Thursday, December 28, 2006

[presidential debates] discussing real issues or cardboard cutouts

Dalek Duet

Tiberius Gracchus has been reflecting on Presidential Debates in American elections and says they “have assumed an importance over the years that makes them a key part of any campaign.

Famous moments like Lloyd Bentsen's I knew Jack Kennedy, you're no Jack Kennedy quip in the Vice Presidential Debate of 1988 or Ronald Reagan's "There you go again" in the Presidential Debate of 1980 have become part of American history. Not to mention of course the most famous debate of the lot - between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960 which supposedly won a tight election for JFK by showing him at his youthful best as opposed to what seemed to be a tired Vice President.”

Interestingly, listeners on the radio thought Nixon had won the debate but the television audience say it the other way. Some other debates:

In 1980 Reagan closed his debate with incumbent Jimmy Carter with a simple question: Are you [the American people] better off now than you were four years ago? Faced with inflation, high interest rates, a continuing energy crisis, and low American prestige abroad, many Americans felt that they were not better off, and Reagan won election.

In 1988 Dukakis had referred to himself as a "card-carrying member of the ACLU", which Bush picked up on and painted his opponent as a liberal who would sell America short. Gene Weingarten, of the Washington Post, spoke of a time when a group of journalists met Dukakis and felt he was "terrific, impressive, commanding, Presidential. We were falling all over each other to find adequate superlatives." Nieman curator Howard Simons heard us all out, then shook his head and said: "Won't win. No sense of humor."

[In an earlier post, Vox’s two principles for winning debates are argued.]


Gracchi said...

Good post as always- nice stories. My favourite is the one between Ford and Carter in which the audio failed and so the two candidates both were left standing at the podium feeling very silly but neither wanted to be the one who looked weak by sitting down. Both of them in the PBS interview say they feel it was rather pathetic now.

james higham said...

So we'll just have to look forward to the coming one. Who? Hillary and Condi?