Kennedy-Nixon Debates In the Presidential Election of 1960 John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Richard Milhouse Nixon were in a series of debates that were different from past debates. The three biggest national television networks arranged for the debate to be televised on all three stations. The Democratic candidate, Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts, and Vice President Nixon both agreed on the televised debates. Each debate was given a subject matter that the candidates agreed to correspond their answers with the subject. The first debate was for the issues concerning domestic questions, the second was centered around the area of foreign policy, and the third and fourth debates were basically a repetition of previous topics. During each debate four news representatives asked questions to each candidate. On September 26, 1960 the first debate took place in Chicago.
The moderator was Howard K. Smith, and his job was to introduce the candidates and controlled the question and answer segments of the debates. He instructed the candidates to give their 8 minute opening speech and their three minute closing speech. The first introduced by Smith was Senator Kennedy. Kennedy’s concept throughout his opening statement was that the world would move in the same direction that the U.S.
moved. That was in regard to how the U.S. moved ahead toward freedom. He also stated that the American people should be aware of the communists, Khrushchev in the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communists, how they were on the move and America had to counter and move towards freedom. Kennedy said that America had to be a strong as possible to keep the world moving in the right direction. Another point he made was the lack of American progression, and the way we weren’t utilizing our natural resources. “I believe in effective governmental action.
And I think that’s the only way the United States is going to maintain its freedom. It’s the only way that we’re going to move ahead. I think we can do a better job. I think we’re going to have to do a better job if we are going to meet the responsibilities which time and events have placed on us. We cannot turn the job over to anyone else.
If the United States fails then the whole cause of freedom fails.” (The First Kennedy Nixon Debate, p.2) After Kennedy was finished Smith announced for Vice President Nixon to give his opening statement. Nixon agreed with Kennedy about the U.S. having to move. Nixon compared his thoughts on Communism to a deadly competition, and that the U.S. was ahead and needed to stay that way.
He disagreed with Kennedy because Kennedy said that the U.S. had been standing still, and Nixon pointed out that we had been moving. He stated that our gross national product was the highest in the world, that more schools had been built, we had developed more hydroelectric power, and the wages of people had gone up. Nixon said the programs he supported would give all Americans an equal chance for education, better medical care for elders, and more housing. He quickly shot down Kennedy’s programs and said that with Kennedy the U.S.
would quit moving and go stagnate. One of Nixon’s major points was the spending of each of the political platforms. He showed that with the Democratic platform would spend eighteen billion more dollars a year than what was currently being spent. Nixon and his Republican platform would only spend five billion dollars more than was being spent. In the final part of his opening he said the difference between he and Kennedy was the means of reaching the goals that the two proposed. After the opening statement the questions then were asked by the news correspondents.
One question was, “Why do you think people should vote for you rather than the Vice President?” (The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate, p.4). Kennedy responded by saying that the programs that he advocates compared to the programs advocated by Nixon was the reason that people should vote for him. One question that was posed for Nixon was, “Would you tell us please specifically what major proposal you made in the last eight years that have been adopted by the Administration?” (The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate, p.5) Nixon answered by giving very specific examples of what recommendations he made to the President about policy making. Then both candidates gave an answer to the question regarding Communism. Kennedy simply said that they needed to watch and be continually alert to what the communists were doing.
Nixon agreed and also stated that the way to fight Communism was to attack the injustices in society that the Communists feed upon. The first debate was ended by both candidates giving a summation and the moderator saying goodbye. The second debate was on October 7, 1960, and it was held in Washington DC. In this debate there was no opening or closing statements, but questions for the candidates until the time period ran out. The questions dealt with foreign policy.
One of the questions to Kennedy asked him for Kennedy’s thoughts on sending apologies to Khrushchev for the U-2 incidents. Kennedy simply said that regrets should be sent to Khrushchev just because it was the proper diplomatic duty. Nixon then commented saying that absolutely no regards should be sent because the U-2 incident was used to protect us from Russia, and we have no obligation to be sorry for it. Most of the questions focused on Russia and Khrushchev, and how the U.S. was going to handle the meetings and conditions Khrushchev was laying down.
