In 1960, John F. The Kennedy-Nixon debates not only had a major impact on the election’s outcome, but ushered in a new era in which crafting a public image and taking advantage of media exposure became essential ingredients of a successful political campaign. They also heralded the central role television has continued to play in the democratic process.
Background to the Kennedy-Nixon Debates
The U.S. presidential election of 1960 came at a decisive time in American history. The country was engaged in a heated Cold War with the Soviet Union, which had just taken the lead in the space race by launching the Sputnik satellite. The rise of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary regime in Cuba had heightened fears about the spread of communism in the Western Hemisphere. On the domestic front, the struggle for civil rights and desegregation had deeply divided the nation, raising crucial questions about the state of democracy in the United States.At a time when the need for strong leadership was all too obvious, two vastly different candidates vied for the presidency: John F. Kennedy, a young but dynamic Massachusetts senator from a powerful New England family, and Richard Nixon, a seasoned lawmaker who was currently serving as vice president. With little more than a single unremarkable term in the U.S. senate under his belt, the 43-year-old Kennedy lacked Nixon’s extensive foreign policy experience and had the disadvantage of being one of the first Catholics to run for president on a major party ticket. Nixon, by contrast, had spent nearly eight years as the country’s second-in-command after an illustrious career in Congress during which he cast crucial votes on a variety of domestic issues, became one of global communism’s most outspoken critics and helped expose Alger Hiss’ alleged espionage attempt–all by the age of 39.The rivals campaigned tirelessly throughout the summer of 1960, with Nixon inching ahead in the polls to gain a slim lead. When the season began to turn, however, so did the tables. Nixon took a major hit in August when a reporter asked President Dwight D. Eisenhower to name some of his vice president’s contributions. Exhausted and irritated after a long press conference, Eisenhower replied, “If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don’t remember.” (While the remark was intended as a self-deprecating reference to the president’s own mental fatigue, the Democrats promptly used it in a television commercial that ended with the statement: “President Eisenhower could not remember, but the voters will remember.”) That same month, Nixon bashed his knee on a car door while campaigning in North Carolina and developed an infection that landed him in the hospital; he emerged two weeks later frail, sallow and 20 pounds underweight.
The Candidates Face Off
On the evening of September 26, when the two candidates arrived at the CBS broadcast facility in downtown Chicago for the first televised presidential debate in American history, Nixon’s streak of bad luck continued. Stepping out of the car, he banged his bad knee and exacerbated his earlier injury. The vice president had recently suffered a bout of the flu and was still running a low fever; he had nonetheless spent a grueling day on the campaign trail and looked drained. Kennedy, meanwhile, had been holed up in a hotel with his aides for an entire weekend, fielding practice questions and resting up for the first of four “Great Debates.”Despite Nixon’s exhaustion and Kennedy’s preparedness, the Republican and Democrat were more or less evenly matched when it came to substance. Each held forth skillfully and presented remarkably similar agendas. Both emphasized national security, the threat of communism, the need to strengthen the U.S. military and the importance of building a brighter future for America; indeed, after Kennedy’s opening statement, Nixon said, “I subscribe completely to the spirit that Senator Kennedy has expressed tonight.” And yet, while most radio listeners called the first debate a draw or pronounced Nixon the victor, the senator from Massachusetts won over the 70 million television viewers by a broad margin.
Maybe It’s Lazy Shave
What accounted for this discrepancy? For one thing, television was a relatively recent addition to America’s living rooms, and politicians were still seeking the right formula for interacting with the public in this new, more intimate way. Kennedy nailed it during the Great Debates, staring directly into the camera as he answered each question. Nixon, on the other hand, looked off to the side to address the various reporters, which came across as shifting his gaze to avoid eye contact with the public–a damaging blunder for a man already known derisively as “Tricky Dick.”The gap in the candidates’ on-air presence was not just a matter of charisma; it was also one of cosmetics. Before the first debate, both men declined the services of CBS’s top makeup artist, who had been summoned from New York for the event. Bronzed and glowing from weeks of open-air campaigning, Kennedy was more than ready for his close-up–though sources later claimed that the naturally telegenic senator still got a touch-up from his team. Nixon, on the other hand, had a pale complexion and fast-growing stubble that together lent him a perpetually grayish pallor; during an interview with Walter Cronkite two weeks before the debate, the vice president had confided, “I can shave within 30 seconds before I go on television and still have a beard.”At his aides’ urging, Nixon submitted to a coat of Lazy Shave, a drugstore pancake makeup he had used in the past to mask his five o’clock shadow. But when the candidate started sweating under the hot studio lights, the powder seemed to melt off his face, giving way to visible beads of perspiration. It didn’t help that Nixon had chosen a light gray suit for the occasion, which faded into the backdrop of the set and seemed to match his ashen skin tone. Reacting to the vice president’s on-air appearance, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley reportedly said, “My God, they’ve embalmed him before he even died.” The following day, the Chicago Daily News ran the headline “Was Nixon Sabotaged by TV Makeup Artists?” The vice president cleaned up his act for the next three debates, but the damage had been done. Besides, Kennedy had a secret weapon in his quest to dazzle the American media: an equally picture-perfect wife who would soon charm the nation and the world. Six months pregnant with the couple’s second child, Jacqueline Kennedy hosted debate-watching parties at the family’s summer home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Newspapers fawned over every last detail, from Jackie’s fashionable maternity wear and distinguished guest list to her living room furnishings and choice of refreshments. When the first debate ended, the future first lady reportedly concluded, “I think my husband was brilliant.” Meanwhile, Nixon’s mother immediately called her son to ask if he was ill.
