The left-wing TV talking heads were in full meltdown last night. A sample:

I have to say MSNBC was must-see TV last night for many conservatives.

The liberal media, and MSNBC specifically, have no one to blame but themselves, however. They have never given President Obama the sort of scrutiny he got last night. They have mouthed the president’s false talking points (“a $5 trillion tax cut for the rich”), egging the president on. When Mitt Romney debunked these easily, Obama had nowhere to go. He looked lost without the protective blanket of compliant media and over-eager left-wing bloggers.

Jim Lehrer was, comically, the target for many on the left. The complaint was that he didn’t “control” the debate. In fact, what irked them was that he didn’t control Romney. Did he not know his role as media combatant for the president? Ironically, Newt Gingrich was dead right in suggesting un-refereed debates: The president without a structure and without a moderator to help him defend against an opponent is out of his depth.

It was no doubt a bitter blow to see the president stripped of his mythic reputation. The more “likable” candidate couldn’t seem to make eye contact and was obviously put out having to endure this. The more “eloquent” candidate seemed not to have prepared a closing argument. He sounded weirdly defensive, skipping from thought to thought and pleading to give him another shot. (“You know, four years ago, I said that I’m not a perfect man and I wouldn’t be a perfect president. And that’s probably a promise that Governor Romney thinks I’ve kept. But I also promised that I’d fight every single day on behalf of the American people, the middle class, and all those who were striving to get into the middle class. I’ve kept that promise and if you’ll vote for me, then I promise I’ll fight just as hard in a second term.”)

But the media, who too often view themselves as on the president’s team, should share in the blame. They built him up. They parroted his excuses and four-Pinocchio attacks. But they couldn’t save him when it mattered most. They made the campaign about gaffes and polls, which are of no use in a debate. They lambasted Romney, man of the 59-point job plan, for lack of detail without ever urging the president to come up with any substantive policy commensurate with the challenges we face. They might want to rethink their approach to presidential boosterism.

On the right, there is no hesi­ta­tion in letting candidates and officials know when they are messing up. To the contrary, the Romney team has been overwhelmed with advice and criticism of late. And you know what? The team took it to heart, improved and did not engage in self-delusion. In the end, that did Romney a world of good.