Moderators set for presidential, VP debates


Bob Schieffer, Tom Brokaw and Jim Lehrer were tapped Tuesday to moderate three planned debates in the fall between presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

The debates will be held in New York, Tennessee and Mississippi in September and October. PBS' Gwen Ifill will moderate the vice presidential debate, planned for Oct. 2 in St. Louis.

The Commission on Presidential Debates already said it wouldn't tap current network news anchors, leaving ABC's Charles Gibson, NBC's Brian Williams and CBS' Katie Couric out of the equation.

"This year, more than ever, these debates are going to be important," Schieffer said. "This campaign started on such a high plane and now we're down to the Britney Spears ads and stuff like that. I think it will be a good thing for the country to see these two men at the debates."

It will be Lehrer's 11th presidential debate, stretching to 1988. He said the 90-minute time goes by quickly.

"It is not a TV show. It's not running a segment for the 'NewsHour,' " Lehrer said. "It is a very important event, a major event for our country. I'm always aware of that. It's scorching. I'm trying to make sure that things are fair, but that's only part of it. It's also got to be perceived as fair. It's tough work, but it's exhilarating as well."

Lehrer will moderate the first debate, on domestic policy, on Sept. 26 at the University of Mississippi. Brokaw will moderate a town hall meeting-style debate Oct. 7 at Belmont University in Nashville. Schieffer will moderate the final debate, on foreign-affairs issues, on Oct. 15 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

There will be no podiums for the debates, with McCain and Obama instead sitting at a table with the moderator. Another major change is a loosening of the format: The moderator will introduce an issue in each of eight 10-minute segments, and instead of strict response times there will be discussions between the candidates.(partialdiff)