Q & A: How Many October Surprises Have There Been?

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HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 10-25-04

How Many October Surprises Have There Been?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The first election in which an “October Surprise” played a role in the campaign was in 1864. Thereafter it was a central concern in the campaigns of 1956, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1996, 2000, and 2004. The term “October Surprise” originated in the 1980 campaign, and was coined by then Republican vice presidential candidate, George H. W. Bush. The Reagan campaign was fearful that with the hostages still being held in Iran, that incumbent and Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter would negotiate their release just prior to the presidential election, thus ensuring he would win, hence the “October Surprise.

The term usually refers, as one website put it, to a “political revelation or dramatic policy move, made late in the campaign, designed to affect the outcome of a presidential election,” which is usually engineered by the party in power. Princeton political science professor Fred Greenstein describes it as “the notion is that the October surprise is a Halloween trick for politicians.” But it can also be defined loosely as an event taking place late in a campaign that dramatically affects the outcome. The capture of Osama bin Laden between now and the election would fit this definition.

1864

In the spring of 1864 in the midst of the Civil War, Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln was worried that he would go down to defeat. Two events helped propel him to certain victory. First, the Democratic Convention, held in Chicago, nominated the former union general, George McClellan, and adopted a peace platform, which called for a negotiated end to the war, as well as a repeal of the Emancipation Proclamation. The second was the increase in decisive Union victories: Admiral G. Farragut captured Mobile; two days after the Democratic convention General Sherman took Atlanta and began marching through Georgia, Ulysses S. Grant made made progress at Petersburg, and General Philip Sheridan began his devastation of Virginia.

These victories were a turning point, which almost guaranteed an end to the war, and a Union victory. The Albany Journal wrote, “If you want to know who is going to vote for McClellan, mention Atlanta to them. The long face and the low muttered growl is sufficient. On the other hand, every Lincoln man bears a face every lineament of which is radiant with joy.” After these developments, the Radical Republican candidate, John C. Fremont, dropped out of the campaign, and the Radical Republicans supported Lincoln’s re-election. Lincoln won a decisive victory in the election. Referring to the 2004 election, historian David Herbert Donald recently wrote: “I fear an October surprise, which, of course, Lincoln was able to produce with Sherman’s help…. Then of course there’s the other side of it. Lincoln’s opponents in effect committed suicide. Put a general [George McClellan] on your ticket and a peace platform.”

1956

In the midst of the final days of the campaign between the Republican incumbent Dwight Eisenhower and Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson two foreign developments dominated the news. The first was the Suez Canal crisis. Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal which prompted the canal’s stockholders, Britain and France, with the help of Israel to invade Egypt. They intended to get rid of Nasser and internationalize the canal. Their attack was kept secret from President Eisenhower, who saw this as a betrayal by America’s allies. Eisenhower joined with the United Nations and Russia in condemning the Anglo-French-Israeli action and pressured them to withdraw their troops. Eisenhower backed up his words by imposing economic sanctions on the three countries; soon after they withdrew their troops.

Almost simultaneously Eisenhower was confronted by another international crisis. The Soviet Union brutally invaded Hungary, in an attempt to suppress the Hungarian government’s threat to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. Officials of the Eisenhower administration had previously shown support for liberating countries under Soviet domination. But Eisenhower chose not to come to the assistance of the Hungarian government, fearful that doing so might touch off a war with the Soviets. Instead, Eisenhower chose to condemn the invasion and to assist the Hungarian refugees. Although before these crises it was a forgone conclusion that Eisenhower would win his re-election bid, the events helped widen his margin of victory. The American people were not willing to change their president at a time of international uncertainty, and Eisenhower’s military record and leadership experience was deemed by the voters as assets in this climate.

1960

On October 19, two days before the final debate between Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and Republican candidate Vice President Richard Nixon, civil-rights leader Martin Luther King was arrested. King was jailed along with 52 other blacks who were trying to desegregate a Georgia restaurant. He was sentenced to four months of hard labor based on breaking probation (King had previously been charged with driving without a license, when he actually had been driving with an Alabama license in Georgia). King’s wife, Coretta, was frantic and called Harris Wofford, a Kennedy campaign aide , claiming that “they are going to kill him [King].” Wofford contacted Sargent Shriver, who was married to Kennedy’s sister Eunice. Shriver convinced Kennedy that he should telephone King’s wife, which he did, expressing his concern. Meanwhile, Kennedy’s brother Robert negotiated with the judge and secured a promise that King would be released on bail.

In contrast, Nixon consulted with Eisenhower’s attorney general, who advised him not to intervene in the matter. The Kennedys’ intervention gained JFK support from blacks, including King’s father, an influential minister who had previously supported Nixon. The senior King told the press, “I’ve got a suitcase of votes, and I’m going to take them to Mr. Kennedy and dump them in his lap.” As Evan Thomas writes in Robert Kennedy: His Life, “Just two phone calls–one by JFK, one by RFK–decided the outcome of the election, and determined the course of racial politics for decades to come.” Kennedy won the close election, 49.7 percent to Nixon’s 49.5 percent.

1964

On October 14, LBJ aide Walter Jenkins was arrested for disorderly conduct in a Washington YMCA under compromising circumstances. Jenkins, who held the position of special assistant to the president, was not only a close and loyal staffer but a family friend. Johnson campaign advisors believed that the incident would cause problems for Johnson’s campaign, and that Johnson should distance himself from Jenkins, and campaign with his wife and daughters during the last two weeks of the campaign. Johnson immediately released a statement that Jenkins had resigned from his position, but did not clarify what the position was. However, Johnson did not personally distance himself from Jenkins, offering Jenkins a position as the manager of the Johnson ranch, while the First Lady issued a statement stating, “My heart is aching today for someone who has reached the point of exhaustion in dedicated service to his country. Walter Jenkins has been carrying incredible hours and burdens since President Kennedy’s assassination. He is now receiving the medical attention that he needs.”

Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate believed that the arrest gave him the ammunition he needed to make the case of moral decline. Although no medical excuse could be found to cover the Jenkins story, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover decided to intervene, claiming that Barry Goldwater and his campaign had actually set-up Jenkins as part of a “Republican plot” to bring down Johnson. Hoover made this connection because Jenkins had served in the same Air Force unit which was commanded by Goldwater. In order to legitimize his claims, Hoover conducted an elaborate investigation. The Jenkins issue however, disappeared from the newspapers within days, and was eclipsed by foreign policy issues. Communist China successfully tested its first nuclear device and the Moscow politburo overthrew Nikita Khrushchev. The Jenkins issue became irrelevant in the campaign, and President Johnson won the election by a landslide.

1968

In October, President Lyndon Johnson was attempting to reach an agreement with the North Vietnamese in the Paris peace talks. This would allow him to halt the bombing which would salvage Vice President and Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey’s campaign. The Republican candidate Richard Nixon realized that Johnson was attempting to use the power of the presidency to help Humphrey, and accused him of doing so. Johnson denounced such claims as “ugly and unfair.” However, five days before the election on October 31, President Johnson announced a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam, stating, “I have reached this decision on the basis of developments in the Paris talks, and I have reached the belief that this action will lead to progress for a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam War.” Humphrey of course said he was pleased: “I have been hoping for months that it would happen, for months.” The bombing halt allowed many people to conclude that the end of the war might be approaching, putting Humphrey in a favorable position. Humphrey went up in the polls, but when the South Vietnamese government indicated it would not negotiate, Humphrey’s ratings again slid. Nixon won the election by a slim margin.

1972

In the weeks leading up to the end of the campaign Nixon suspended bombing in Vietnam and engaged in secret negotiations with the National Liberation Front. Just before the election at an October 26 press conference, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced, “We did agree that we would make a major effort to conclude the negotiations by October 31. As far as Saigon is concerned, it is of course entitled to participate in the settlement of a war fought on its territory. Its people have suffered much and they will remain there after we leave. We believe that peace is at hand. We believe that an agreement is within sight, It is inevitable that in a war of such complexity that there should be occasional difficulties in reaching a final solution.” Kissinger’s announcement convinced many voters that the Vietnam War would soon be over, helping Nixon win a landslide victory against his opponent, Democratic candidate George McGovern, who ran on a peace platform.

1980

Republican candidate Ronald Reagan’s campaign strategists, fearful of a late-breaking deal ending the Iranian hostage crisis, warned the public about the possibility Jimmy Carter could use the presidency to manipulate events and win the election. To neutralize the effect on the country of an “October Surprise,” Reagan and his strategists continually mentioned the possibility of something happening at the last minute. They believed that by bringing up the issue in advance the voters would see it as a cynical bid for votes rather than as the product of careful statesmanship. As Reagan said on a Tampa Bay television station in early October: “Presidents can make things happen you know.” With the one year anniversary of the hostage taking approaching on Election Day, Reagan’s comments were intended to cause public cynicism. Reagan ended up winning the election by a narrow popular margin. The hostages were released within an hour of Reagan’s inauguration.

This was not however, the end of the story. Soon after Reagan was sworn into office there were theories that, as Gary Sick a former aide on the National Security Council staff for the Carter Administration wrote in a 1991 op-ed and later in a book, “individuals associated with the Reagan-Bush campaign of 1980 met secretly with Iranian officials to delay the release of the American hostages until after the U.S. election. For this favor, Iran was rewarded with a substantial supply of arms from Israel.” The agreement also supposedly included a $40 million bribe. Sick believed that George Bush was one of those Americans that were associated with the negotiations. William Casey, a campaign adviser who was appointed head of the CIA, was also linked to the negotiations. The theory gained credibility when the Iran-contra affair was revealed. In exchange for help in releasing the American hostages held in Lebanon, the United States sold Iran truckloads of weapons. Two congressional inquiries have concluded that there is no proof the Reagan campaign made a deal with Iran in 1980.

1992

Going into the election, the Republican candidate and incumbent president, George H. W. Bush, hoped the GATT talks would result in a free trade deal. This would have given Bush an advantage over Democratic candidate Bill Clinton. Instead the Friday before the 1992 election, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who served in the Reagan administration, was indicted by independent counsel Lawrence Walsh in connection with the Iran-contra affair. The indictment distracted Bush’s campaign and suggested to some that Bush, who had claimed he was “out of the loop,” had possibly not been honest about his own role in the scandal.

1996

President Bill Clinton the incumbent Democratic candidate looked to create his own October Surprise in his re-election bid against Republican candidate Bob Dole. In June Clinton met with top FBI and CIA aides in hope of organizing a successful sting against the Russian Mafia, which had ben rumored to be interested in selling a nuclear missile. The operation failed to become a real October Surprise, however. Clinton also hoped he might be able to broker a last-minute deal between the Palestinians and Israelis. The two sides however only agreed to more talks. Clinton nonetheless won reelection, the first Democrat to do so since Franklin Roosevelt.

2000

In early November, just days before the election, police documents were leaked revealing that George W. Bush had been arrested for drunk driving in Kennebunkport, Maine in the mid 1970s. These revelations hurt Bush at the polls, and may have cost him a popular majority. Karl Rove, his chief political advisor, believes the news disillusioned millions of evangelical voters on whom Bush was counting. Bush of course won the election after the Supreme Court intervened.

2004

In the presidential campaign’s closing weeks, Democrats have been bracing for an October surprise, an event so dramatic it could influence the outcome of the election. Neither Republican incumbent George W. Bush nor Democrat John Kerry has a comfortable enough lead in the polls to afford an October Surprise. Possible surprises that could alter the election’s outcome include: a major setback in the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, the capture of Osama bin Laden, a nuclear test by North Korea, an economic shock, or another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Campaign 2004: The Third Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

HISTORY ARTICLES

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 10-14-04

The Third Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The Instant Polls

  • CNN-USA Today Gallup poll: John Kerry the winner 53 percent to George Bush’s 39 percent.
  • ABC News poll: 42 percent called Kerry the winner, 41 percent said Bush won; 14 per cent called it a tie.
  • Reuters/Zogby Poll: Bush has a one point lead 46-45 percent on Kerry in the campaign poll released Thursday, taken prior to the third debate.