Legacy of the Kennedy-Nixon Debates
A month and a half later, Americans turned out to vote in record numbers. As predicted, it was a close election, with Kennedy winning the popular vote 49.7 percent to 49.5 percent. Polls revealed that more than half of all voters had been influenced by the Great Debates, while 6 percent claimed that the debates alone had decided their choice. Whether or not the debates cost Nixon the presidency, they were a major turning point in the 1960 race—and in the history of television. Televised debates have become a permanent feature of the American political landscape, helping to shape the outcomes of both primary and general elections. Along with distinguishing themselves from their opponents, candidates have the opportunity to showcase their oratory skills (or betray their inarticulateness), display their sense of humor (or reveal their lack thereof) and capitalize on their rivals’ gaffes (or seal their fate with a slip of the tongue). Two years after the Kennedy-Nixon debates, the man on the losing end acknowledged their importance–and his fatal misstep–in his memoir “Six Crises: “I should have remembered that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’”
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Presidential debates offer candidates a chance to match wits in real time in front of a live TV audience. Unfortunately, it’s the wit – rather than command of the facts or their stances on the issues of the day – most viewers remember.
Sept. 26, 1960: Sen. John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon hold the nation’s first televised debate in a studio at WBBM-TV in Chicago. Howard K. Smith of CBS News was the moderator.
That first debate, shown above, is also be the most famous: Richard Nixon refused to wear makeup. His loss: John F. Kennedy came off as healthier and more authoritative. Interestingly, radio listeners reported they felt the opposite. The candidates matched up more evenly in subsequent bouts.
A technical glitch forced both candidates to stand uncomfortably in front of TV cameras for 27 minutes. In their second debate, challenger Jimmy Carter pounced on President Gerald Ford when he mistakenly declared there was “no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.”
President Jimmy Carter refused to include independent John Anderson in the debates. As a result, Ronald Reagan debated Anderson once and Carter once. Reagan destroyed Carter with “There you go again” and “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
“I will not make age an issue of this campaign,” President Ronald Reagan said. “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Even challenger Walter Mondale had to laugh. Reagan’s re-election was sealed with one quip.
When vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy, his opponent, Lloyd Bentsen, erupted: “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Four debates were held in a nine-day period. Organizers tried a new approach: a “town hall,” where audience members could ask questions themselves. Bill Clinton displayed mastery of the format, easily topping President George H.W. Bush and independent Ross Perot.
Sen. Bob Dole attacked Bill Clinton for being “soft” on drug abuse and brought up Clinton’s admission he had smoked marijuana in his younger days. Clinton replied: “I know what it’s like to see somebody you love nearly lose their life” to drugs, referring to his own brother.
As George W. Bush made his case for himself in their first debate, Sen. Al Gore sighed heavily – repeatedly – into his microphone. Gore toned it down a bit in later debates, but the damage was done as Gore’s histronics were skewered on “Saturday Night Live.”
Issues? What issues? Much noise was made about a mysterious bulge under George W. Bush’s coat – which turned out to be a bulletproof vest, not a secret radio receiver – and John Kerry’s alleged use of contraband. Instead of cheat notes, Kerry had pulled out – gasp! – a pen.
Sen. John McCain proposed delaying the second debate in order to return to Washington to debate an economic bailout bill. Sen. Barack Obama declined and the debate was held on schedule. Congress defeated the measure and Obama defeated McCain.
The big loser in the first 2012 debate: moderator Jim Lehrer, who was criticized for letting both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney exceed their time limits. Later, Romney lost points for claiming he had “binders full of women” qualified to serve in his administration.
Hillary Clinton got in a number of zingers – “Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts,” she said at one point – but Donald Trump held his own by repeatedly interrupting Clinton, “lurking” behind her during the second, town hall-style debate and by calling her “such a nasty woman” in the third debate.
Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2134: A Watershed Body Language Moment: Nixon - Kennedy Debates 1960
The Nixon-Kennedy Debates were the first U.S. Presidential Debates in over a century and they would be the last until Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter met in 1976 - but they've been a staple in the American political process ever since. A little known fact - is that the first time Kennedy and Nixon debated was in 1947. They were both freshman congressman and in McKeesport, Pennsylvania they debated "The Taft-Hartley Act". The two men considered themselves friends and even shared a room on the Capitol Limited (a train line) that night on their way back to D.C.
The first of the four 1960 Presidential debates took place on the night of September 26, 1960 in Chicago - but a significant event occurred several weeks before in North Carolina. Richard Nixon had severely injured his knee there and he had to take two weeks off from campaigning. He recuperated in Walter Reed Medical Center and his infected knee received antibiotic injections while he grew understandably frustrated. He lost weight. Mr. Nixon still looked sick and run down on the night of the debate. While putting in long hours trying to make up for lost campaigning time, and only hours before the event, he re-injured his knee and thus was in a good deal of pain while on camera.
|1960 United States presidential election debates|
|No.||Date and time||Host and location||Panelist||Moderator||Participants||Viewership (Millions)|
John F. Kennedy
|1||Monday, September 26, 1960|
|First Presidential debate|
|Date(s)||September 26, 1960 ( 1960-09-26 )|
|Participants||John F. Kennedy|
|Moderator(s)||Howard K. Smith|
The first presidential debate was held at WBBM-TV, Chicago on Monday September 26, 1960 between Vice President Richard Nixon and senator John F. Kennedy. Howard K. Smith moderated the debate with Sander Vanocur, Charles Warren and Stuart Novins as panelists. Questions were restricted to internal or domestic American matters. The format decided was:
- eight minute opening statements
- two and a half minute responses to questions
- optional rebuttal
- three minute closing statements.
Nixon refused make-up for the first debate, and as a result his facial stubble showed prominently on the black-and-white TV screens at the time. During the debate, Nixon started sweating under the hot studio lights giving way to visible beads of perspiration. He had chosen a light gray suit which faded into the backdrop of the set and seemed to match his ashen skin tone. Reacting to this, his mother immediately called him to and asked whether he was sick. The Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in a interview said:
My God, they’ve embalmed him before he even died. 
Evidence in support of this belief, that Kennedy's physical appearance overshadowed his performance during the first debate is mainly limited to sketchy reports about a market survey conducted by Sindlinger & Company in which 49% of those who listened to the debates on radio said Nixon had won compared to 21% naming Kennedy, while 30% of those who watched the debates on television said Kennedy had won compared to 29% naming Nixon. Contrary to popular belief, the Sindlinger evidence suggests not that Kennedy won on television but that the candidates tied on television while Nixon won on radio. However, no details about the sample have ever been reported, and it is unclear whether the survey results can be generalized to a larger population. Moreover, since 87% of American households had a television in 1960, and that the fraction of Americans lacking access to television in 1960 was concentrated in rural areas and particularly in southern and western states, places that were unlikely to hold significant proportions of Catholic voters. 
An estimated 66.4 million viewers tuned into the debate.
|Second Presidential debate|
|Date(s)||October 7, 1960 ( 1960-10-07 )|
|Participants||John F. Kennedy|
The second presidential debate was held at WRC-TV, Washington D.C. on Friday October 7, 1960 between Vice President Richard Nixon and senator John F. Kennedy. Frank McGee moderated the debate with Paul Niven, Edward P. Morgan, Alan Spivak and Harold R. Levy as panelists. Questions were related to internal American matters, foreign relations, economy, etc. The format decided was:
After the first debate, for the remaining three debates, Nixon regained his lost weight, wore television makeup, and appeared more forceful than in his initial appearance. Polls showed that Nixon won the second and third debate, but Kennedy moved from a slight deficit into a slight lead over Nixon. 
An estimated 61.9 million viewers tuned into the debate.
|Third Presidential debate|
|Date(s)||October 13, 1960 ( 1960-10-13 )|
|Location||New York City, New York and Los Angeles, California|
|Participants||John F. Kennedy|
The third presidential debate was held virtually at ABC studio, Los Angeles, California for Nixon and ABC studio, New York City, New York for Kennedy on Thursday October 13, 1960 between Vice President Richard Nixon and senator John F. Kennedy. Bill Shadel moderated the debate with Frank McGee, Charles Van Fremd, Douglass Cater and Roscoe Drummond as panelists. The main topic of this debate was whether military force should be used to prevent Quemoy and Matsu, two island archipelagos off the Chinese coast, from falling under Communist control.   The format decided was:
- No opening or closing statements
- each questioned in turn with two and a half minutes to answer
- one and a half minute rebuttals optional.
