I came across the below video today and wanted to share it. I think it’s interesting on a number of levels. Here’s a few of my observations in no particular order.
1. This was the first TV presidential debate in 1960. It featured VP Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy.
2. I was only seven-years-old at the time but do remember it as an enormously big deal. I’m sure I was bored to tears but do recall my parents watching it.
3. I was in a Catholic School at the time, first or second grade. The nuns told us that our parents should vote for Kennedy simply on the basis that Kennedy was Catholic. Most probably did, I know mine did.
This is not entirely true in-so-far as my folks are concerned. In the video you will note that JFK invokes FDR. In 1960 FDR was a bit of folk hero. The people of my parent’s generation would credit him with getting us out of the Depression and for winning WW2. I think my folks were predisposed toward the Democrats for a long-long time mostly because of their perception of Roosevelt. I think the Catholic issue was simply the clincher.
My parents would have considered themselves independents (you know, those folks who will decide the current election) although leaning Democrat. They stuck with the Democrats until Ronald Reagan’s second term with the exception, ironically of Richard Nixon in 1968.The issue in 1968 was Vietnam and they felt, especially my dad, that peace with honor as Nixon promised was the way to go. Dad saw the war as one we had no intention of winning and no doubt he didn’t want his teen-age son to be drafted into a quagmire like Vietnam that didn’t have a clear-cut end-game.)
By 1984 they could no longer support any Democrat because they saw their party as opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church. They reluctantly went to the Republican side of the aisle and never went back. They passed away prior to Obama’s election and I sincerely doubt they would have supported him since they were steadfastly pro-life.
4. The story is that Nixon lost because the lighting did not favor him and he appeared darker than JFK. I doubt that had much to do with it but what do I know, I was only seven.
I thought JFK was cool because he was a PT boat commander in WW2. He was also cool because he had that Boston accent. We lived in Boston a year prior to the election and when we came back to Wisconsin my little friends had a hard time understanding my accent! Amazing how fast you can lost a mid-west accent!
5. The person who posted the video on YouTube seems to favor Kennedy because he puts up uncomplimentary “thought bubbles” over Nixon while Kennedy speaks. Most are funny I admit. What is more interesting to me however is how articulate and issues oriented both candidates are. Kennedy’s actions as President as well as some of the statements he makes in the debate illustrate that there was a less of a gap between the two parties than there is now.
The question to me is which party has moved the furthest from their core principles since this first televised debate 52 years ago? If you listen closely to even this short snippet you will hear Kennedy say things like we’ve supported education to the point of almost zero sum gain. You’ll also hear him say we should be developing natural resources and taking a strong stand against the Soviets (which he dd as President-the Cuban Missile Crisis and declaring to the Berlin Germans that he was with them-a rather big deal at the time when the Red Army was massed in East Germany.)
Kennedy as a Democrat President appears to be a far cry from Obama as a Democrat President. Kennedy’s Democrats appear to be a far cry from the so-called Progressive Democrats of Obama. In the below debate you’ll hear both candidates imply two distinct courses of action for the country in 1960. How much more in 2012?