Candidate Soundbites

John F. Kerry

  • “When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of him, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords and Osama bin Laden escaped. Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive this president was asked, where’s Osama bin Laden? And he said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t really think him about very much. I’m not that concerned.’ We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.
  • “The president has turned his back on the wellness of America, and there is no system and it’s starting to fall apart.”
  • “He’s the only president in 72 years to have lost jobs — 1.6 million jobs lost.”
  • ” He’s the only president to have incomes of families go down. The only president to see exports go down; the only president to see the lowest level of business investment in our country as it is today. Now I’m going to reverse that. I’m going to change that. We’re going to restore the fiscal discipline we had in the 1990s.”
  • “We’re all God’s children, Bob, and I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney’s daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she’s being who she was.”
  • “I believe that choice, a woman’s choice is between a woman, God and her doctor.”
  • “If we raise the minimum wage, which I will do over several years, to $7 an hour, 9.2 million women who are trying to raise their families would earn another $3,800 a year. The president has denied 9.2 million women $3,800 a year. But he doesn’t hesitate to fight for $136,000 to a millionaire.”
  • “Being lectured to by the president on fiscal sanity is kind of like being lectured to by Tony Soprano on law and order.”
  • “I regret to say that the president who called himself a uniter, not a divider, is now presiding over the most divided America in the recent memory of our country. I’ve never seen such ideological squabbles in the Congress of the United States. I’ve never seen members of a party locked out of meetings the way they’re locked out today ·Well, I guess the president and you and I are three examples of lucky people who married up. And some would say maybe me more so than others. But I can take it.”

George W. Bush

  • “My opponent just this weekend talked about how terrorism could be reduced to a nuisance, comparing it to prostitution, illegal gambling, I think that attitude and that point of view is dangerous.”
  • “If every family in America signed up it would cost the federal government $5 trillion over 10 years. It’s an empty promise. It’s called bait-and-switch.”
  • “Well his rhetoric doesn’t match his record. He’s been a senator for 20 years, he voted to increase taxes 98 times. When they’d try to reduce taxes he voted against that 127 times. He talks about being a fiscal conservative or fiscally sound but he voted 277 times to waive the budget caps, which would have cost the taxpayers $4.2 trillion. He talks about pay-go. I’ll tell you what pay-go
    means: when you’re a senator from Massachusetts, when you’re a colleague of Ted Kennedy, pay-go means you pay and he goes ahead and spends.”
  • “There’s a mainstream in American politics and you sit right on the far left bank. Your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative senator from Massachusetts.”
  • “What he’s asking me is will I have a litmus test for my judges. And the answer is no, I will not have a litmus test. I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution. But I’ll have no litmus tests.”
  • “Well first of all it’s – it is just not true that I haven’t met with the Black Congressional Caucus. I’ve met with the Black Congressional Caucus at the White House.”
  • “To listen to them. To stand up straight and not scowl. I love the strong women around me. I can’t tell you how much I love my wife and our daughters.”

Historians’ Comments

Gil Troy (presidential historian, professor of history, McGill University)

  • “The real winner of the debates was… the American people. I know it’s cheesy and a tad cliche, but during these times, when nerves are frayed and the conventional wisdom once again deems the campaign the ‘nastiest ever,’ I was impressed by the debates’ civility and substance. The very absence of over-the-top clashes, the great-defining gaffe which didn’t occur, meant that the candidates had an opportunity to be themselves, and millions of Americans could assess the candidates up close. John F. Kerry was John F. Kennedyesque, appearing smooth, poised, substantive and intelligent — although until his final statement, the closing statement of debate #3, he failed to offer an upbeat, inspiring vision. George W. Bush was more erratic and defensive. Defying the conventional wisdom, he was on firmer ground and far less jittery when discussing domestic issues rather than spewing out his robotic oversimplifications regarding the war on terror and Iraq. Stylistic considerations aside, the two candidates offered contrasting visions — Kerry the multilateralist v. Bush the unilateralist, Kerry the social liberal v. Bush the social conservative, Kerry the nuanced legislator adeptly juggling complex perspectives v. Bush the no-nonsense chief executive with a more black-and-white view. Yes, there were the usual obfuscations, soundbites, and postures, but, on the whole, the debates offered great political theatre and important policy instruction.”

Howard Zinn (at Democracy Now)

  • “Well, the contest, unfortunately, is not giving us any kind of fundamental reappraisal of American policy foreign and domestic. By a fundamental reappraisal, I mean we are dealing with a serious issue of the war in Iraq and we’re dealing with the serious issues of health and education, and what to do with the wealth of the United States to help people, and neither candidate is addressing the fundamentals. By that I mean, I heard them on the clip that you showed and talked about Osama bin Laden, they exchanged accusations about it. Bush denying, of course, as he denies everything, about what he said, and Kerry saying, no, you said that. It’s not important, really, about Osama bin Laden. They’re always trying to focus our attention on something that’s not fundamental. What’s fundamental is not one particular man. What’s fundamental is not even al-Qaeda. What’s fundamental, really, is American policy in the world, because if there is a root of terrorism, and that’s the problem, getting at the root of terrorism, the root of terrorism is not any one man, not any group of people in this country or that country. There are too many countries of where there’s anger against the United States, and where the anger against the United States can turn into fanaticism and into terrorism.”