The third debate has been notable, as it brought about a change in the debate process. This debate was a monumental step for television. For the first time ever, split-screen technology was used to bring two people from opposite sides of the country together so they were able to converse in real time. Nixon was in Los Angeles while Kennedy was in New York. The men appeared to be in the same room, as a can of paint used for the backdrop in New York was flown overnight to Hollywood to match the background there.  Both candidates had monitors in their respective studios containing the feed from the opposite studio so they could respond to questions. Bill Shadel moderated the debate from a different television studio in Los Angeles. 
An estimated 63.7 million viewers tuned into the debate.
|Fourth Presidential debate|
|Date(s)||October 21, 1960 ( 1960-10-21 )|
|Location||New York City, New York|
|Participants||John F. Kennedy|
The fourth presidential debate was held at ABC studio, New York City on Friday October 21, 1960 between Vice President Richard Nixon and senator John F. Kennedy. Quincy Howe moderated the debate with Frank Singiser, John Edwards, Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor as panelists. Questions were related to Foreign affairs. The format decided was:
- Eight minute opening statements
- each questioned in turn with two and a half minutes to answer
- one and a half minute rebuttal
- three minute closing statements.
The fourth debate concluded the series of Presidential debates, and was generally seen as the strongest performance of both candidates.
An estimated 60.4 million viewers tuned into the debate.
- ^"The Kennedy-Nixon Debates". HISTORY. September 21, 2010. Archived from the original on April 19, 2021 . Retrieved April 20, 2021 .
- Althaus, Scott L. "Encyclopedia of Media and Politics" (PDF) . CQ Press . Retrieved 20 Apr 2021 .
- ^ abcd
- "CPD: 1960 Debates". www.debates.org. Archived from the original on 2019-01-08 . Retrieved 2021-04-20 .
- "Everything you need to know about presidential debate history". theweek.com. 2012-10-14. Archived from the original on 2021-04-20 . Retrieved 2021-04-20 .
- Scott L. Althaus. Todd Schaefer and Tom Birkland (ed.). "Encyclopedia of Media and Politics" (PDF) . Washington D.C.: C.Q. Press. p. Kennedy-Nixon debates. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2012 . Retrieved May 25, 2013 .
- "CPD: September 26, 1960 Debate Transcript". www.debates.org. Archived from the original on 2021-04-21 . Retrieved 2021-04-20 .
- Inc, Gallup (2008-09-24). "Gallup Presidential Election Trial-Heat Trends, 1936-2008". Gallup.com. Archived from the original on 2021-06-06 . Retrieved 2021-04-20 .
- "CPD: October 7, 1960 Debate Transcript". www.debates.org. Archived from the original on 2021-04-21 . Retrieved 2021-04-20 .
- "October 13, 1960 Debate Transcript". Debates.org. Archived from the original on December 11, 2013 . Retrieved December 5, 2013 .
- "Third Kennedy-Nixon Debate". Debates.org. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013 . Retrieved December 5, 2013 .
- Shafer, Ronald G. "Trump refused to debate virtually. But Nixon did and got the best of JFK". Washington Post. ISSN0190-8286. Archived from the original on 2020-10-21 . Retrieved 2021-04-20 .
- "Clipped From The Record". The Record. October 13, 1960. p. 41. Archived from the original on April 20, 2021 . Retrieved April 20, 2021 .
- "CPD: October 13, 1960 Debate Transcript". www.debates.org. Archived from the original on 2021-04-21 . Retrieved 2021-04-20 .
- "CPD: October 21, 1960 Debate Transcript". www.debates.org. Archived from the original on 2021-04-21 . Retrieved 2021-04-20 .
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Kennedy vs. Nixon Ad (1960)
In Richard Nixon’s political ad, “Peace,” the overall message is about experience and knowing what to do during though times. Nixon's campaign tried to convey this seriousness by shooting its commercials of Nixon perched on a desk and speaking directly to the camera. In JFK’s 1960 “Debate,” political ad, he addresses the people in a snappier way, and by “facing the issues squarely.” However, neither of the candidates' ads was about issues rather, they were more contrast in styles. The messages focused on the era as a dangerous time it was really an election about change versus experience.
