Sunday, September 26, 2010

TDIH: Kennedy/Nixon Debates

On this day fifty years ago, then-candidate John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon participated in the first of four televised presidential debates. It was the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential debate was televised and 70 million viewers tuned in to watch. On this, the fiftieth anniversary, I offer the following links:
  • In the September issue of Smithsonian magazine, Alison McLean summed up the influence of the debates nicely:
"Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon face off in the first televised presidential debate September 26, 1960. As a tanned, fit-looking Kennedy debates a thin, wan Nixon (recovering from the flu and recent knee surgery) in need of a shave, the subject is policy, but the take-home message is that on TV, appearances matter. Exactly how much the event affects Kennedy's fall victory is itself a matter of debate, but more than half of voters report the contest influenced their opinion. Nixon declines to debate in 1968 and, as president, in 1972."
  • An excerpt on the New Nixon Blog (a feature of the Nixon Foundation website), "Fifty Years After: 1960's Kennedy-Nixon Debates," by David Pietrusza.
  • The Huffington Post secured a superb article by Northeastern professor Alan Schroeder that is worthy of the few moments it takes to read. We often do think only of the cosmetics of the debates, but we really should remember the historical significance of the debates.
It's unfortunate in this day and age, with the media outlets we have, that some in politics (Idaho and otherwise) do not truly appreciate the opportunity to debate. We now have the ability to disseminate debates all across this country, even to the most rural parts, and instead of taking that opportunity to allow for the education of every last voter, politicians hide from that face-time in a pathetic, cowardly way. Fifty years ago, the way we educate the voting public changed; if only fifty years later we could appreciate that advancement in democracy for what it is.

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