Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Serious Statesmen of a Serious Country in Serious Times

 

Nixon/Kennedy Debates 1960On the “Why Aren’t the Debates Debates?” thread, I posted a comment with a link to the first Nixon/Kennedy debate in 1960. Here are links to all four debates. I used what I could get: Only two have video, and one of the videos has Italian subtitles. If you have the four hours, listen to them, and consider that this was a serious time, and that both of these candidates spoke at length, in depth, about issues ranging from foreign policy, economics, agriculture, energy, civil rights, defense strategy, and numerous other topics, without notes and without repeating briefing-book talking points. The correspondents who questioned them asked substantive questions about serious policy points, and the candidates responded in kind.

Update: Thanks to ctlaw in comment #6, here are links to C-SPAN.org videos of the four debates. These videos cannot be embedded here, but are clean kinescopes of the original broadcasts. Click the links to play the videos. (2015-11-01 20:12 UTC)

Debate 1:

Debate 2:

Debate 3 (audio only):

Debate 4 (audio only):

What I take away from these debates is that these were serious statesmen worthy to lead a superpower. They had mastered the issues they would have to face if elected. They fundamentally respected one another. The reporters who questioned them understood the stakes involved and how important it was to make the right decisions. It is simply unimaginable that any correspondent would have asked these men about resembling a cartoon villain or fantasy football. Note both candidates’ summoning of detail from memory: budget figures, specific votes over the past eight years, etc. Can any candidate do that now? Would any media figure ask them questions which required them to do so?

I have increasingly come to view the US as an unserious country. By this I do not denigrate the size of its economy or military power, but ask whether its leadership and the means by which those leaders are selected is worthy of its position on the world stage. Watch or listen to these debates. I would have no hesitation pulling the lever for either Nixon or Kennedy for that job. When you put them up against the current contenders for the presidency, at least as seen through the filter of the media and the present “debates,” they come across as towering figures.

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  1. Penfold Member

    Like

    (yes, it’s a cheap way to get “likes”, but I’m a desperate man)

    • #1
    • October 31, 2015, at 6:52 PM PDT
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  2. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    John, I will listen to this later when I can sit and think. Totally understand about sourcing. You would think these would be curated and available from reputable sources, no? In a serious country, they would be. In a serious country, this sort of thing would be required for honors in High School and for mere attendance credit in any serious university.

    Hey you pedagogical stalwarts — is there a term, a verb, which refers to the process of (in this case) viewing the videos, mentally processing them and producing a report, or commentary, or somesuch? It’s somewhere in the intersection of learning, processing, manipulating, mastering.

    I’m looking for a word which encapsulates that process.

    • #2
    • October 31, 2015, at 6:52 PM PDT
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  3. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    John, this sort of thing is also why I am dumpster-diving my old blog posts and comments from roughly four years ago. Well, I wasn’t exactly blogging in the sixties. I find it depressing and exhilarating to see the same arguments made now that were made then as if new and on a “just this once” basis. A people more aware of even the recent past, a more serious people, would have run the DC gang out of town long ago.

    In the land of the blind, the blind is king — nobody can prove he hasn’t any eye.

    • #3
    • October 31, 2015, at 6:55 PM PDT
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  4. EThompson Inactive

     I would have no hesitation pulling the lever for either Nixon or Kennedy for that job.

    I was thinking similarly today after finishing yet another biography on JFK. The first thing he accomplished in office was to cut the 90% income tax bracket. 55 years later, his political party is working arduously to impose one.

    • #4
    • October 31, 2015, at 7:04 PM PDT
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  5. John Walker Contributor
    John Walker

    EThompson:

    I would have no hesitation pulling the lever for either Nixon or Kennedy for that job.

    I was thinking similarly today after finishing yet another biography on JFK. The first thing he accomplished in office was to cut the 90% income tax bracket. 55 years later, his political party is working arduously to impose one.

    I remember watching the speech on television where he proposed that tax cut. He used charts, like Ross Perot would use, and be ridiculed for decades later. But it worked, and it passed (which was pretty much given with Democrat dominance in Congress at the time), and it set off the economic boom of the Sixties.

