Thursday, June 27, 2024

Presidential debates and TV

President Joe Biden will debate former President Donald Trump tonight.  TV certainly has changed drastically since the autumn of 1960, when Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Vice President Richard Nixon squared off in the first televised presidential debates in American history.  There was an excitement, a novelty to those initial televised debates that can never be replicated.  For the first time, millions of Americans could watch from their living rooms as the two candidates went toe to toe.  They noticed how Nixed perspired and how he seemed to have five o'clock shadow.  Meanwhile, Kennedy seemed cool and collected.  His father, Joseph Kennedy, had made sure that JFK was well-prepared for television.

1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate

The 1960 debate were in black and white.  Secondly, they were broadcast on traditional network television. They were fresh and exciting, a novelty.  There were no 24-hour cables stations back then.  In 1960, radio was still a factor, although its influence was waning.  Tens of millions watched the debates on TV, while only 17 million heard them over the radio. 

The four 1960 debates took place in television studios, but there were no live audiences. The first debate took place on September 26, 1960, after both the Republican and Democratic conventions were over. Tonight's debate will be broadcast on CNN, a 24-hour cable news network.  It will take place prior to the conventions of both parties.  As in 1960, there will be no live audience.  

JFK was a youthful 42 years old when he debated Nixon.  Although Nixon was only 47, JFK appeared  more energetic.  The 2024 candidates are much older than Kennedy and Nixon were.  Biden is 81 years of age,  while Trump is 78.  Both grew up watching black and white TV.. Joe Biden is a lawyer turned politician.  He served as a Senator from Delaware from 1973 until 2009.  He was Vice President of the United States, under Barack Obama, from  2009 to 20017.  On January 20, 2021, he became the 46th President of the United States 

Donald Trump had never held public office before he became president.  A real estate mogul, Trump made his mark on TV, as the host a reality show called The Apprentice.  His catchphrase on the show was "Your fired!"  Before entering the political arena, Trump hosted The Apprentice for 14 seasons, from  2004 to 2017,   Trump is creature of television, a manipulator of the media.  It can be argued that without his starring role on The Apprentice, he never would have become president.

Former president Trump's antics and his controversial behaviour have brought him much media attention.  The cable news networks are absolutely saturated with news and opinions about Trump.  Let's be frank.  Trump's rantings and ravings, his impeachments and his criminal trial have been massively covered by the media.  Sure, it's news because he his the presumptive Republican candidate for president.  Let's not forget, however, that the Trump circus has been godsend for the likes of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.  He has boosted ratings and has helped them fill up space.

We will see what happens when Biden and Trump step on the stage tonight.  It could change the direction of the 2024 presidential race.

- Joanne

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