Every four years we have a presidential election in the United States and every four years, it is stated that this is the most important election we have ever faced.
Once again as we near the Nov. 6, 2012 general election date, we are hearing the same refrain.
The Republican and Democratic conventions are now history and the campaigns pick speed with debates scheduled for Oct. 4, 16 and 22. A vice presidential debate is planned for Oct. 11.
I well remember the first televised presidential debates which featured combatants John F. Kennedy on the Democratic side and Richard M. Nixon on the Republican side.
The two candidates participated in three debates and many say these debates catapulted Kennedy to the White House. Find video and photo galleries on these debates on the Internet.
Check out Kennedy and Nixon at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1960
See more on the upcoming debates by going to 2012 Election Central at http://www.2012presidentialelectionnews.com/2012-debate-schedule/2012-presidential-debate-schedule/
• Oct. 3: Obama/Romney Topic: domestic policy; air Time: 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time at University of Denver in Denver, Colo. Sponsor: Commission on Presidential Debates. Participants: President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Moderator: Jim Lehrer (host of “NewsHour” on PBS)
The debate will focus on domestic policy and be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on topics to be selected by the moderator and announced several weeks before the debate.
The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic.
• Oct. 11: Vice Presidential debate, topic, foreign and domestic policy, air time: 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, at Centre College, Danville, Ky. Sponsor: Commission on Presidential Debates. Participants: Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan. Moderator: Martha Raddatz (ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent)
The debate will cover both foreign and domestic topics and be divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each.
The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the question.
• Oct. 16: Obama/Romney, topic: town meeting format including foreign and domestic policy, air time, 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y. Sponsor: Commission on Presidential Debates. Participants: President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Moderator: Candy Crowley (CNN Chief Political Correspondent)
The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues.
Candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.
• Oct. 22: Obama/Romney, foreign policy, 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, at Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla. Sponsor: Commission on Presidential Debates. Participants: President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Moderator: Bob Schieffer (host of “Face the Nation” on CBS).
The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate and will focus on foreign policy.
Check out presidential debate history at All Politics: http://cgi.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1996/debates/history/
We read, “Debates did not play a role in the nation’s early presidential races.
“In fact, for most of the 18th century, any campaigning or direct appeal for votes was frowned upon by the public and newspapers.
“Historian Samuel Eliot Morrison wrote that candidates ‘were supposed to play coy, obeying a call to service from their country, saving their energies for the task of government.
“Electioneering was done by newspapers, pamphlets, and occasional public meetings.’
“Remember that newspapers during this time were partisan organs run by political parties, and did not report objectively.
“Great orators were plentiful, but important debates were limited to the Congress where, absent today’s committee structure, the issues of the day were eloquently discussed at length on the House and Senate floor.
“Presidential candidates were expected to keep quiet and it was not until 1840 that a presidential candidate (William Henry Harrison of the Whig party) even stumped to advocate his own election.
“However, most credit Harrison’s victory to the split in Democratic voters, not his campaigning.
“Perhaps the most famous and studied debates of the pre-broadcast era are the senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858.
“Douglas agreed to the joint appearances only after Lincoln followed him around the state, making comments from the audience.
“These debates were, according to debate expert Lee Mitchell, the first debates with national significance. “
Clicking on the Web will study presidential debates of the last four decades in the next two columns.
Editor’s note: Howard Lestrud is ECM online managing editor.