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Then and Now: 1st 1960 Presidential Debate vs. 1st 2012 Presidential Debate

What do you think?

Because the guys in 1960 had spent years speaking on the radio, it seems to me they really keep their sentences tight and their rhythm unbroken while speaking. They’re pretty impressive.

On the other hand, neither candidate seems to be orchestrating their body language as we’d see now. Nixon is constantly licking his lips nervously and crossing his legs while JFK has to be told by the moderators to go up to the podium.

Many of you may know that Nixon was ill and exhausted before the 1st 1960 debate. He had also recently injured his leg.

Not realizing the significance of television (this was the first ever televised debate), Nixon didn’t bother with makeup or having his appearance manicured.

Sick and tired as he was, Nixon was visibly sweating under the stage lights. You can especially see the shininess on his chin making it kind of look like he’s drooling.

Most history books now opine that this debate lost the election for Nixon.

Obviously, one might wonder if television made short or unimposing candidates unelectable, gradually turning elections into a battle over personality and superficial appearances.

2 responses to “Then and Now: 1st 1960 Presidential Debate vs. 1st 2012 Presidential Debate

  1. Carnivore October 22, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Interestingly, those who listened to the Nixon/Kennedy debate on the radio felt that Nixon had won. The election process, over the decades, has turned the debate into a Hollywood production. Appearance means more than substance, unfortunately.

  2. Eric Patton October 29, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Another thing that keeps these debates focused more on flash than fire:
    the debates are hosted by a company, CPD, that is owned 50/50 by Democrats and Republicans:
    http://www.debates.org/

    In other words, debate is kept safe and not too challenging for either candidate. 3rd party candidates are sidelined:
    http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/political-potpourri/2012/oct/22/third-party-presidential-debate-scheduled-tuesday/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_on_Presidential_Debates#Criticism
    “In 1988, the League of Women Voters withdrew its sponsorship of the presidential debates after the George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis campaigns secretly agreed to a “memorandum of understanding” that would decide which candidates could participate in the debates, which individuals would be panelists (and therefore able to ask questions), and the height of the podiums. The League rejected the demands and released a statement saying that they were withdrawing support for the debates because “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.”[8]”

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