11 November 2016

Kennedy v. Nixon: A Proper Presidential Debate

10 Heshvan 5777
Erev Shabbath Lekh Lekha

When I wrote yesterday that I remembered the Kennedy-Nixon debates, I hadn't checked YouTube (it seems like one may find there everything since the dawn of moving pictures!). My husband found the first one and we watched it together. I had told him that I remembered the candidates sitting down; and, sure enough, in the opening shot there they are, sitting, with the moderator between them. Each one stands only to speak, at a music stand for each of them.

They don't dare do that today! No sitting onstage, and certainly no music stand; each candidate has a full-fledged podium at which to deliver his or her point of view. Then, color television had not made its appearance, and an ultra-simple set sufficed (not even a curtain around the set, called a cyclorama, or cyc - pronounced sike - for short); today, sets must be elaborate and colorful to appear proper. Even the furniture must at least look solid (unless you have high-definition TV, in which case the viewer will see all the flaws, so expensive-looking furniture must be used on the set).

More to the point, words were more important then, and had to have at least the ring of truth; sincerity was a key term and value. Today there seems to be no such concern, since "everything is relative" and only the narrative matters.

Without further ado, I present the first Kennedy-Nixon Debate (58:35, originally film), which took place on 26 September 1960, when both candidates were young and fresh. Even Nixon looks good on camera! Only his voice seems more off-putting than Kennedy's, later in his speech.

I was a couple of months shy of 5 years old. My mother and I watched it together on our black-and-white television set. I know, I'm dating myself...

They don't make debates like this anymore...more if you want to watch them.

And a bonus video: President Kennedy in the face of the Cuban Missile Crisis, complete and uncut (18:42). Democrats don't dare speak forthrightly anymore, as the President does here. And USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev backed down. Yes, the Soviet Union had brought those missiles to Cuba, the better to threaten everyone in the Western Hemisphere within thousands of miles in all directions.

President-elect Trump, listen up!

Shabbat shalom!