Born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1934, Jim Lehrer attended Victoria College. In 1956, he received a Bachelor's journalism degree from the University of Missouri before joining the Marine Corps, where he served three years as an infantry officer. For the following decade, Lehrer worked as a reporter in Dallas, before moving on to a local experimental news program on public television.
He came to Washington with PBS in 1972 and teamed up with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to cover the Senate Watergate hearings. In 1975, they started what became "The MacNeil/Lehrer Report" and then the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" in 1983, the first 60-minute evening news program on television.
The program became The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in 1995 when MacNeil retired. Lehrer has received numerous awards for his work, including a presidential National Humanities Medal in 1999. He also has moderated ten of the nationally televised candidate debates in the last five presidential elections.
Lehrer is the author of 17 novels, including Eureka (2007), The Phony Marine (2006), The Franklin Affair (2005), and Flying Crows (2004). He has also written two memoirs and three plays. Lehrer and his wife, Kate, have been married since 1960. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.
What should be the big issues of the 2008 US presidential election?
Jim Lehrer: Well one thing I do know, that the 2008 presidential election is going to be, in my opinion, one of the most important elections we’ve had in this country in a long, long time.
We have no Vice President who’s automatically the nominee. We have no frontrunner, surefire nominee at this point. Everything is on the table.
I think we have a wide variety of candidates on both parties, plus the possibility of an Independent candidacy or two. We have an opportunity, and we have time. This campaign, people are complaining about how long the campaign is. I think that’s terrific. Everybody gets tested. Everybody gets known so that it increases the chances of our not making a mistake if we go through this long, long involved process that some people find boring. I don’t find it boring at all! How in the world can it be boring for a campaign that’s going to lead in the election of the President of the United States?
But anyhow, I’m optimistic that something really good’s going to come out of this election. And it has less to do with individuals – whoever wins – but the process is going to force everyone involved in the process to talk about things that matter.
Recorded: July 4, 2007.