Michael Beschloss (on PBS)

  • “One thing that strikes me more than anything else is this, if you think about the last five presidents before George W. Bush three of them were defeated before reelection, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, that is exactly within the period which we have had debates since 1976. And I think what has struck me more than anything else is the fact that this has changed our political system, it gives challengers a leg up against an incumbent president of a kind that we haven’t had in most of American History. If John Kerry is elected in three weeks I think many people will say he couldn’t have done it without the ability to debate George W. Bush.”
  • “I don’t think it has especially worked this year. I guess I disagree with Richard, I think the rules have been too confining, I think the two minutes answers end up being long soundbites, often times the candidates recycling languages that they have been using on the campaign trail that seem to work with audiences.”
  • “Actually, it has been different if you look at the texts of the debates before. I think this year you see language used over and over again from debate to debate. Sometimes within a debate you’ll hear the same thing said twice by the same candidates. You don’t really feel you are getting beyond the surface that was the point of these things to begin with, not just to give a big audience to a candidate to deliver his best lines.”
  • “It is a bitter atmosphere and I think it is another thing about these three debates between these Presidential candidates. These were icy debates, there was very little humor and there sure was very little humor between the two guys, and I think if you compare that to for instance to Reagan and Mondale, and even to moments of Carter and Reagan in 1980, it shows how much our political culture has changed to this take no prisoners attitudes on the two sides. In a way these debates are not a very good harbinger of this country getting a little more united as some of them talked about.”

Ellen Fitzpatrick (professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, on PBS)

  • “It’s pretty hard as an historian not to walk away from it without thinking its déjà vu all over again. If you take a really long view, and you take a look at 1960 when we had the beginning of these debates, the domestic issues for instance highlighted tonight are very much the same kinds of issues there were being debated by Kennedy and Nixon, healthcare, social provision, Kennedy and Nixon had a long discourse around the issue of providing health insurance for Americans, and Nixon portrayed Kennedy’s plan as extreme as an overreach of the Federal government. Kennedy defended it not as big government, but really as the nation taking responsibility for its citizens. What was the program that they were sparing about; Medicare. So it is really hard when you think of these debates all together, of course the foreign policy issues are different, there are different social, cultural, and value issues, the debate about abortion, gay rights those have changed I am not saying nothing’s changed, but so much of this is consistent minimum wage, jobs, education, for one thing it shows us how persistent these problems have been.”
  • “But it is still a question about what is the responsibility of the Federal government, and what is the responsibility of not only states and localities, but families and parents. I think you do have two very different visions here, even if Democrats since over the Reagan years have backed away enormously from the fundamental tenants of American liberalism and endorsing them in those terms. You notice how little we hear about the cities, about anti-poverty programs, it’s about the middle class now, and the way in which it is squeezed economically.”
  • “I think these debates continue on the John F. Kennedy comparison. One interesting thing I think, one thing Kerry did tonight which Kennedy did was Kennedy very explicitly in those debates spoke to the nation. He looked out at the camera and addressed his remarks to the American people, and Nixon was later criticized for being having a tendency to speak to his opponent more than to the nation. So Kerry capitalized on that tonight.”
  • “What I think is quite remarkable tonight is the emphasis on religion that is important. Both candidates took pains to tell their audience, to tell the American people they are deeply religious. Remember in 1960 when Kennedy was running as a Catholic, he took pains to say that his religion didn’t matter to the fact that he was running for president. These two candidates are taking pains to say it does matter, and so they are tapping into and I think shaping a very different cultural environment.”

Richard Norton Smith (director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, on PBS)

  • “I think these three debates have been very substantive, they have been informative, we’ve seen big issues discussed, broad themes struck. I think they have been very informative debates. Michael’s point is well taken, there is this burden on the incumbent, in effect he is the defender of the status quo, and people in America love new. They may not always like the consequences of the new, but as a concept new is pretty attractive. And I thought you saw John Kerry in fact playing the John F. Kennedy role.”
  • “Because I think what John F. Kennedy did in 1960 it wasn’t a specific moment in those debates we look at gaps, we look at misstatements now, we zero in on those specific moments, and we think those are what actually swayed voters. What actually John Kennedy did in 1960 and I would argue what John Kerry is clearly trying to do is a cumulative process. Over three debates he is introducing himself carefully, incrementally establishing his credibility, his alternative philosophy, his style of leadership. He is getting the voters comfortable with who he is as a man, and as a president. That isn’t something that you do in a soundbite or a single debate. We’ll know in three weeks if it worked.”
  • “I was also I struck by something that this President Bush tried to do tonight, and tried to do in the last couple of debates was reminiscent of something his father did very effectively in 1988. It goes to these issues. Remember Michael Dukakis famously said that this was an election about competence, and not ideology. Ideology is a euphemism particularly for cultural values, and the first President Bush managed really to kind of turn the corner by really trying to use these words against Michael Dukakis. You see that in a repeated attempt by this President Bush to in affect turn Kerry’s own record as he defines it, against it.”
  • “I think it was a thoughtful, substantive, and heated discussion, that’s what democracy is all about.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin (on MSNBC’s “Imus In The Morning”)

  • “It is a pretty horrific process to go through month after month. It’s not normal. I mean, who is talking all day long, who is saying their same mantra over and over again where they have to repeat it and they have to pretend that they believe it after a while. So maybe the process is just too long and thank God for the debates. At least these debates show these guys under pressure. I mean think of the pressure these two were under last night, I mean President Bush knowing his whole legacy might depend on how well he did in these debates and Kerry knowing that hail to the chief might be sung to him one day or he is back being a Senator from Massachusetts having lost this enormous stand to make history. So they do stand up under pressure.”

Comments (8)

The Second Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

HISTORY ARTICLES

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 10-11-04

The Second Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern

The Instant Polls

  • ABC News: Kerry was the winner 44 to 41 percent, with 13 percent declaring the debate a tie.
  • CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll: Kerry: 47 percent, Bush: 45 percent.
  • Reuters/Zogby poll: Kerry has a slim 46-45 percent lead on Bush in the campaign in the latest poll.

