October 24, 1960
NEW YORK -- Watching the fourth debate1 between the Presidential candidates, I had the feeling that Senator Kennedy, though at times irritated by his opponent, was rather enjoying himself, but that the Vice President was not enjoying it at all.
I was away from home, having made a speech on the U. N. in Long Island,2 and so I knew none of the people with whom I saw the program. I therefore watched them, as well as the program itself, in order to get their reactions. As so often happens, I am sure most people watching were affected by their own feelings primarily, and I doubt whether anyone's vote was changed by the debate.
Mr. Nixon's technique of stating as facts what as a rule are only half facts requires, of course, that his adversary have a very complete knowledge of the various subjects under discussion, with details of time and dates well in hand. It is curious, too, that the same technique in speaking employed by the Vice President in these debates is copied by a number of his colleagues on the hustings. He, himself, is apt to be "clarifying" what he meant for several days after the debate. Similarly, Senator Javits is now clarifying what he is reported to have said the other day on the prestige of the U. S. in other parts of the world.3
Whatever our political opinions may be, I believe we can be grateful to the networks for having given us these four debates. They have been a milestone in TV usefulness, and have served to introduce the candidates and the people to each other. I would in the future far rather see debates where the two opponents were alone on the stage and where their ideas and views throughout were exchanged man to man, without the intervention of reporters. Perhaps it would be effective to have a moderator to start them off and, if they got too heated, to calm them down. Since this technique is probably here to stay, we can improve on it as the years go on and make it of ever greater value to the people who have to vote on Election Day.
Index to this Document: American Association of University Professors (AAUP): Jacob Javits's speech before; Castro, Fidel: Jacob Javits on; City College of New York; Cold War: Kennedy-Nixon debates and; Congo: Javits, Jacob: on American prestige; on Castro; on Nixon; ER's criticism of; speech to AAUP; on U-2 incident; Kennedy, John F.; Kennedy-Nixon debates: Cold War and; fourth debate, JFK's performance; Theodore White on; My Day; Nixon, Richard: ER's criticism of; Jacob Javits's criticism of; on American prestige; on U-2 incident; Roosevelt, Eleanor: on Jacob Javits; JFK, endorsement of; on Kennedy-Nixon debates; Nixon, criticism of; on television and politics; U.S. government, on foreign policy of; U-2 incident: Jacob Javits and; Nixon and; United States (U.S.): image of; White, Theodore: on Kennedy-Nixon debates
Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. http://adh.sc.edu.
For more information, visit The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers home page at http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/.
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