In Kennedy’s ad, he expresses his ideas directly, specifically, and offers “new American leadership for the country.” His tone is very magnetic and appealing, and it is quite pleasing to an American to hear that Kennedy thinks that America is a great country, but “it could be a greater” one. Whereas Nixon speaks with such composure and a serious-minded tone in his ad, it almost seems he is not excited (or even cares) to be there. The way Kennedy carries himself while giving speeches is an especially confident, poised, and self-assured one, so much that he even comments on whether if people think that America was doing everything satisfactorily, that he agreed with them, that they “should vote for Nixon”! Furthermore, on the Kennedy-Nixon debate, Kennedy appeared looking “tanned, confident, and vigorous,” while Nixon was “wearing no make up and a light-colored suit that blended into the background looking exhausted and pale, and sweated profusely.” Also, Mr. Nixon’s tone is exceedingly formal, thus making him look a tad bit uncharismatic, (unlike his likable contender). His way of speaking directly to the camera and giving detailed answers to an offscreen speaker, presented him “as a though, experienced leader able to stand up to the Communists.”
In general, while Nixon was not as charismatic and pleasant as JFK, he was a seasoned.
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Kennedy-Nixon Debate Analysis
There may be more truth to the old saying, “it’s not what you say but how you say it.” On average, 93 percent of meaning found in communication comes from nonverbal messages (Mehrabian 1967). Nonverbal communication is the wordless transmission of information through body language, gestures, tone, space and appearance. The first televised presidential debate is a pivotal example of how pervasive nonverbal communication actually is to an audience, and how it affects the credibility of the speaker(s). The purpose of this analysis is to present both the categories and functions of nonverbal communication within the context of the 1960 debates between presidential candidates, Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice-president Richard M. Nixon.
Before the first debate, Kennedy was generally thought of as the young inexperienced underdog taking on the two termed vice president but by the end of the night, he was the winner. During the first debate both candidates spoke on domestic issues but history has proved less concerned about the farmer subsidies discussed than with the speakers’ physical appearance. Kennedy was able to hold his own against Nixon’s rebuttals which launched him into an equal perception with viewers. However, what really propelled Kennedy as the winner was the way he presented himself as compared to how Nixon was presented. Perceptions of physical attractiveness initially have the greatest impact. We tend to want to interact with others we consider more attractive than not. That first debate was the clear turning point for Kennedy’s campaign and some would even argue it won him the presidency. “It’s one of those unusual points on the timeline of history where you can say things changed very dramtically.” (Schroeder 2000) Apparently, while Nixon was campaigning earlier that summer, he injured his knee and it became infected, requiring surgery just.
Kennedy-Nixon Debate Analysis
There may be more truth to the old saying, “it’s not what you say but how you say it. ” On average, 93 percent of meaning found in communication comes from nonverbal messages (Mehrabian 1967).
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nonverbal communication is the wordless transmission of information through body language, gestures, tone, space and appearance. The first televised presidential debate is a pivotal example of how pervasive nonverbal communication actually is to an audience, and how it affects the credibility of the speaker(s).
The purpose of this analysis is to present both the categories and functions of nonverbal communication within the context of the 1960 debates between presidential candidates, Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice-president Richard M. Nixon. Before the first debate, Kennedy was generally thought of as the young inexperienced underdog taking on the two termed vice president but by the end of the night, he was the winner. During the first debate both candidates spoke on domestic issues but history has proved less concerned about the farmer subsidies discussed than with the speakers’ physical appearance.
Kennedy was able to hold his own against Nixon’s rebuttals which launched him into an equal perception with viewers. However, what really propelled Kennedy as the winner was the way he presented himself as compared to how Nixon was presented. Perceptions of physical attractiveness initially have the greatest impact. We tend to want to interact with others we consider more attractive than not. That first debate was the clear turning point for Kennedy’s campaign and some would even argue it won him the presidency.
The Essay on John Fitzgerald Kennedy President Cuban Nixon
A. Family and Educational Background John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born of May 29, 1917 and was the second son of nine children of Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. The ancestors before him were of Wexford County in Ireland. John F. Kennedy's father served as first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and a US ambassador to Great Britain during Franklin D. Roosevelt's .
“It’s one of those unusual points on the timeline of history where you can say things changed very dramtically. ” (Schroeder 2000) Apparently, while Nixon was campaigning earlier that summer, he injured his knee and it became infected, requiring surgery just two weeks before that fateful September night. This left Nixon pale and underweight, as noticeable by the suit obviously too large for him. To make matters worse, he also refused to wear makeup as he was getting ready to go on set. Nixon did agree to use a drugstore pancake makeup in an attempt to hide his fast growing stubble.
This actually backfired as the hot lights in the CBS studio caused Nixon to sweat and melted the powder right off his face. As opposed to Kennedy, that had just returned from campaigning in sunny California, who appeared tanned and rested. The wardrobe chosen for the debate also seemed to work against Nixon. He chose a gray suit that made him fade into the background on set. Whereas Kennedy’s darker suit made him stand out against the background and in viewer’s minds. Posture also helped shaped credibility in the audience’s mind.