    • #5
    • October 31, 2015, at 7:10 PM PDT
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  6. ctlaw Coolidge

    http://www.c-span.org/video/?33149-1/presidential-candidates-debate

    Then scroll down

    • #6
    • October 31, 2015, at 7:10 PM PDT
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  7. PHCheese Member

    I was 15 at the time. My father suggested that I watch several of the debates with him. When dad suggested I did. Dad was Irish and a Democrat and of course was pulling for JFK but had not ruled out Nixon. Dad lived long enough to regret JFK being elected. Nixon was the first President for which I voted. Life is strange. Dad hated LBJ and also voted for Nixon rather than McGovern.

    • #7
    • October 31, 2015, at 7:19 PM PDT
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  8. Michael Collins Member

    The prevalence of the mass media has a lot to do with the problem. The country would benefit by reverting to a simple Lincoln-Douglas debate format. But the media have enough clout that they can force themselves into the “moderator” position -much to the detriment of Republican candidates. Kudos to the candidates who stood up to them this time around. Keep on exhibiting that kind of spunk and we just might get back to having real debates.

    • #8
    • October 31, 2015, at 7:34 PM PDT
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  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Can you imagine Howard K. Smith formulating a question on fantasy football leagues?

    • #9
    • October 31, 2015, at 7:37 PM PDT
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  10. RightAngles Member

    That debate was before the hippie Woodstock kids/Baby Boomers came of age and took over everything. After 30 or 40 years of their control over the education system, we have the dumbest crop of voters in our entire history. They sure haven’t left the world a better place.

    • #10
    • October 31, 2015, at 7:46 PM PDT
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  11. Barfly Member

    PHCheese:I was 15 at the time. My father suggested that I watch several of the debates with him. When dad suggested I did. Dad was Irish anda Democrat and of course was pulling for JFK but had not ruled outNixon. Dad lived long enough to regret JFK being elected. Nixon was the first President for which I voted. Life is strange. Dad hated LBJ and also voted for Nixon rather than McGovern.

    Consider for a moment how the second half of the 20th century would have unfolded had Nixon won that election.

    Kennedy and Nixon certainly stood above their modern counterparts – but would Kennedy have been anti-communist but for the military threat?

    The media figures perhaps conveyed a more sober demeanor, but we know now just how slanted and circumscribed their reportage was in the days of the big three networks. Their demeanor is merely the reflection of the culture of the time, as will always be true. Reporters. [spits]

    Don’t forget the nation elected the lesser man – lesser by any measure than youth, looks, and charm. And paid for it dearly.

    Really, John, I don’t think we’re that much less serious today. The culture today is more crude and dissolute, but the disaster of the 60’s came from men like these.

    • #11
    • October 31, 2015, at 8:02 PM PDT
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  12. Jason Rudert Member

    Kennedy is high as a kite during this debate (No1) and it shows. That right eye is watching Cthulhu the whole time.

    • #12
    • October 31, 2015, at 8:14 PM PDT
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  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Thanks for this, John.

    I think the word “serious” is exactly right; the other word is “adult.” We seem to have infantilized ourselves in an extremely peculiar way, and I don’t know how to explain this. I’ve asked myself whether I might be mistaken in perceiving our culture as more and more childlike — it would be an easy mistake to make; perhaps I’m just getting older, after all. But these debates do suggest that it’s not just me.

    • #13
    • October 31, 2015, at 8:30 PM PDT
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  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    NotACrook

    (image from Hate and Danger)

    EDIT: okay, that should have been Ha! Tea ‘n Danger. Me no read good.

    • #14
    • October 31, 2015, at 8:36 PM PDT
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  15. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Barfly: Don’t forget the nation elected the lesser man – lesser by any measure than youth, looks, and charm. And paid for it dearly. Really, John, I don’t think we’re that much less serious today. The culture today is more crude and dissolute, but the disaster of the 60’s came from men like these.

    Don’t forget too, Kennedy lied and invented “facts” about an alleged “missile gap”, knowing full well that Nixon could not refute such statements without violating his secrecy clearances. Kennedy deliberately stoked a disproportionate fear of the USSR to serve his own ends, something for which he later paid dearly in Berlin and Cuba.

    • #15
    • October 31, 2015, at 8:46 PM PDT
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  16. MarciN Member

    I have read this debate. (The transcripts can be read at http://www.debates.org.) I was curious to know (a) how much time they spent on foreign affairs (a lot) and (b) how well informed the candidates were generally.

    I have to say I was impressed by both of them.

