Good Reading : August 2008
hotel and emerged fifteen minutes later with ‘a big grin on his face’, according to one friend. He then headed for the television studio. Nixon, on the other hand, arrived in Chicago only the night before the debate, tired from barnstorming through eleven states and plagued by a fever from his still-infected knee. He refused to see people the next day and spent six hours cramming for the debate by studying policy reports.When he finally did get to the studio, he once again banged his knee getting out of the car, leaving him in great pain. When Kennedy came in, said one observer, the two men shook hands ‘like prizefighters’. ‘How’re you doing?’ Kennedy said, casually. ‘You have a big crowd in Cleveland,’ Nixon replied. Kennedy then proceeded to ignore Nixon and those watching felt that it was here that Nixon began to feel intimidated, leading to a crucial error on his part. When Kennedy was asked if he wanted makeup, he said no - he was so suntanned, in any event, that he looked ‘like a young Adonis’, according to a writer present. Probably because Kennedy had refused it, Nixon did, too. But Nixon did not look like a Greek god. He was pale, in pain and his always heavy beard cast a dark shadow across his face. He finally did agree to put on a product called Lazy Shave, a kind of roll- on powder meant to disguise five o’clock shadows, but it merely gave him an even ghostlier pallor. To further erode Nixon’s confidence, Kennedy left the room and waited until three minutes before airtime to come walking confidently out onto the set. When the debate began – before a television audience of sixty million people – Nixon was already defeated. Even so, he gave a good enough performance that those listening on the radio thought he had won. But those watching on television – those who saw the handsome, confident Kennedy and the pale, sweating Nixon – knew he had lost. Nixon’s own running mate, Henry Cabot Lodge, later said: ‘That son of a bitch had just lost the election.’ Television, it turned out, was where it counted. Of those watching the debate, forty-three per cent said Kennedy had won, twenty-nine percent thought it had been a tie, and twenty-three per cent responded that Nixon had won. And a poll taken soon afterward saw Kennedy ahead now, forty-nine to forty-six per cent. Great Rivals in History by Joseph Cummins is published by Pier 9, rrp $45.00. John Marsden’s new take on Hamlet Celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day! Daniel Herborn on Russian writing NEW SENSATION Meet Andrew Davidson author of The Gargoyle AUSTRALIAN CLASSIC Kenneth Slessor’s Five Bells FROM THE HEART Joanne Fedler on Things Without a Name ORDER YOUR COPY NOW! NEXT ISSUE on sale 29 August The television debates between Nixon and Kennedy during the 1960 presidential election highlighted the differences between the two men, and increased the appeal of the television-savvy Kennedy.