The Past and Future of Presidential Debates

By Austin Ranney | Go to book overview

8
Presidential Debates: An Overview

Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover


The 1960 Debates

In the 1960 presidential campaign, two nonincumbents -- John Kennedy and Richard Nixon -- agreed to debate the issues before a nationwide television audience because each felt, on balance, that the confrontation would be in his self-interest. Kennedy looked upon the debates as a means of demonstrating that at the age of forty-three he had the experience, qualifications, and bearing to be president. Nixon, against the advice of President Eisenhower and other Republican leaders, agreed out of a conviction that he could beat Kennedy, on foreign policy questions particularly, and that by declining to debate he would hand Kennedy an exploitable issue. When Congress passed a resolution suspending the Federal Communications Commission's equal time provision, Eisenhower signed it, clearing the way for the Kennedy- Nixon debates.

Of the two candidates, Kennedy grasped the importance of the debates much more fully than did Nixon, and he prepared much more carefully and intelligently. Kennedy arrived in Chicago the day before the first debate was to be held in a CBS studio there. He got a good night's sleep and spent the next morning going over likely questions with his aides. According to Earl Mazo, the former political reporter for the New York Herald-Tribune and a Nixon biographer, tapes of Nixon speeches were played for Kennedy "to help put him in a properly aggressive mood." Then, after making a short speech to a union convention, Kennedy took a nap, had another question-and- answer session with his aides, had a leisurely dinner, and went to the studio. Nixon, by contrast, arrived in Chicago late the night before the debate, was up early to address the same union group, returned to

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The Past and Future of Presidential Debates
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • 1 - Presidential Candidate "Debates": What Can We Learn from 1960 1
  • Discussion 51
  • 2 - Historical Evolution of Section 315 56
  • Discussion 70
  • 3 - Presidential Debates: an Empirical Assessment 75
  • Discussion 102
  • 4 - The 1976 Presidential Debates: a Republican Perspective 107
  • Discussion 131
  • 5 - Did the Debates Help Jimmy Carter? 137
  • Discussion 147
  • 6 - The Case for Permanent Presidential Debates 155
  • Discussion 169
  • 7 - Debatable Thoughts on Presidential Debates 175
  • Discussion 187
  • 8 - Presidential Debates: an Overview 191
  • Discussion 206
  • Bibliography 215
  • Contributors 225
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