As we all prepare to watch Wednesday's debate between President Barack Obama and Former Governor Mitt Romney, it would do us well to reflect upon some of the more memorable moments of televised debate from the last 50 years; the moments where the people running for the highest offices in the land remind us that they are only human after all. These are the kind of moments we are all hoping to see tonight.
1) Nixon underestimates image: Poor Richard Nixon was in the hospital for 12 days prior to his debate against John F. Kennedy. In the first televised presidential debate, Nixon came off as pale, thin, and very sweaty. As for performance, radio listeners thought he won, while television viewers thought Kennedy did better.
2) Gerald Ford thinks what? In a 1976 debate with Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford went on at length about how there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Considering this was the age of the Iron Curtain and people couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, it didn’t help Ford’s credibility at all.
3) Admiral Stockdale Gets Existential: During the 1992 Vice Presidental debate, Independent candidate Adm. Stockdale started his opening lines with, “Who am I? Why am I here?” While the crowd thought it was funny it sounded like something Ayya Khema would say, not someone running for Vice President of the United States.
4) Gore gets bored: During the 2000 presidential debates with George Bush, Al Gore just couldn’t stop sighing. This didn’t help his image as an aloof intellectual.
5) Jan Brewer Freezes: You’d think the one thing a candidate would have under control is his/her opening remarks. In the only gubernatorial debate for Arizona in 2012, Governor Jan Brewer definetly didn’t. While many in the media called it a “meltdown,” it was really more like an incredibly awkward televised brain freeze.
6) “You’re no Jack Kennedy”: In a 1988 Vice Presidential debate, Dan Quayle apparently started speaking a little too highly of himself when he compared himself to John F. Kennedy. It gave Lloyd Benstsen the opportunity to say one of the most memorable lines in presidential debate history.
7) “Oops”: No list would be complete without Rick Perry’s forgetfulness on full display during the 2012 Republican primaries.
8) Ronald Reagan shows his softer side: During a 1984 presidential debate, Ronald Reagan digresses into a story talking about driving down the California coast and having his mind blown thinking about time capsules. Any segment than ends with Ronald Reagan wondering if people in the future will say “Thank God for those people back in the 1980’s” is a good segment to me. (See video here: starts around 1:23:00).