Candidate Soundbites

George W. Bush

  • At one point [George W. Bush] interrupted moderator Charles Gibson’s follow-up question after Kerry said he was “not going to go alone like this president did” in Iraq. “I’ve got to answer this,” Bush said, jumping off his stool.
  • “You tell Tony Blair we’re going alone,” he said, loudly. At other points, his voice was almost a yell. (CBS’s Dick Meyer’s account of an exchange during the debate)
  • Kerry has”been in the Senate 20 years. Show me one accomplishment he’s had on Medicare.” (Kerry: “Actually, Mr. President, in 1997 we fixed Medicare, and I was one of the people involved in it.”)
  • “I wasn’t happy when we found out there wasn’t weapons, but Saddam Hussein was a unique threat. And the world is better off without him in power. And my opponent’s plans lead me to conclude that Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and the world would be more dangerous [if Kerry had been president].”
  • “I can see why people think that he changes position quite often, because he does.”
  • “I don’t seen how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.”
  • “Uh, let me see where to start here. First, the National Journal named Senator Kennedy the most liberal senator of all. And that’s saying something in that bunch. You might say that took a lot of hard work.” (Referring to Kerry as Kennedy.)
  • “Yeah, I mean he’s got a record. He’s been there for 20 years. You can run but you can’t hide. He voted 98 times to raise taxes. I mean these aren’t made-up figures. And so people are going to have to look at the record. Look at the record of the man running for the president.”

John F. Kerry

  • “The president didn’t find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he has really turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception, and the result is that you’ve been bombarded with advertisements suggesting that I’ve changed a position on this or that or the other.”
  • “The world is more dangerous today because the president didn’t make the right judgments. So what does he do? He’s trying to attack me. He wants you to believe that I can’t be president.”
  • “The president is just trying to scare everybody here with throwing labels around. I mean, ‘compassionate conservative,’ what does that mean? Cutting 500,000 kids from after-school programs, cutting 365,000 kids from health care, running up the biggest deficits in American history. Mr. President, you’re batting 0 for 2.”
  • “Boy, to listen to that — the president, I don’t think is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment.”

Historians’ Comments

Bruce Shulman (professor of History, Boston University, BU forum on presidential politics)

  • “I think if the president wins re-election, I think that’s going to be a pretty strong sign that the move towards conservatism and the growing influence of the sun belt and of religious conservatism in American life that we’ve seen in the past 25 years, that that is continuing and even strengthening.”

Alan Schroeder (presidential debate historian at Northeastern University, on CBS)

  • “Kerry was very aggressive in this debate. In some of those two-shots it looked like Kerry was the prosecutor and Bush was the defendant, Bush was better than last time but he seemed rather shrill to me and not terribly articulate.”

David Thomson (film historian on CBS)

  • “The great opportunity that this format gives is movement. A lot of speakers, like to move when talking, preachers, and Bush likes this. Bush gave off a signal right away that this is a format he was more comfortable in. But I think Kerry handled it equally well….I suspect that this is not a debate in which there will be a substantial change one way or another.”
  • “I think by the end of this debate there was a feeling that we’ve heard these guys say the same things too many times. We now know. It’s up to us. If we can’t make up our minds on what we see, then the worse for us.”

Richard Norton Smith (director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum on PBS)

  • “Well you saw that definitely in ’92 the first time this format was tried out. I thought this is the third now, well yeah ’96 of course with Clinton and Dole. I thought it was by far the best. A lot of people have doubts about the format, the town hall format; they think it is overly theatrical, in some ways, not that modern politics has become theatre.
  • “I thought there was two questions in particular we would have not heard, perhaps from a panel of reporters; one was on abortion, a very pointedly phrased question on abortion directed to Senator Kerry, and one equally pointed directed to President Bush about the Patriot Act by someone who felt their liberties were being infringed.”
  • “It certainly felt different than last Friday night, the President showed up, was intensely engaged I think he more than held his own. Its interesting: John Edwards maybe the trial lawyer, but John Kerry is the prosecuting attorney, and I thought that he returned to that role over and over again tonight. I thought he was very aggressive, I though he was crisp, in command of his facts. But I also think its interesting I think he said a couple of times “labels don’t mean anything,” that reminds me of Michael Dukakis saying “this an election about competence, not values.” George Bush seemed to be saying labels mean everything, and I think there in a nutshell is perhaps one of the choices, the stark choices that they offer.

Ellen Fitzpatrick (professor of history at the University of New Hampshire on PBS)

  • “I actually thought that there was a great deal more spontaneity because of the audience participation as your question suggests, but I also was also very struck at a difference in this town hall debate over previous town hall debates, and that was that the questions from the audience were pitched quite broadly In the past you had people standing up and saying I am a so and so, and I have an issue with X and Y.”
  • “It was really a kind of advancing, you had a collection of special interests especially coming from the citizenry, which is appropriate, people have their concerns and they look to politicians, and particularly the presidents to address those concerns. But this time I thought the questions, the quality of the questions were pitched, they were good quality questions were pitched broadly to national issues and concerns and I thought that was quite effective.”
  • “There’s a kind of solemnity that we are seeing in the debates all three of them now that reflect, in a way I feel it’s appropriate to the seriousness of the issues at hand. Every election year there are serious issues, but I do think that the post 9-11 environment that we are al now living in, the concerns that so many Americans have about security, the war on terror, the ongoing war in Iraq is lending a kind of solemnity to the proceedings that is very obvious, to me anyway.”

Michael Beschloss (on PBS)

  • “I didn’t think the format particularly worked, you know especially compared to earlier town meetings. I think there was a reason for this, because often times it does get into show business in a way that perhaps obscures the difference between the two candidates, but I thought the questioners look a little like props, and also there was none of the engagement you saw in previous debates. Part of that was the rules; there wasn’t much humor, these were not human beings who were really interacting with each other, and the result was that it was a rather an icy evening, a humorless evening for the most of it it recalled to some extent the relationship between George W. Bush and Al Gore four years ago.”
  • “You can have big differences but also have a little bit of humor and a more pleasant atmosphere. Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, you can’t think of two candidates with probably more differences ideologically than those two, yet you look back at those two debates in 1984, there was humor when Reagan told a joke Mondale laughed. There was a sense that you know at the end of this evening these were not two men intensely antagonistic to each other. Mondale began his first debate by saying I like President Reagan, I respect the Presidency, I think he knows that. There wasn’t that element tonight, and I think I missed it.”
  • “I sure wish they had ten or eleven of these debates rather than three because when there are three there’s not enough time, because they can be affected by someone making a slip. We did not see that tonight, but often times there can be a moment that has inordinate impact. I would love to see a system where you have ten or eleven of these, not only because you get to discuss issues in greater length, depth, you get more of a sense of who these people are. I think one thing we saw this evening was that they both of these candidates knew there was such an enormous amount at stake, but they were a little bit sort of restrained and constrained that’s why we didn’t have that kind of engagement.”