According to research linking body movements to leadership, those who lean forward, maintain eye contact, smile and assume a relaxed posture are more likely to emerge as leaders and be considered more attractive (Ketrow).
Kennedy seemed to stand up straighter and remain poised better than Nixon. Nixon’s still tender knee caused him to bend a bit and appear slouched. Even Nixon himself admitted in his book Six Crises, “I believe I spent too much time in the last campaign on substance and too little time on appearance, I paid too much attention to what I was going to say and too little to how I would look.
I should have remembered that a picture is worth a thousand words. ” Nixon also failed at one of the most important aspects of public speaking, eye contact. During the course of the debate Kennedy spoke directly into the camera as he answered questions. Nixon on the other hand, looked off camera and made eye contact with the four news correspondents instead of engaging his real audience, the American people watching at home. This was negatively perceived by those watching as Nixon shifting his gaze to avoid eye contact. Kennedy seemed a natural to the new medium of television whereas Nixon prepared much the same way he would for a radio show.
The Essay on Facial Contact Eye People
Kelly MillerTitleNonverbal expressions of emotions are not consciously controlled, lending them to being more basal and honest. "It is difficult to bring nonverbal behavior under conscious control. [. ] The behavior is automatic, an unconscious reflex." (Be rko et al 100) Researchers from Darwin to Leathers have studied the universality outward display of emotions and how they can be non .
The Debate Over The Communications Act
. prominent members of Congress were opposed to the Communications Decency Act, including Newt Gingrich. Senator Patrick Leahy . to the benefits of the "information superhighway." The Communications Decency Act angered many Americans, who believed it .
John F. Kennedy 2
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Non Verbal Communication
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John F Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
. alliteration and bold imagery. The devices emphasized the fact that Kennedy was campaigning for better freedom for not only the people of . it seem as though everybody is equal in the eyes of God. When Kennedy states that we shall ‘bear any burden, meet .
Organizational Communication 3
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. soon as they could get rid of Kennedy. With Nixon running against Kennedy again, Bush, Ford and Nixon knew that they had to get . The debate about Kennedys assassination has been mixed by emotional arguments array .
Revisiting the Kennedy-Nixon Debates of 1960
As a means of preparing for the first presidential debate of 2020 this Tuesday night, I entered a You Tube time machine this past week and traveled back to late September, 1960, almost exactly 60 years ago. That’s when Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon of California squared off against Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts in the first of a series of four debates that stretched into mid-October, each of them lasting just under an hour.
Yes, I took one for the Traversing team by watching all four over a few days, feeling mostly, I am glad to report, riveted. Just underneath that feeling, though, I noted a mixture of lamentation over how much has changed—mostly not for the better—in presidential debates over the subsequent decades.
Let’s get to the one glaring improvement right out of the blocks here. In the four 1960 debates, there were four panelists and one moderator for each debate. The four panelists were different each time, as were the moderators, with the exception of NBC’s Frank McGee, who moderated two debates.
Nineteen print or broadcast journalists total.
All 19 of them middle-aged white males.
Add the candidates, and it made for 21.
That complete white male domination of the important man’s man work of quizzing the man’s man candidates on stage? We are never going back to that world, its very strangeness so awful from the first moments…
The difference in the media landscape now is staggering. Although the format was different in 2016, with single moderator/panelists in two of the three debates and a duo in the other, the four total moderators are not at all unrepresentative of today’s media world: a straight black man (Lester Holt), a gay white man (Anderson Cooper), a straight woman (Martha Raddatz), and a straight white man (Chris Wallace).
And up on stage, a straight white man and the first woman major party presidential nominee in American history.
That complete white male domination of the important man’s man work of quizzing the man’s man candidates on stage? We are never going back to that world, its very strangeness so awful from the first moments, as if it were held on some distant, white males-only planet that all these men had rocketed to for the event. The sight of it, in all its shocking glare, stands as a testament to just how much has changed (for the better) in my own lifetime.
But then there’s all the rest of it. To behold Kennedy and Nixon holding forth on the great issues of the day, with ready command of facts, fluid speaking styles with nary a pause, gaffe, sneer or gloat, in sometimes strenuous disagreement but always with a sense of decorum befitting the office they were questing, is to feel shortchanged today.
It is to feel our intelligence belittled by carefully rehearsed soundbites from candidates jammed by impossibly tight time constraints. (“Your health plan, please—you have 60 seconds.”)
It is to endure preening from media star panelists who have themselves become part of a reality TV juggernaut, along with studio audiences whose hoots and hollers give the entire proceedings the air of a freak show on a carnival midway.
