President John F. Kennedy: Campaign Against Nixon
About the 1960 campaign from president between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in the United States.
Election: To oppose Kennedy and Johnson, the Republicans chose Vice-President Richard Nixon and Ambassador to the UN Henry Cabot Lodge-the same man Kennedy had beaten in a Massachusetts Senate race 8 years before. In their campaign, Nixon and Lodge attempted to identify themselves with the popular Eisenhower, and to raise public doubts concerning Kennedy's maturity. Their national slogan "Experience Counts" seemed to ignore the fact that Kennedy and Nixon had been 1st elected to Congress in the same year (1946), or that Nixon was only 4 years older than the 43-year-old JFK.
An unspoken issue throughout the campaign was the widespread fear that a Catholic President would allow his policies to be dictated by the Vatican. Kennedy decided to confront this issue head on in a dramatic speech to a gathering of Protestant ministers in Houston. "Because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, it is apparently necessary for me to state once again-not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in. I believe in an America where separation of Church and State is absolute-where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote." In the final analysis, Kennedy's religion may have won him as many votes among his fellow Catholics as it cost him in the rest of the population.
Easily the most celebrated moment of the campaign came in September, when Nixon and Kennedy met for the 1st of their 4 televised debates before a national audience estimated at 70 million. Most commentators expected that Nixon, with his reputation as a seasoned and effective TV performer, would demolish the inexperienced Kennedy. But the moment the 2 faces appeared on the screen, the entire election seemed to swing in Kennedy's direction. Nixon made the mistake of using dark-toned "lazy shave" face powder, and poor lighting threw deep shadows around his eyes. As historian Roger Butterfield expressed it, "He looked for all the world like a man with shaving and perspiration problems, glumly waiting for the commercial to tell him how not to offend." Kennedy, on the other hand, seemed cool and confident, in total command of the facts and the situation. After the 1st debate, the charge that JFK was too "young and inexperienced" for the Presidency seemed to lose most of its potency.
Compared to these image differences, disagreements on the issues seemed unimportant. In fact, many liberals considered the candidates so similar to one another that Kennedy partisan Arthur Schlesinger felt called upon to write a book called Kennedy or Nixon: Does It Make Any Difference?
In a bizarre sidelight to the campaign, strong differences did develop. For many months, Vice-President Nixon had been secretly urging an exile invasion of Cuba, and he was delighted when the CIA decided to go ahead with plans for the mission. Then, in the campaign, Kennedy came out publicly for the same proposal. Nixon was enraged; he felt that revealing his backing for the project would blow its cover. Facing what he considered "probably the most difficult decision of the campaign," Nixon decided: "There was only one thing I could do. The covert operation had to be protected at all costs. I must not even suggest by implication that the U.S. was rendering aid to rebel forces in and out of Cuba. In fact, I must go to the other extreme: I must attack the Kennedy proposal to provide such aid as wrong and irresponsible because it would violate our treaty commitments."
In other words, Nixon came out strongly against Nixon's plan.
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