10.21.2010

September-October: Presidential debates


Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard M. Nixon meet in a series of four debates, the first to be televised. An estimated 60 to 70 million people watch -- a third of the entire U.S. population. Another 15 million listen on radio. Policy differences aside, Kennedy appears youthful and vigorous, especially in the first debate, while Nixon (who had recently been hospitalized for two weeks for a staph infection) seems pale and drawn. (It's been said that most people who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon won, while TV viewers tended to side with Kennedy; I've included links to both.)


* Monday, September 26: Held in Chicago, it dealt primarily with domestic issues.
-- TV telecast: @
-- Radio broadcast: @
-- Transcript: @
-- "The Great Debate" from Museum of Broadcast Communications: @
-- New York Times article (September 27): @
-- Los Angeles Times pages: @
-- Remembrances from key figures: @

* Friday, October 7: The second debate, held in Washington, went straight to questions on any subject, with no opening statements by either candidate. Among the topics: meeting the Communist challenge, and the state of the United States' economy.
-- Transcript: @
-- Video: @
-- Audio: @
-- Observations from Eleanor Roosevelt: @

* Thursday, October 13: The candidates were in different cities for their third debate: Kennedy in New York and Nixon in Los Angeles. Much of the debate focuses on what the U.S. would do should the Asian islands of Quemoy and Matsu be attacked by China.
-- Transcript: @
-- Video: @
-- Audio: @
-- More about Quemoy and Matsu: @ and @ and @


* Friday, October 21: The fourth and final debate, from New York. It centers on foreign policy. America's stature and image in the world bring the best exchange:

Nixon: America gained by continuing the dignity, the decency that has characterized us and it's that that keeps the prestige of America up -- not running down America the way Senator Kennedy has been running her down.
Moderator: Comment, Senator Kennedy?
Kennedy: I really don't need Mr. Nixon to tell me about what my responsibilities are as a citizen.

-- Transcript: @
-- Video: @
-- Audio: @

Other resources:
* Highlights of the debates (from CNN.com): @ 
* From Archive of American Television: @
* From the book "Television and Politics" (Kurt Lang, Gladys Engel Lang, 2002): @
* Article from Smithsonian magazine: @
* Nixon writes about the debates (from the book "Six Crises"): @
* Highest-rated TV debates, 1960 to 2008: @

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