The lily white male nature of the 1960s panelists aside, these were serious journalists who did not consider themselves part of the story or fuss about their hair or their ratings, but were instead there to perform a necessary but not star-turning function. They tended to be as gray in temperament as the black-and-white television presentations they were part of, which lent a proper air, in my view, of dignity and self-restraint to the proceedings.
As the debates wore on, disagreements became sharper and objections more strenuous when each candidate felt the other had distorted his position. These were warriors, after all, vying for a surpassingly important chiefdom.
That said, never did the proceedings descend to the kind of vituperation, derision and “gotcha” attacks we have seen all too regularly in both parties’ primary debates of recent years, and in the 2016 Trump-Clinton debates, a selection of which, my dear friends, I also subjected myself to in preparation for this post, to the extent I could stand. (Yes, I will gladly take your expressions of sympathy and comfort whenever you see fit to offer them for throwing myself on that grenade…)
Nixon in particular, and ironically, considering his ignominious downfall another 13 years hence, made every effort to emphasize his and Kennedy’s shared goals and broad agreement on a number of matters concerning America’s place in the world and, most importantly, the battle against authoritarianism. (More on the latter below.)
These lines are plucked just from his opening statement in the first debate, the spirit of them repeated regularly over subsequent debates when Nixon, crafty politico that he was, wanted to emphasize his statesmanship just before launching a substantive zinger at what he considered Kennedy’s well-intentioned but misbegotten policies on any number of issues.
“…The things that Senator Kennedy has said many of us can agree with….I subscribe completely to the spirit that Senator Kennedy has expressed tonight… Here again, may I indicate that Senator Kennedy and I are not in disagreement as to the aims….The question is the means…”
Nixon ended that eight-minute opening statement with this, which not only continued his avoidance of questioning Kennedy’s character or motives, but also draws the fault lines of Republican vs. Democratic arguments on poverty, among many other issues, in a way that has changed not a whit in the 60 years since:
“The final point that I would like to make is this: Senator Kennedy has suggested in his speeches that we lack compassion for the poor, for the old, and for others that are unfortunate. Let us understand throughout this campaign that his motives and mine are sincere. I know what it means to be poor. I know what it means to see people who are unemployed. I know Senator Kennedy feels as deeply about these problems as I do, but our disagreement is not about the goals for America but only about the means to reach those goals.”
Now a few words about foreign relations and America’s place in the world. This matter undergirded even the debate segments devoted to domestic policy, given that both candidates emphasized that leadership on the world stage is critically dependent on keeping our own house in order.
This was 1960, remember, entering still softly on the heels of the dreamy ‘50s, before the Vietnam quagmire, the rise of the hippies and an overt drug culture, and the burning of cities by blacks finally sick unto death of their lives not mattering.
Then, as now, two distant nemeses bestrode the international stage, trying to elbow America off it.
Kennedy and Nixon were both cold warriors, vehemently anti-authoritarian after having sifted through the shattered material and metaphorical remnants of World War II, the drastic takeover of Eastern Europe and beyond by the Russians, and China’s ever encroaching domination of Asia.
Rather curiously, the fate of a few small islands off Taiwan led to repeated clashes between the candidates, which moderators seemed unable to resist returning to through multiple debates.
And though the issue gave rise to each party’s historic tropes—Nixon accusing Kennedy of being permissive with China, Kennedy implying Nixon was a warmonger, unnecessarily inflaming the situation—the far more relevant point is just how seriously both candidates viewed their responsibilities of managing what they considered the mortal and persistent threat posed by the same two Communist powers that today remain our staunch and powerful ideological foes.
While both candidates spoke hopefully of future efforts at disarmament, neither was deluded in the least about just how arduous those efforts would be. Nor how vulnerable freedom always is in a fallen world whose agenda is driven all too often by bad actors who not only display fear, distrust, greed and treachery, but also cultivate those qualities in their people, pitting them against each other as a means of retaining power.
Of course, the specter of today’s Republican president cozying up to the Soviet premier, speaking approvingly of China’s genocide of an ethnic population, “falling in love” with the North Korean dictator and expressing ongoing admiration for other despots around the world, all while his party’s congressional delegations look on benignly, would surely have not only Kennedy but Nixon, too, clawing at their graves, trying to rise once more to sound their well-honed and earnest alarms against authoritarianism.
The plain fact of that threat now being evident from within, from the very presidency each man pursued with a promise to protect the nation’s freedom above all, would surely earn their everlasting ire.
So here, in the wake of my 1960 debates tour, are my main concerns about Tuesday night and the two other debates to follow.
