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Bob Schieffer happy to stay out of debate spotlight

Tuesday - 10/23/2012, 2:15pm  ET

Moderator Bob Schieffer, center, watches as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands before the start of the last debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Bob Schieffer's thoughts on moderating the final presidential debate

The CBS News chief Washington correspondent tells WTOP he walked away from the debate "feeling pretty good about it."


WASHINGTON - One day after Bob Schieffer moderated the third presidential debate, the CBS News chief Washington correspondent tells WTOP he feels satisfied with how it went, but would like to see a debate about America's education system.

"I would love to have an hour and a half debate on what we can do to get the schools in this country to where they ought to be," he says.

The debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., Monday night focused on foreign policy issues and topics surrounding Libya, Syria, Iran and Israel. While previous moderators - former PBS anchor Jim Lehrer and CNN's Candy Crowley - drew a lot of attention for their performances, Schieffer mostly stayed out of the spotlight.

"He dutifully guided the conversation from question to question. His follow-up questions did not seem to draw any notable criticism or praise," The Huffington Post writes.

Schieffer tells WTOP that he wanted the debate to be about the candidates.

"There's been so much attention focused on the moderators I was just determined this was going to be their debate," he says.

Schieffer's most notable line came after cutting off Romney, who got off-topic on education.

"I think we all love teachers," Schieffer said, prompting a laugh from the audience.

Schieffer says his sister is a retired school teacher, and he was glad to see "bipartisan agreement" on his comment.

"I asked them last night what they consider one of the main threats to our national security," he adds. "One of the main threats, I think, is the state of our school system we don't want to risk losing through ignorance what we have won through blood, sweat and tears down through the years. I don't think there's anybody in America who could say they're totally proud of our school systems today."

Even though the debate was supposed to focus on foreign policy, Schieffer tells WTOP it was "pretty clear" the candidates think the election is about the economy.

"They still think it's about the economy because whenever they had the chance, and especially Gov. Romney, he tried to steer the questions toward economic issues," he says.

Schieffer, 75, moderated the third presidential debates between Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 and between former President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.

Throughout his more than 30 years with CBS, he has covered the White House, Pentagon, State Department and Capitol Hill. He also hosts the Sunday news program "Face The Nation."

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WTOP's Stephanie Steinberg contributed to this report.Follow WTOP on Twitter.

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