Are Tim Russert and Brian Williams the Worst Debate Moderators Ever?

The candidates keep getting better in these debates. The moderators keep getting worse.
While political observers are understandably divided about who "won" last night's Democratic debate in Las Vegas, it seems everyone who watched can come together in agreement on one underlying point: the moderators were truly awful.

About a half-hour into the debate, an angry man started shouting, interrupting the event while security personnel intervened. Usually, these protestors are easy to dismiss as random nuts, but in this case, the heckler had a legitimate beef.
About 22 minutes into the Nevada Democratic debate, a heckler in the audience interrupted the proceedings, saying "these are f**cking race-based questions coming from you two, these are race-based questions..."
There was silence from the candidates and the moderators for about eight seconds with no mention of the heckler. Tim Russert, continued with his question for Sen. Hillary Clinton which focused on her characterization that Sen. Obama "is raising false hopes."
I've seen debates in which hecklers jeer candidates, and I've seen debates in which hecklers take a stand for one issue or another, but this was the first debate I've seen in which a heckler went after a moderator. Worse, I think the guy was probably right.

Within a few minutes of the interruption, Ezra said, "It's almost impossible for me to convey the damage Tim Russert and Brian Williams are doing to the republic this evening.... It's literally the worst moderation I've yet seen. It's not moderation. It's trivialization. 28 minutes in, there's not been a question about any issue, any cause, any problem."
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.
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