Jim Lehrer reflects on presidential debates in history

In a Monday interview with CBSNews.com's Hotsheet LIVE, Jim Lehrer, the executive editor and former anchor of PBS' NewsHour, reflected on the role of the presidential debate in history - and recalled some of his most memorable experiences as an eleven-time debate moderator.

Lehrer, who is promoting his new book "Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain," told CBS News' Bob Schieffer debates make a "huge" difference in presidential races.

"People are thinking, can I imagine this person sitting in the oval office making decisions about sending Americans into harm's way?" Lehrer said.

The first-ever televised presidential debate took place on Sept. 16, 1960, when millions of U.S. viewers tuned in to watch then-Vice President Richard Nixon face off with then-Senator John F. Kennedy face off. Since then, there have been 35 presidential debates.

"[Viewers] want to rate the measure of the person. And here they are standing on the same stage, at the same time, talking, and that's the only time it happens," Lehrer said.

Watch the full discussion above.


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