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How Many Elections Has Vietnam Played a Role in?

HISTORY ARTICLES

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 10-04-04

How Many Elections Has Vietnam Played a Role in?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

The first election in which the Vietnam War played a critical role came in 1964. Thereafter it was a central issue in the elections of 1968, 1972, 1988, 1992, and 2004. (In 1980 and 2000 it briefly became a subject of discussion.) Counting 1980 and 2000, Vietnam has been part of the quadrennial national debate in eight of the last eleven elections. Only the Civil War, of all our conflicts, figured in as many subsequent elections. And at the rate we are going, Vietnam may soon eclipse even the Civil War. (This is not to say that Vietnam had an equal impact on American history. Its impact has obviously been less. But for some reason–which historians must puzzle over–it is having a greater impact as an issue in ensuing campaigns.) These are the elections in which Vietnam has become an issue:

1964

In the 1964 presidential campaign the incumbent, Democratic candidate Lyndon Johnson, repeatedly tried to convince voters that he had no intention of getting the United States involved in the conflict in Vietnam. However, according to historian John Morton Blum, Johnson “was already planning to expand that war.” Johnson maintained his non-intervention position on Vietnam even after August 2, 1964, when North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched a supposedly unprovoked and unequivocal attack against the U.S. destroyer Maddox, which was on patrol in the Tonkin Gulf. When the ship was supposedly attacked two days later in the same vicinity, Johnson that evening announced that the U.S. would begin retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam. Johnson subsequently asked Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which “supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.”

As Daniel Ellsberg has recalled, LBJ misled the country in several ways. The attack was not unprovoked; the U.S. had recently shelled several of North Vietnam’s islands in an operation run by the United States, code named 34A. Nor was the attack unequivocal; there was no second attack–the ship’s radar had picked up false readings of torpedoes that had never been fired. Finally, the Maddox and a sister vessel, the Turner Joy, were operating in an area long claimed by North Vietnam. The ships were on a secret mission, code named DeSoto, designed to elicit intelligence about the North’s activities.

Unlike Johnson, the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater publicly argued in favor of intervention. He was deemed by many — including many Republicans — an extremist. Goldwater believed that whatever force was needed to defeat the communists in Vietnam should be used, including nuclear bombs. In response to this the Johnson campaign released a controversial television ad which portrayed a little girl picking and counting petals from a daisy in a field, which then dissolves into a picture of a nuclear mushroom cloud. This ad, referred to as the “Daisy Girl,” was intended to highlight Goldwater’s alleged recklessness. In the end voters chose to elect President Johnson in a landslide victory. The following year LBJ began a massive build-up in Vietnam.

  • “Some are eager to enlarge the conflict. They call upon us to supply American boys to do the job that Asian boys should do. They ask us to take reckless action [such as bombing North Vietnam]….Such action would offer no solution at all to the real problems of Viet Nam.”Lyndon Johnson, October 1964
  • “use low yield nuclear bombs, if necessary, to fight communists in Vietnam and elsewhere”Barry Goldwater, 1964

1968

In 1968, the presidential campaign’s main issue was the ongoing war in Vietnam. “Hawks” remained supportive of the Johnson Administration’s policy in Vietnam, but “doves” opposed the war, and college students by the thousands protested American involvement. With this in mind in October 1967, Eugene McCarthy decided to enter the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination, running as an anti-war candidate. McCarthy, with the help of college students, won 42 percent in the New Hampshire primary. Shortly afterward Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy on a peace plank. Johnson, faced with declining poll ratings, decided to drop out of the race on March 31st. On June 6th, Kennedy won the California primary, but was assassinated. Vice President Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic Presidential candidate amidst intense anti-war rioting in August at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The Republican candidate was former Vice President Richard Nixon. He spoke about his plans concerning the Vietnam War in generalities but promised to end it with honor. Humphrey, closely associated with Johnson’s Vietnam policy, was heckled wherever he went. After initial hesitating to break with the administration, Humphrey decided to assert his independence from Johnson, proclaiming his support for a bombing halt even without a goodwill gesture from the North Vietnamese (LBJ favored a gesture of goodwill prior to a halt). Humphrey gained momentum as he began to draw support from liberal Democrats and anti-war protesters. By October, as negotiations between the U.S. and North Vietnam took place, Humphrey came to wear the mantle of the peace candidate. Even Eugene McCarthy supported him. Nixon, however, believed that the prospect of peace was a campaign ploy. Despite the possibility of peace and Johnson’s decision to order a halt in the bombing, Humphrey lost to Nixon in a very close race.