    • #16
    • October 31, 2015, at 8:49 PM PDT
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  17. MarciN Member

    RightAngles:That debate was before the hippie Woodstock kids/Baby Boomers came of age and took over everything. After 30 or 40 years of their control over the education system, we have the dumbest crop of voters in our entire history. They sure haven’t left the world a better place.

    I’m a baby boomer. And I just want to say that I think you are blaming the boomer generation for some things that were the fault of the generation before us. There was a generation of parents, like mine, who did not fight in World War II because they were too young. That unnamed generation, people in their late seventies to late eighties now, are the ones who worked to restore the country to peace after the war. They were good people, and they made some mistakes out of a desire to eradicate prejudice against people for religion or race.

    I get the anger at the baby boomer generation. I guess people can’t have everything, and so we had a happy childhood, and now we pay the price with the country’s animosity toward us. Sigh.

    I was born in the best possible time in America–the economy was booming, and the country was excited by this new batch of little kids. New schools cropped up all over the country. Our communities were happy that we had come along.

    Unfortunately, close to 55,000 boomers died in the Vietnam War. I think that counts for something.

    • #17
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:00 PM PDT
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  18. Barfly Member

    skipsul:

    Barfly: Don’t forget the nation elected the lesser man – lesser by any measure than youth, looks, and charm. And paid for it dearly. Really, John, I don’t think we’re that much less serious today. The culture today is more crude and dissolute, but the disaster of the 60’s came from men like these.

    Don’t forget too, Kennedy lied and invented “facts” about an alleged “missile gap”, knowing full well that Nixon could not refute such statements without violating his secrecy clearances. Kennedy deliberately stoked a disproportionate fear of the USSR to serve his own ends, something for which he later paid dearly in Berlin and Cuba.

    Finally, don’t forget that election was stolen. Joe’s friend Richard in Chicago delivered Illinois, and that disgusting ape Johnson served up the Rio Grande districts in Texas.

    • #18
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:04 PM PDT
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  19. Viruscop Member

    I watched the first video. Here is my take-away

    1. You, John Walker, would have no problem voting for either of these men? If I am not mistaken, you consider yourself a libertarian. Both of these men advocate government intervention in the economy, with only differences in degree but do not disagree that government has an active role to play. Does not your libertarian philosophy dictate that the government must never intervene in the economy, even if it leads to the US becoming a second or third rate power on the international stage? Doesn’t this alone prevent you from voting for either man?
    2. Related to the above, note that both men are concerned with the size of the economy of the Soviet Union, and they note that power is derived from the domestic economy. Nixon also mentions economic injustices at home, and that addressing these injustices would strengthen the US against the Soviet Union. These collective observations from a Republican candidate would not be permitted today by the GOP, nor would the use of the word “injustice” be allowed in reference to economic and social issues.
    3. Note that a proposal by Kennedy for the mandatory purchase of health insurance is not described by Nixon as “socialist,” though he does oppose it. Nixon would probably know socialism better than any Republican candidate or member of this site, and yet in a time when some form of socialism had actual relevance, he does not throw around the term. (cont.)
    • #19
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:18 PM PDT
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  20. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MarciN: I’m a baby boomer. And I just want to say that I think you are blaming the boomer generation for some things that were the fault of the generation before us.

    Every generation has things for which it can rightly blame a prior generation. Yet only the generations currently living can either speak in accusation or defense.

    • #20
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:23 PM PDT
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  21. MarciN Member

    I blame television for the degeneration in campaign seriousness. I worked on a great book in 1983 by Martin Linsky–Television and the Presidential Elections: Self-Interest and the Public Interest. It was the edited transcript of a conference in which the participants were from all of the news agencies, including television news. It predicted accurately where we are today.

    Unfortunately, the viewers’ television-watching habits affect their expectations in viewing the candidates in that venue. Furthermore, just as websites are viewed not by subject necessarily but by genre, such that people coming to Ricochet just left the Wall Street Journal and so that becomes the context for them for Ricochet, so too are our candidates being viewed in the context of the network television series. Our candidates have to look and sound like television stars–Marco Rubio rather than Lee Iaccoca. :) No umms and aahs.

    • #21
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:28 PM PDT
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  22. MarciN Member

    skipsul: Every generation has things for which it can rightly blame a prior generation. Yet only the generations currently living can either speak in accusation or defense.

