Interesting historical footnote from The Writer’s Almanac, which notes that Sept. 26 is the anniversary of the first televised presidential debate, Kennedy vs. Nixon, 1960. I vaguely remember Mom and Dad watching the debates on TV, though I have a clearer memory of other parts of the ’60 campaign, such as the Democratic Convention on TV from Los Angeles, Mom being a Democratic precinct captain, the giant Kennedy poster in our front windown, and Mom and Dad taking us to shake Kennedy signs at a Nixon rally in Park Forest the weekend before the election (though here’s another reason to love the Web: here’s a transcript of his prepared remarks, delivered Oct. 29 — or 10 days before the election instead of the weekend preceding the vote. More on that memory later, I suppose).
Anyway, after 1960, debates weren’t held again until 1976. It’s not terribly surprising if you think about it: Nixon was running in two of the following three elections; in ’68, he probably didn’t want any part of an exchange that had proved so disastrous in his previous run; in ’72, he simply didn’t need to debate. Interesting that an event that has become a fixture — though obviously flawed and less and less useful as it devolves into a piece of spin theater — took so long to catch on after the 1960 experiment.