An Open Letter to Jim Lehrer About the First Presidential Debate

10/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dear Jim Lehrer,

I know you're probably all on pins and needles right about know, as Barack Obama and John McCain make their way to Mississippi for the first presidential debate. I know there were hours where you probably thought you'd either get to spend a night on the town in University, Mississippi or that it would turn out to be a one-on-one with Obama.

Notwithstanding McCain's protestations that he would not, absolutely not, really not, attend the debate if an economic bail-out/recovery package had been not passed, now it turns out he'll be there! I guess since he got his photo-op with Bush and all the presidential advisers, that's all he really wanted. Never mind about what's going to happen to all us poor little voters who aren't multi-gazillionaires like the McCains.

Tonight's topic is supposed to be foreign affairs. But if you're the kind of journalist you've always been, I know we can count on you to make sure questions about the current financial meltdown get asked. But could you please do us a favor?

Make sure John McCain actually answers those questions.

I'm not worried about Obama. I know he will. But if my gut is right about McCain (and it usually is), he will do his best to insist that it's totally unfair to answer queries on a topic not pre-approved for tonight's event and that it would shock the collective conscience to be so unfair!

I can hear it now: "It's important to stick to the rules, my friends." "Jim, I'm not prepared to answer questions about a deal that isn't final yet." "I'll be happy to answer those questions at one of the upcoming debates. I'm sure the audience here was counting on hearing about foreign policy."

Please don't let him do it.

I know you can't make words come out of his mouth, but you can make sure that your questions show him to be the kind of politician who uses crises as political opportunities, but then refuses to step up with anything more than prepared soundbites and reliance on a plan that is now part of last week's news cycle.

Sincerely yours,

Joanne Bamberger is a writer and political commentator sometimes better known around the blogosphere as PunditMom. She is also a Contributing Editor for Politics & News at BlogHer.