Nixon and Kennedy agreed basically that the U.S. needed to take action against Russia, and be as strong as possible in the military and economical aspects of our country. On October 13, 1960 the third debate was held. Unlike the two debates before it, the candidates would be in separate cities. In New York Kennedy would be in a studio, and in Los Angeles, Nixon would be in a studio.
In this debate the news representatives were free to ask questioned pertaining to any topic. Kennedy was asked whether or not he would use military action to defend Berlin, Germany. He answered by saying that he would do everything to keep the commitment to Berlin as to protect Western Europe, but he never directly stated if he would use military action. A question addressed to Nixon was also about the use of the military, but the question also asked if he would use nuclear weapons on a Chinese Communist invasion of Pacific Islands. Nixon quickly responded by stating that it would be inappropriate for a president or a presidential candidate to say what course of action and what weapons he would use in such an event. He stated as Kennedy did, that he would see that the U.S. would do the necessary to keep their commitments with the Pacific Islands.
Then in reference to the first debate when Nixon said that the Democratic platform, Kennedy’s platform, would spend at least 10 billion dollars, the question was asked of Kennedy to state why Nixon was false in his accusations. Kennedy replied with by again saying that he supported a balanced budget. He then gave hard facts an examples to support himself. He said that his agricultural program would cost a billion and a half less than the present time program, reduce high interest rates, change tax laws to prevent loopholes, and medical care more for old people from Social Security taxes rather than the Treasury. With three of the four debates over, both candidates were ready for their last encounter in New York on October 21, 1960.
In this final debate each candidate would give opening and closing statements, as in the first debate. In between questions would again be asked of each of the candidates. The order given in the opening statements were changed from the first debate, making Nixon the first to speak. In Nixon’s opening statement he said that he knew what the people were most interested in. Nixon said they were most interested in the movement of freedom. He then pointed out that Communism is the main threats to freedom, and they needed to be stopped. He stressed that the U.S.
had to learn from the past and the way that dictatorial leaders were handled. Nixon said that nothing should just be turned over to the Communists because it just makes them more hungry for more land. Senator Kennedy focused his opening statements on the same subject. He said he didn’t think the U.S. was moving ahead enough to keep the Communists from gaining support.
He pointed out that the Eisenhower Administration ignored too many countries and didn’t influence them towards freedom before the Communists did. Kennedy said that if the U.S. gets involved more in other countries foreign affairs and then freedom would spread. At the end of the opening statements the question for the candidates began. One question came from Frank Singiser of Mutual News, and he asked the question, “I’d like to pin down the difference the way you would handle Castro’s regimen and prevent the establishment of Communists governments in the Western Hemisphere and the way that Senator Kennedy would proceed.
Uh -Vice President Nixon, in what important respects do you fell there are between you, and why do you believe your policy is better for the peace and security of the United States in the Western Hemisphere?”(The Fourth Kennedy-Nixon Debate, p. 5) Nixon’s answer was first to say that Senator Kennedy’s policies in handling Castro were the most dangerous and irresponsible. He suggested that if they continue to cut off trade and relations with Cuba and the Cuban people would take care of Castro and his regime. In the closing statements each candidate gave their final words, concluding the debates. Kennedy was the first that gave his closing words. First he stated that he had served the U.S.
for fourteen years, and whether he would win or loose the election , he would still serve the country in the White House or the Senate. He then stated that the republican party had stood still and the U.S. was ready for new leadership that would take the steps needed to get the U.S. on the move forward toward world freedom, he said.” And I believe it incumbent upon us to be the defenders of the United States and the defenders of freedom; and to do that, we must give this country leadership and we must get America moving again” (The Fourth Kennedy-Nixon Debate, p.13). Nixon said in his closing that America had not been standing still and it would remain moving.
He also restated that the U.S. was still in a race with the Communists, and we needed to win to protect freedom. In his final words, he said that how the winner of the election would be remembered as President would be the way that they represented the ideals of the American people. The moderator then ended the final debate and said goodbye. Kennedy went on to win the election, but only by a slim margin.
The debates of the 1960 Presidential election were written as a new precedent for political candidates, and the candidates involved showed courage and character to give their words in front of a national audience. Political Issues.