  • “And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there — we need a policy to prevent more Vietnams.”Richard Nixon, Acceptance Speech, Republican National Convention, August 8, 1968
  • “Meanwhile, as a citizen, a candidate, and Vice President, I pledge to you and to my fellow Americans, that I shall do everything within my power to aid the negotiations and to bring a prompt end to this war.”Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention, August 29, 1968
  • “As president, I would stop the bombing of the North as an acceptable risk for peace because I believe it could lead to success in the negotiations and thereby shorten the war.”Hubert Humphrey, September 30, 1968
  • “In the last thirty-six hours, I have been advised of a flurry of meetings in the White House and elsewhere on Vietnam, I am told that the top officials in the administration have been driving hard for an agreement on a bombing halt, accompanied possibly by a cease-fire in the immediate future. I since learned that these reports are true. I am also told that this spurt of activity is a cynical last-minute attempt by President Johnson to salvage the candidacy of Mr. Humphrey. This I do not believe.”Richard Nixon, October 25, 1972

1972

In 1972 American involvement in the Vietnam War still remained an important campaign issue. President Richard Nixon was running for re-election and hoped that he could present himself as a peace candidate and focus on his foreign policy achievements. Although he had not ended the war in Vietnam, he had been able to bring tens of thousands of American troops home. Through the process of “Vietnamization,” Nixon was gradually transferring the burden of the war to the South Vietnamese. However, he still heavily supplied the Vietnamese with military equipment, and authorized punishing bombing runs. An invasion of Cambodia had risked expanding the war.

The Democratic candidate was George McGovern, a South Dakota senator who was considered the spokesman for the anti-war movement. McGovern, a World War II bomber pilot, had opposed American involvement in Vietnam since 1963. The Democratic Party’s 1972 platform called for an immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam. The party also supported amnesty for draft resisters, as well as an offer of amnesty to deserters on a case by case basis. This would occur after all American troops and POWs returned home.

In the weeks leading up to the end of the campaign Nixon suspended bombing in Vietnam, and negotiations began with the National Liberation Front. Just before the election Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced that “peace was at hand.” Kissinger’s announcement helped propel Nixon to a landslide victory.

  • “We must have the courage to admit that however sincere our motives, we made a dreadful mistake in trying to settle the affairs of the Vietnamese people with American troops and bombers. . . . There is now no way to end it and to free our prisoners except to announce a definite, early date for the withdrawal of every American soldier. I make that pledge without reservation.”George McGovern, announcement of candidacy for the Presidency, 1972
  • “We believe that war is a waste of human life. We are determined to end forthwith a war which has cost 50,000 American lives, $150 billion of our resources, that has divided us from each other, drained our national will and inflicted incalculable damage to countless people. We will end that war by a simple plan that need not be kept secret: The immediate total withdrawal of all Americans from Southeast Asia.”1972 Democratic Party Platform
  • “We believe that peace is at hand. We believe that an agreement is within sight, It is inevitable that in a war of such complexity that there should be occasional difficulties in reaching a final solution.”Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, October 1972

1980

In the 1980 presidential campaign Republican candidate Ronald Reagan told the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated that the Vietnam War was a “noble cause.” In 1980 the war was still an open wound and his comment became fodder for incumbent Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter. A desperate Carter, playing on Vietnam fears, claimed that Reagan would likely involve the United States in war. But Reagan was able to score a victory in November, helping sweep into power a Republican Senate, for the first time in decades.

  • “It’s time that we recognized that ours was in truth a noble cause.”Ronald Reagan, August, 1980

1988

Accusations of draft evasion dogged vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle in the 1988 campaign. Quayle, an obscure senator from Indiana, had been virtually unknown to the nation when George H.W. Bush picked him as his running mate at the Republican convention. Wendell C. Phillippi immediately came forward to claim that he had helped Quayle get into to the National Guard to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. Phillippi was a former senior editor at the Indianapolis News, which was owned by Quayle’s family, and also a major general in the Indiana National Guard.

Phillippi also claimed that there was nothing unusual in his intervention on Quayle’s behalf, as he had acted similarly for others as well. The revelation however cost Quayle, who had always assumed a pro-military posture, dearly. Despite calls to drop Quayle, Bush stuck to his decision and kept the senator on the ticket. The Bush/Quayle ticket won the election in November against Democrat Michael Dukakis.

  • “Exactly 20 years ago, who I said, ‘I’d like to get into the National Guard,’ phone calls were made, I can’t answer the – I don’t know the specifics of that. The only thing I know is I did want to get into the National Guard. I’m very proud of my service in the National Guard.”Senator Dan Quayle, 1988
  • “I got into the Guard fairly. There were no rules broken, to my knowledge… I, like many, many other Americans, had particular problems about the way the war was being fought. But yes, I supported my president and I supported the goal of fighting communism in Vietnam. “Vice President Dan Quayle 1992

1992

Once again in the 1992 presidential campaign, the question of a candidate dodging the draft for the Vietnam War became an issue. Quayle’s service in the National Guard once again made headlines. So too did charges that Democrat Bill Clinton dodged the draft for the Vietnam War. The Republicans claimed that in order to get a draft deferment, Clinton had pledged that he would enter the University of Arkansas Law School and join the R.O.T.C after attending Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. Instead, he chose to be reclassified I-A, which would have sent him to war. After the draft lottery was instituted in November 1969, he drew too high a number to be drafted. Instead of going to Vietnam, Clinton attended Yale Law School.

On the eve of the New Hampshire primary a letter Clinton wrote in 1969 to the R.O.T.C chief at the University of Arkansas surfaced. In the letter Clinton expressed his thanks for getting him out of the draft. Despite the controversy–and accusations that he had had affairs with women–Clinton, the “Comeback Kid,” came in second in New Hampshire. In November he won a three-way election against incumbent Republican, George Bush and independent Ross Perot.

  • “I was in the draft before the lottery came in. I gave up the deferment. I got a high lottery number and I wasn’t called. That’s what the record reflects. A Republican member of my draft board has given an affidavit in the last couple of days saying that I got no special treatment and nothing in the letter changes that, although it is a true reflection of a just-turned-twenty-three-year-old young man.Bill Clinton, 1992
  • “I want to thank you, for saving me from the draft…I decided to accept the draft in spite of my beliefs for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked to prepare myself for a political life characterized by both practical political ability and concern for rapid social progress.”Bill Clinton to R.O.T.C commander Col. Eugene Holmes on December 3, 1969
  • “The Vietnam War is not an issue in 1992 and should not be”Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Senator and Democratic Candidate, in 1992
  • “To divide our party or our country over this issue today, in 1992, simply does not do justice to what all of us went through during that tragic and turbulent time.”John Kerry, on the Senate floor, February 27, 1992

2000

Vietnam played a minor role in the election, but questions about George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War damaged the Republican’s credibility. Records indicated that he had possibly skipped duty during 1972 when he left Texas to work on a Republican senatorial candidate’s campaign in Alabama. Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, had served in a non-combat position in Vietnam and escaped criticism on this score at least.

