John F. Kennedy
The fourth and final Nixon-Kennedy debate. Most pundits scored this debate a draw. Although the debates are famous, I do wonder if they exerted much impact on the election outcome. They certainly were more dignified and issue oriented than our wretched presidential debates this year. Of course that would have changed if the colorful, to say the least, private life of John Kennedy had been front and center. However, it was a different world back then. Many reporters knew that Kennedy was a womanizer. However, this was at a time when the personal sins of most politicians were not revealed by the press. Whether this was a good or bad thing I will leave to another post. But, our world is so different now, that such reportorial discretion is almost unimaginable, at least if the politician has an R after his name. Even with Democrats, with the internet and blogs, such news would have a hard time being kept under wraps for any length of time. Go here to view the entire debate.
I loved the show Rawhide when I was a kid and I imagine that there were more than a few ticked CBS viewers on October 7, 1960 when they tuned in to see the Western only to view two politicians debating! Nixon wore television makeup for this second ever Presidential debate, unlike the first one, and most pundits at the time thought he won this second debate. Nixon had spent little time actually practicing law, but he was good at the cut and thrust of verbal warfare, while Kennedy was better at set piece speeches. Unfortunately for Nixon, viewership fell off by about twenty million viewers after the initial debate that he lost. In those long ago days before the internet, if the debate wasn’t watched when first broadcast, it wasn’t going to be seen at all, except in the briefest of snippets on the evening news.
Fifty-six years ago in the historical rear view mirror, the four Kennedy-Nixon debates were the first presidential debates and set the precedent for presidential debates, although the next would not occur until 1976 between Ford and Carter. In the first debate Kennedy, who secretly suffered from numerous ailments, radiated health and vigor. Nixon looked terrible in comparison, having been hospitalized for two weeks in August over an infected knee and having not regained the weight he lost during his recovery. Nixon insisted on campaigning until the time of the debate and refused to wear television makeup. Nixon’s mother called him after the debate and asked him if he was ill. After the debate, polls indicated that Kennedy went from a slight deficit to a slight lead. Continue reading
The things you can find on the internet. Then Senator John F. Kennedy reading the Declaration of Independence on a radio station WQXR in New York on July 4, 1957, the year of my birth.
Hard to believe that the Kennedy assassination was half a century ago. Back in 1963 I was in second grade, but I was not in school. Sick with pneumonia, my mother had taken me to the doctor and he had prescribed penicillin. After getting my prescription filled my mother took me home. She turned on our television set and I planted myself on the couch to watch it. As we watched television we saw the initial news flashes that President Kennedy had been shot. This was on a Friday, and the remainder of that day and the weekend, my mother, father and I and my brother practically lived in front of the television set, riveted by the around the clock coverage, something unprecedented in this country before that dreadful day.
America was stunned at the idea that a President could be assassinated. It had been 62 years since the last President had been assassinated and the country had grown complacent. Conspiracy theories began almost at once, fueled by the surrealist murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby and by the inability of liberals to accept that their icon John F. Kennedy, ironically a very centrist Democrat, had been felled by a deranged Marxist, rather than by some sinister right wing cabal.
What was the impact of the Kennedy assassination on American history? Probably minimal. The economy was in good shape so Kennedy was doubtless going to be re-elected in 1964, especially with newsmen not covering his constant womanizing and his addiction to painkillers from a back injury he sustained during World War II. Contrary to the imaginings of some liberal commentators, Kennedy was a cold warrior to his core, and the idea that he would have avoided the Vietnam War is fanciful. Continue reading