Staff photo by Don Himsel Archive photo by the Milford Cabinet

The November 10, 2015 Telegraph column-

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

First televised debate in 1960 featured Kennedy, Nixon

Don Himsel

The 1960 presidential election placed two-term vice president Richard M. Nixon up against John F. Kennedy. One of the more notable points of the election was the first televised presidential candidate debates.

On Sept. 26 of that year, Vice President Nixon and challenger Kennedy sat down in a spartan set at a Chicago CBS Television studio. It was to be a long, long road to the stylish presentation seen today – literally, as the Republicans this time gather for this Nov. 10 debate in Milwaukee.

Kennedy held that oft- referred to look of a fit and capable man. Nixon, though certainly not as worn out as he’d look later in his political career, was battling an illness and nursing a leg injury which, when combined with the ever-present facial stubble he himself was aware of, built a weak figure in front of the cameras.

In a 2012 Chicago Tribune newspaper story, Ron Grossman recalled an earlier Trib report right after the event:

“On that show, Nixon’s face showed lines and shadows, magnified on the screen, which made him appear to be a weary man,” the Tribune wrote. “He contributed to this impression by an almost diffident approach, not in character with the public picture of him as a tough, aggressive fighter – the man who poked a finger into Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s stomach and reminded him he didn’t know everything.”

Speaking specifically on visual presentation, it’s widely believed Kennedy took that debate. Radio-wise, it went to the more politically experienced Nixon. In that original Tribune story, they hoped “in future encounters, they will show that they are made of sterner stuff than pie crust.”

There were a total of four televised debates that year. In the end, it was Kennedy.

That end was the impetus for this photograph, acquired from the Milford Cabinet files, though I can’t remember exactly how I came to possess it.

The caption that accompanied it reads, “In 1960, Milford Selectman Malcolm M. Carter, a Republican, lost an election bet to Edgar Liberty, when John F. Kennedy beat Richard M. Nixon for the presidency. So Carter had to push Liberty around the Milford Oval in a wheelbarrow as Henry Destroismaisons, left, kept order in the streets of Union Square.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590, DHimsel@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DonH.

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