my experience — my experience the private sector typically is able to provide a better product at a lower cost.

LEHRER: All right. Can we — can the two of you agree that the voters have a choice — a clear choice between the two…

ROMNEY: Absolutely.

LEHRER: … of you on Medicare?

ROMNEY: Absolutely.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

LEHRER: All right. So to finish quickly, briefly, on the economy, what is your view about the level of federal regulation of the economy right now? Is there too much? And in your case, Mr. President, is there — should there be more?

Beginning with you. This is not a new two-minute segment to start. And we’ll go for a few minutes, and then we’re going to go to health care, OK?

LEHRER: Is it excessive now, do you think?

ROMNEY: In some places, yes. Other places, no.

LEHRER: Like where?

LEHRER: Do you want to repeal Dodd-Frank?

ROMNEY: Well, I would repeal and replace it. We’re not going to get rid of all regulation. You have to have regulation. And there are some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world. You need transparency, you need to have leverage limits for …

LEHRER: Well, here’s a specific …

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: But let’s — let’s mention — let me mention the other one. Let’s talk…

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: No, let’s not. Let’s let him respond — let’s let him respond to this specific on Dodd-Frank and what the governor just said.

LEHRER: All right. I think we have another clear difference between the two of you. Now, let’s move to health care where I know there is a clear difference, and that has to do with the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. And it’s a two-minute new — new segment, and that means two minutes each. And you go first, Governor Romney. You want it repealed. You want the Affordable Care Act repealed. Why?

LEHRER: Mr. President, the argument against repeal?

LEHRER: Two minutes — two minutes is up, sir.

OBAMA: No, I think — I had five seconds before you interrupted me, was …

LEHRER: Your five seconds went away a long time ago.

All right, Governor. Governor, tell — tell the president directly why you think what he just said is wrong about Obamacare?

LEHRER: Let’s…

OBAMA: … at a time when it’s vitally important.

LEHRER: Let’s let the governor explain what you would do …

ROMNEY: Well…

LEHRER: … if Obamacare is repealed. How would you replace it?

LEHRER: We’re going to move to …

ROMNEY: No. I — I have to respond to that.

LEHRER: No, but …

LEHRER: That is a terrific segue to our next segment, and is the role of government. And — and let’s see. Role of government. And it is — you are first on this, Mr. President. And the question is this. Do you believe, both of you — but you had the first two minutes on this, Mr. President — do you believe there’s a fundamental difference between the two of you as to how you view the mission of the federal government?

OBAMA: Well, I definitely think there are differences.

LEHRER: And do you — yeah.

LEHRER: Two minutes, Governor, on the role of government. Your view?

LEHRER: All right.

LEHRER: All right. Let’s go through some specifics in terms of what — how each of you views the role of government. How do — education. Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve the quality of public education in America?

LEHRER: How do you see the federal government’s responsibility to, as I say, to improve the quality of public education in this country?

LEHRER: Do you think you have a difference with your views and — and those of Governor Romney on — about education and the federal government?

LEHRER: Do you — do you agree, Governor?

LEHRER: We’re running out of time, gentlemen.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Governor?

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LEHRER: All right, gentlemen…

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Excuse me (inaudible). Excuse me, sir. We’ve got — we’ve got — barely have three minutes left. I’m not going to grade the two of you and say your answers have been too long or I’ve done a poor job.

OBAMA: You’ve done a great job.

LEHRER: Oh, well, no. But the fact is government — the role of government and governing, we’ve lost a pod in other words. So we only have three — three minutes left in the — in the debate before we go to your closing statements. And so I want to ask finally here, and remember, we’ve got three minutes total time here — and the question is this. Many of the legislative functions of the federal government right now are in a state of paralysis as a result of partisan gridlock. If elected, in your case, if re-elected, in your case, what would you do about that?

LEHRER: But what would you do as president?

LEHRER: All right.

LEHRER: Mr. President?

LEHRER: All right.

LEHRER: That brings us to closing statements. It was a coin toss. Governor Romney, you won the toss and you elected to go last, so you have a closing two minutes, Mr. President.

LEHRER: Governor Romney, your two-minute closing.

LEHRER: Thank you, Governor.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The next debate will be the vice presidential event on Thursday, October 11th at Centre College in Danville, Ky. For now, from the University of Denver, I’m Jim Lehrer. Thank you, and good night.

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