2004

With the war in Iraq continuing, the Vietnam War again became a focus of the presidential campaign. John Kerry was attacked for allegedly “medal-shopping” while in Vietnam and for opposing the war after he returned home. The so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth assailed Kerry’s patriotism. For several weeks the newspapers were filled with stories about Vietnam. Democrats, reeling from the attacks, slowly responded by attacking George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard. A Texas Democrat claimed he had helped Bush jump other candidates to get into the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War. CBS claimed documents showed that Bush had directly disobeyed an order to take a physical. CBS later apologized, saying the documents may not be authentic.

  • “I’m not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.”John Kerry, comments released ahead of a midnight speech in Springfield, Ohio, September 2, 2004
  • “Character counts. Especially in the president of the United States, character counts. And we want a president that will be truthful and honest and level with the American people. If the president will lie about this, will he lie about how we got into Iraq, for example?”Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, 2004
  • “Nineteen individuals have served both in the National Guard and as president of the United States, and I am proud to be one of them.”George W. Bush, September 14, 2004

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Campaign 2004: The First Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

HISTORY ARTICLES

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 10-01-04

The First Bush/Kerry Debate: Highlights

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

The Instant Polls

CBS: Kerry the winner by 44-26 percent.
ABC: Kerry the winner by 45-36 percent.
CNN/Gallup: Kerry the winner by 53-37 percent.

Candidate Soundbites

John F. Kerry

  • “This president has made, I regret to say, a colossal error of judgment. And judgment is what we look for in the president of the United States of America.”
  • “Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?”
  • “This president, I don’t know if he really sees what’s happening over there.”

George W. Bush

  • “He voted to authorize the use of force and now says it’s the wrong war at the wrong time. . . . I don’t think you can lead if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send to our troops?”
  • “The only thing consistent about my opponent’s position is he’s been inconsistent.”

Historians’ Comments

Arthur Schlesinger Jr

  • “Foreign policy has always been on the margin,” but this time “it haunts the conscience of the American people — 9/11 and the question whether the war in Iraq is worth the cost.”

Henry Graff (Columbia University presidential historian)

  • “[Kerry] is going to have to tell us why he voted yes and no.” On Kerry’s changed position concerning the war in Iraq.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson (director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania)

  • “I see a clash, a rhetorical clash between a person whose strength was rhetorically as a governor and a person whose strength is as a senator — a businessman versus a lawyer.”

Stephen Hess (presidential historian and a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Brookings Institution, commenting on CBS)

  • “There may be some gain on the part of people who were not as familiar or aware particularly of Kerry who now get a sense of his seriousness and articulateness.”
  • “I think it was a reaffirming experience for listeners. People who went in intending to vote for Kerry will have thought that he did well, and the same will be true of those who were the Bush supporters. But if the status quo is maintained, that is actually good for the president, since he went into last night up in the polls.”
  • “The president had been so incredibly skillful up to this point in trying to make the campaign a referendum on the challenger, so to that degree Kerry righted the situation somewhat. So that was undoubtedly helpful. But still, I must say, I would be surprised if there were any major changes in the polls based on this.”
  • “My impression is that very few Americans are going to change their vote. They made their positions clear. They in a sense cancelled each other out.”

Richard Norton Smith (director of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum on PBS)

  • “This was a debate about large issues. You heard George Bush, the nationalist debating John Kerry, the globalist and I thought Kerry did, his initials are not JFK for nothing. He was [chair] with John F. Kennedy in 1960 ‘we can do better.'”
  • “I thought Bush took an almost Reaganesque approach when he was repeatedly coming back to his few basic defining differences between these two candidates.”
  • “Style does trump substance as history does teach that. I thought Kerry was the smartest kid in the class and I thought that the president was a slightly world weary teacher occasionally brushing him off.”
  • “No, and I’ll say that’s a good thing. We are always griping about the fact that soundbites have crowded out substance. I don’t think there are many sound bites from tonight, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.”

Ellen Fitzpatrick (professor of history at the University of New Hampshire on PBS)

  • “I think it was a far more substantive debate that we have seen in American Political History in many, many, many a year, and I think it is extremely important to remember that the last time the United States was in a massive and extensive effort in nation building and the context of war with an ongoing insurgency was in Vietnam. The period of 1964 to 1972 when that war waged there were no presidential debates, that was a coincidence but we never had the opportunity to see this stark contrast drawn. The American people have been given that opportunity tonight.”
  • “It is extremely difficult in this instance when you have John Kerry saying this war was a mistake, but he is not saying, therefore he will withdraw. He is saying it is a mistake that now needs to be fixed. There he can’t draw as sharp a distinction with this president.”
  • “I thought that Kerry had close to a zinger when he said I may make a mistake in my words but you made a mistake in intervening in this war.”

Michael Beschloss (on PBS)

  • “I don’t think the debate was that decisive, I don’t think it was a debate that will change many minds, cause people to say gee I see all sorts of things in George Bush and John Kerry that I didn’t see before.”
  • “The one thing I really think it did was this, these debates really drew a contrast between temperaments that is at times what a debate does well, and I often time felt as if I was sort of watching Adlai Stevenson debate John Wayne.”
  • “And you also had two guys each trying to knock the other out. Kerry saying that any President that has made all these mistakes doesn’t deserve another term, and George Bush saying don’t you know John, you can’t be a president, you can’t be a commander in chief if you keep on changing your mind and changing your core convictions.”
  • “And it wasn’t very much show business, and I think it was wonderful because I think that tends to usually overwhelm everything that you hear. I think this was a debate that you can hear for 90 minutes and be proud to be an American.”

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