Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
In the first debate between presidential candidates ever televised, Richard Nixon appeared pale, nervous and slightly sinister next to his youthful, vigorous-looking opponent, John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had allowed makeup and wardrobe experts to work their magic; Nixon had not. In a triumph of image, television viewers said Kennedy won the debate. Radio listeners gave it to Nixon. An excerpt from The Post of Sept. 27, 1960:
Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Sen. John F. Kennedy met in a historic television debate last night in which they calmly but firmly disagreed with each other on the means America should adopt to meet its goals.
Millions of Americans listened to the two presidential candidates as they argued with equanimity and confidence the differences that separated them and their parties.
Both appeared stiff as tailor's dummies at the outset, but the experienced debaters quickly came alive and were at all times in full command of their presentations and rebuttals.
It was much more of a debate than many expected -- far more of a debate than the exchange Kennedy had with Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey during the West Virginia primary. It clearly posed the differences between the two men and their parties.
Nixon said at several points that they agreed on their goals for America but that they disagreed on the means. Kennedy agreed only at the end that their goals were substantially the same but the means different.
The Democrat strongly emphasized his party's programs while the Republican candidate put the stress on his experience in executive affairs.
Both revealed an extraordinary grasp of subject matter and detail regarding the Nation's domestic problems. They obviously had fully prepared for the debate, calling on their experience of the last few years.
Each was able to respond to the other in quick and detailed replies.
Each drew heavily from campaign speeches but gave his statements greater emphasis by contrasting them immediately and directly with his opponent's remarks.
Kennedy, who spoke first because he won a flip of the coin, bore down hard on the theme that the country must move ahead rapidly in all fields if it is to meet the Communist challenge as well as its own destiny.
He said that if the people were satisfied with the progress being made they should vote for the Republican nominee; if they want a President who will outline new goals for the future they should vote Democratic.
Nixon insisted that his programs would better take the country to new heights and that Kennedy's programs would result in more governmental authority and less choice for individual Americans.