Monday, July 17, 2017

The LuLac Edition #3555, July 17th, 2014

Senator Bobby Kennedy and Governor Ronald Reagan in 1967. (Photo: Truth, Justice and The American Way)

Once upon a time, when I was in grade school, the TV networks took their responsibility as an information conduit to the American people very seriously. It was not uncommon for all three networks to broadcast news documentaries and town meetings.
I had forgotten about this one but my friend Dave Dellarte from Wyoming said he saw something about it on CSPAN 3. What he saw was a public debate over the Vietnam War featuring Senator Robert Kennedy and newly minted California Governor Ronald Reagan. The date was May 15th, 1967 and the subject was the Vietnam War. The program was called “The Image of America and the Youth of the World,” and was billed by CBS as a “Town Meeting of the World.” It was broadcast from 10:00-11:00 P.M. EDT by CBS TV Network and CBS Radio Network. (That was a time when radio networks were nearly equal news partners with their TV counterparts. Produced by Don Hewitt and hosted by CBS News correspondent Charles Collingwood, the debate was watched by 15 million Americans.
I did not see it at the time and recently reviewed the You Tube video that’s up on the site today. At the time Newsweek as well as major California newspapers who loved Bobby gave the debate to Reagan overwhelmingly. Reagan’s easy, calm style pretty much left Bobby in the dust. Now to be fair, at that time Middle America was still overwhelmingly for the Vietnam War.
However what seemed to cinch it for Reagan was the way he seemed to surprise Kennedy. Reagan had been in office just a few months and had no Foreign Policy chops to speak of. It was predetermined that Kennedy would wipe the floor with Reagan. Instead it was the other way around.
Newsweek wondered if that debate might indeed be a foreshadowing of things to come for these two men on the national stage. Lyndon Johnson, although beleaguered was still strongly in control of the Presidency. Remember this was the year before the Tet Offensive. This debate though was the only one because Kennedy was killed a little over 12 months later by an assassin during a run for President. Reagan himself was a late entry into the '68 race hoping that a deadlocked convention between Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller would turn to him. Nixon had it in the bag though and Reagan after running a close second in 1976 finally won his party’s nomination and then the Presidency in 1980. I wonder if any of the Carter brain trust bothered to watch this thing before that infamous 80 debate which clinched the Presidency for Reagan.
For your viewing information, Kennedy and Reagan 50 years ago. You be the judge.


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