by DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette — While both major party supporters keep chirping over who won the first presidential debate Wednesday night, it is abundantly clear that countless viewers agreed on the one real loser — moderator Jim Lehrer.
It would be easy to blame the Commission on Presidential Debates for talking Lehrer out of his self-imposed retirement from such high-profile assignments. Some observers think the much-anticipated 90-minute session would have been better served by a panel.
In fairness, Lehrer, a skilled broadcast journalist with numerous awards for his work, was moderating for the 12th time. As you might expect, the holier-than-thou conservatives contended that any critics of Lehrer were simply conjuring up excuses for the president's inferior performance.
The reaction ran the gamut of emotions:
• Rachel Maddow on MSNBC: "I personally don't know who won this debate. I do believe that we saw this debate format die a very painful death on camera."
• Chris Wallace of Fox News: "Lehrer seemed to lose control of the proceedings."
• John Podhoretz, a Conservative columnist: "Lehrer's the worst moderator in the history of moderation."
• Al Roker: "I hope Jim Lehrer gets the license plate of the truck that drove over him in this debate."
• Stephanie Cutter, President Obama's deputy campaign manager: "I sometimes wondered if we even needed a moderator because we had Mitt Romney. We should rethink that for the next debate."
As for Lehrer's response quoted in The Huntington Post: "I'm not going to say I've done a poor job."
Romney backers, however, shouldn't get carried away. They need to be mindful that four of the last five presidents were judged to have lost their first debate. Stay tuned.
MONEY TALK: For a number of reasons, the Seneca Niagara Casino is reluctant to release information about big winners. The word on the street, from people familiar with the jubilant moment, is that a Rochester area woman recently won upwards of $450,000 playing a progressive Wheel of Fortune game.
For the record, the Seneca Nation and its gaming corporation have invested more than $1 billion to develop the three casino properties (Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo) since 2002. At present it operates 6,500 slot machines, 140 table games, 800 hotel rooms, and the Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course in Lewiston.
SHADES OF FALL: If you enjoy authentic Bavarian food and good German beer, check out special events for the next two weekends.
• The third annual Old Falls Street Oktoberfest is set Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. in downtown Niagara Falls.The free German-themed outing will be held rain or shine with live music by the German American Musicians and the Bergholz German Band. Also featured are free children's activities, noon to 5 p.m., including a petting zoo, bounce house, arts and crafts, and games. It's coordinated by the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association.
• The second annual Oktoberfest, a fundraiser for the Niagara County History Center, is scheduled Oct. 20, from 6 to 10 p.m., at the Olcott Fire Hall, 1619 Lockport-Olcott Road. The menu will include sauerbraten, bratwurst, roast pork, sauerkraut, sweet and sour cabbage, German potato salad, chef salad, rolls, coffee and dessert. "The Frankfurters," an award-winning German band will provide the entertainment. Additional information available by calling the History Center at 434-7433.
MARK THE CALENDAR: The Community Missions of the Niagara Frontier is sponsoring the "Antique & Fine Arts Auction" Nov. 11 at the First Presbyterian Church, Youngstown. Viewing will begin at 12:15 p.m. with the auction under way at 1 p.m. The proceeds will benefit the Missions and its vital community service programs.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Overheard in McDonald's at the City Market: "You know, it seems that more and more of our imports are coming from overseas" — a self-acclaimed political expert who keeps confusing Obama with Osama.