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Monday, November 02, 2015

Why not a Nixon-Kennedy debate?

On Monday, September 26, 1960, Jack Kennedy and Dick Nixon held the first televised presidential debate. Howard K. Smith of ABC News moderated. The actual questions came from Sander Vanocur of NBC News, Charles Warren of Mutual News, Stuart Novins of CBS News, and Bob Fleming of ABC News.

Each candidate gave an opening statement of up to eight minutes, then Fleming asked Kennedy the first question: "Senator, the Vice President in his campaign has said that you were naive and at times immature. He has raised the question of leadership. On this issue, why do you think people should vote for you rather than the Vice President?"

After Kennedy replied, Smith asked, "Mr. Nixon, would you like to comment on that statement?"

Nixon replied: "I have no comment."

Novins then asked: "Mr. Vice President, your campaign stresses the value of your eight year experience, and the question arises as to whether that experience was as an observer or as a participant or as an initiator of policy-making. Would you tell us please specifically what major proposals you have made in the last eight years that have been adopted by the Administration?"

And so it went. Tough questions, sure, but respectful. The hour ended with each man giving a closing statement of three minutes and 20 seconds.

Why can we not do that again?

Perhaps we lack people of the caliber of William S. Paley and David Sarnoff, who at the time ran CBS and NBC, respectively.


  1. As it stands now, the "debates" are little more than mini press conferences.

  2. It seems we lack people with their integrity running the networks. And watching the networks, too.

  3. In the good old days, the focus was on the candidates and their answers. Today, the focus is on the media, which is the way the media wants it. Gotcha! Scandal! Pile on the Republican! Support OUR candidate! "Aren't we moderators just the most clever, important people in the world right now? How's my make-up look? Does my blouse make me look fat? Like my tie? Pure silk, hand made in Hong Kong, you know. I love me. I send a thrill up my leg."