OCTOBER 24, 1960
NEW YORK—Watching the fourth debate 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, 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.
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.
The threat of a teachers' strike has again arisen here in New York City. Now, I have every sympathy with the teachers who say that promises have been broken time after time and that they have no real way of getting a hearing. But the people who are affected by a teachers' strike are primarily the children of the city, and I think we ought to be able to devise a method by which justice can be brought about without such drastic measures as a strike. A strike will leave school children unprotected on the streets. Their parents will be worried as they go about their work. Thus it is not just the academic time lost for the young people; it is the fact that they are in real danger of getting into trouble with the law during these periods of idleness.
There are many elements here in common with the strike of the hospital employees not long ago. One might have wanted to take sides with either the employees or the hospital authorities, but the people who suffered were the ill patients in the hospitals. I felt strongly at the time that there ought to be some kind of machinery of an obligatory nature where hearings could be held, witnesses heard, and both sides given a fair chance to put their case before the public—with someone acceptable to both sides selected as a judge to hear the cases and give the final decision.
The school situation is perhaps even more serious than the hospital emergency. There, at least, the hospital patients were in bed and volunteers came to take the places of those on strike. But in the case of the teachers it is not so easy to find substitutes who can really fulfill jobs satisfactorily, and the harmful results may well go on for many months.
One therefore cannot help urging the teachers not to strike. At the same time, I think those of us belonging to boards and groups having any influence with the Board of Education should make it clear that we oppose these strikes in the interests of the children and not because we do not expect the Board of Education to do something about the teachers' complaints. They are legitimate complaints. They should be heard, made public, and we should be articulate in our reaction.