The TV Debates:
In election year 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon took part in the first televised presidential debate, hosted by legendary newsman Walter Cronkite. This was the beginning of modern media-driven politics: JFK came across as suave, confident and handsome in front of the camera, whereas Nixon came across as tired, awkward and dishevelled. Kennedy had rested before the debates, and taken care to wear a bold, dark suit. In contrast, Nixon was exhausted from a strenuous campaign which had taken him across all 50 states, refused to use make-up, and sweated profusely. Television audiences therefore felt that Kennedy won the debate, while radio audiences felt the reverse”
Read through the opening question from Walter Cronkite, then read Nixon’s response. Your teacher will clarify any of the points made which require context.
Next, discuss what you think Kennedy’s response to Nixon’s reply should be.
Finally, watch a video clip of this opening exchange.
a. To what extent did you correctly anticipate Kennedy’s response?
b. What policy objectives does Kennedy clearly have?
Part of the new study unit on The Foreign Policy of President Kennedy