    Right.

    I think there’s too much overlap to make accurate generalizations.

    • #22
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:32 PM PDT
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  23. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MarciN:I blame television for the degeneration in campaign seriousness. I worked on a great book in 1983 by Martin Linsky–Television and the Presidential Elections: Self-Interest and the Public Interest. It was the edited transcript of a conference in which the participants were from all of the news agencies, including television news. It predicted accurately where we are today.

    Unfortunately, the viewers’ television-watching habits affect their expectations in viewing the candidates in that venue. Furthermore, just as websites are viewed not by subject necessarily but by genre, such that people coming to Ricochet just left the Wall Street Journal and so that becomes the context for them for Ricochet, so too are our candidates being viewed in the context of the network television series. Our candidates have to look and sound like television stars–Marco Rubio rather than Lee Iaccoca. :) No umms and aahs.

    My father recalls listening to these debates on the radio- in his opinion Nixon won each one handily. However, we should remember that they were also televised, and Nixon wasn’t ready for that aspect. Kennedy had people to do makeup and blot up sweat, Nixon did not. Those who listened to the debates concluded Nixon won, but those who watched on TV favored Kennedy.

    • #23
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:35 PM PDT
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  24. Viruscop Member

    (cont. from#19)

    4. Note that both men consider another great power to be the single greatest threat to the United States. Today, the Democratic Party considers China the greatest threat to the US, while the Republican Party is distracted by the peripheral issue of Islamic extremism, which the Democratic Party considers to be a peripheral issue. I believe that the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly correct in this regard. China could not ask for a better red party in the US than the Republican Party on this issue, since they too are concerned with Islamic extremism, particularly with regard to the Uighurs, though the Islamic extermism of the Uighurs seems to benefit the United States by creating harm against the economic capacity and legitimacy of the Chinese government. Note also that in the 1960’s, the US backed self-proclaimed “socialist” government in Europe; however, the US could tell the difference between uses of the word “socialist.” Such nuance (and yes, today it would be considered nuance) is lost today on many Republicans vis-a-vis Islamic extremism.

    In short, I have a no problem as a Democrat voting for either of these men, but many members of this site, if taken at their word, would seem to be as bound from doing so as an Ultra-Orthdox Jew would be from breaking the laws of Kashrut.

    • #24
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:36 PM PDT
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  25. MarciN Member

    skipsul: My father recalls listening to these debates on the radio- in his opinion Nixon won each one handily. However, we should remember that they were also televised, and Nixon wasn’t ready for that aspect. Kennedy had people to do makeup and blot up sweat, Nixon did not. Those who listened to the debates concluded Nixon won, but those who watched on TV favored Kennedy.

    I remember hearing that said too.

    I keep thinking that Trump’s meteoric rise has something to do with the fact that he is so familiar with the television venue. He’s saying a lot of things that people want said, but I think he was able to be heard so fast in the already-crowded field because he knows television so well. He knows what works and what doesn’t. He’s been doing it a long time.

    • #25
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:38 PM PDT
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  26. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nixon by Rockwell

    When I was in Hong Kong in 1996, Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” was playing under the title HE HAD IT ALL AND LOST IT. In that part of the world, and not only there, his diplomacy would be missed.

    • #26
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:41 PM PDT
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  27. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Another interesting thought on Nixon and the TV – in 1960 Nixon was unprepared for the TV effect. By 1968 he was a pro, having practiced on talk shows and such for some time. Hubert Humphrey, however, was still an amateur on TV.

    Side note: My grandfather bore an eternal hatred of Humphrey from his days in Minnesota. Humphrey, when still a low level state party hack in the 1940s, once demanded a bribe from my grandfather for some inspection or another.

    • #27
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:41 PM PDT
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  28. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    JFK seen at a TV store

    “…Will be considered an attack on the United States, demanding a full retaliatory response…”

    Democrats once talked like that.

    • #28
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:43 PM PDT
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  29. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    Gary McVey:JFK seen at a TV store

    “…Will be considered an attack on the United States, demanding a full retaliatory response…”

    Democrats once talked like that.

    Things have shifted enough that Kennedy probably couldn’t be elected as a Republican now.

    • #29
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:45 PM PDT
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  30. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    So true.

    • #30
    • October 31, 2015, at 9:47 PM PDT
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