• The two-hour format is patently ridiculous. The one-hour allotted to the candidates in 1960 was packed and crisp, dense with content that provided meaningful forums for each candidate to make his views on many different issues known. It was also plenty enough to give viewers insights into their character, approaches to discourse, and their grace under fire.
If it can’t be said and revealed in an hour and two more after that, the entire proceedings are probably more about the candidates blathering on with sound bites or carefully honed insults and traps, which the media scoop up like shiny oysters and harvest for ratings that keep them running the tape for days.
• Thankfully, blessedly, there were no“spin rooms”in 1960, no preening “expert” panelists poring over every pimple on a candidate’s chin, misstated date or verbal stumble. No post-debate interviews of campaign managers (“How do you think your candidate did?” “Great!”), or the candidates themselves (“How do you think you did?” “Great!”).
Is there anything more absurd than asking naked partisans such questions? “Naked partisans” also accurately describes many of the media “analysts” who weigh in on the debates, their affiliations clear as day, dripping with disdain for the candidate they don’t support. Do we really need this kind of input to help us understand and sift through what we just saw?
There is a kind of intellectual laziness implied by the whole post-debate show that really doesn’t amount to beans, focused as it tends to be on the superficialities of combativeness rather than policy contrasts, invective rather than information, appearance rather than intelligence. But it is seemingly with us to stay, though my increasing sense is we may well do better to simply click the TV off as soon as the debate ends, then take the dog for a walk and perhaps catch a star.
Ironically, many historical analyses of the 1960 debates do focus on the superficiality of appearance—specifically comparing Kennedy’s youthful vigor to Nixon’s sallow visage. This was especially remarked upon in the first debate, which drew the most viewers at 70 million people, at least 20 million more than watched the others.
Nixon, as it happened, had been ill through the week, both from the flu and a lingering knee infection he had incurred after banging it into a car door on the campaign trail—and which he reinjured entering the studio for the debate. And once under the studio lights, he began to visibly, if not dramatically, perspire on his chin, which became a huge and lasting media takeaway.
Indeed, it had been one of the very few items I had remembered from the debate myself over these many years, having watched as a 9-year-old with a budding interest in the daily newspaper and the affairs of the world that my parents followed with sustained attention, them being Hungarian immigrants who had fled the ravages of post-war Europe.
Interestingly, I watched for the tell-tale perspiration to appear again this week, and as it did, I noted it briefly to myself—and promptly forgot about it as I absorbed the truly significant content prompted by on-point questions from the panelists.
Historians, it turns out, tend to view the 1960 debates as the beginning of the mass media age for politics, since they were the first to be televised. Sure, it was a serious and sober affair, in marked contrast to so much of what passes for “debate” today. But in the inevitable capture and objectification of image that is part and parcel of the visual world, seeing the candidates as few voters had ever seen them before was a turning point, both for the voters and the candidates themselves.
Candidates suddenly had to concern themselves with matters such as makeup, their complexion under artificial light, and the “likability” they might engender or not depending upon their smile, their reactions to their opponents, and other matters that had never before required their attention.
• Finally, how does one debate a relentless liar who launches falsehoods into the atmosphere like spring trees do pollen? And whose main form of “debate” consists of personal insults?
Donald Trump is the master of personal invective it is all he knows. It’s how he keeps himself and his base entertained and his opponents off balance and on the defensive, fruitlessly trying to chase down his lies and play on his terms.
I’m certain Biden’s team has prepared him for that with exhaustive hours of practice and clever ripostes, but the prospect of listening to such guff exhausts me just thinking about it. Are we supposed to watch a couple hours of post-debate fact-checking by a network to set the record straight?
My own comfort in this matter comes from my belief that this election doesn’t really hinge on Biden’s or even Trump’s “performance” in these debates.
Trump’s lies and character defects are both legion and universally known, and that fact either revolts you, as well it should, or you have sloughed it off in some deal with denial or the devil.
This election is above all a referendum on Donald Trump. So as long as Biden doesn’t turn suddenly catatonic or starts ripping his clothes off mid-debate, very few viewers will be changing their minds about who these candidates are.
And then there is Biden’s now much-chronicled stuttering problem, which put huge swaths of his historical public utterances into perspective when it became widely revealed over the past year. My own sense is that Biden should talk about his stuttering himself, maybe even in his opening statement, before Trump does so in the utterly boorish way that is his stock in trade, or the media does so in the post-debate analyses if Biden stumbles at any turn.
The fact that a lifelong stutterer is on the verge of becoming president of the United States should be celebrated and understood fully, for all it says about the human will, destigmatization, and inclusiveness. It will be a true testament to the diversity that has always been, through struggles historic and courageous, our greatest strength and hope for our future as a united nation of states.
A recent offering from one of our most eloquent and incisive musical prophets…
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