Sometimes I go back in time and revisit the world of politics as it was during my formative years, that is during the time I began to notice politics and get acquainted with the characters.
Last evening I watched part of what I think was the first of four presidential candidate debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon (the first-ever presidential debates on TV).
The striking thing in these days’ terms is how much they seemed to agree with each other and how they both were extremely civil to one another, and yet were able to critique each other’s specific policy differences.
At the time both Nixon and Kennedy favored the federal government’s role in serving as a safety net or in some type of economic support role for the populace. However it seemed that Kennedy the Democrat favored a more intensive role, while Nixon the Republican not as much — he was more for the free market being the big decider.
Kennedy handled a question about subsidizing farmers when small business did not get the same support. His answer was that farmers did not have a lot of leeway because they tended to follow the same cycle with their crops coming to market at the same time and for the most part had little to no control over the price their buyers offered.
Nixon suggested that the subsidies were the government’s doing when it was promoting full production in World War II but that the subsidies ought to be gradually removed and the free market take over.
(And the foregoing is of course my paraphrase or summary or generalization of what they said on the topic.)
And wouldn’t you know it? There was a kind of gotcha or I might say unfair question to Nixon from one member of the press. He asked Nixon to explain the fact that while he, Nixon, campaigned on the fact that he had experience (he was the vice president), President Eisenhower when confronted with the question of what important suggestions by Nixon had been made policy famously (or infamously) responded: “If you give me a week, I might think of one”.
I thought Nixon deftly handled that embarrassing question. He said something to the effect that it would not be proper for a president to relay what his advisors told him or to expect him to do so. When a decision is made it has to be the president’s alone, even though it may be made after counsel with his various cabinet members and advisors.
Both men comported themselves in a dignified way.
I’m pretty sure that if one of them had resorted to childish name calling he would have lost by a landslide.
My how the world has changed.
I mentioned that the two seemed to have agreed with each other on most issues, with their differences being primarily in degree, but I think even if they had polar opposite views they would have conducted themselves in the same manner. They were men of their times.