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Eisenhower on Debates: "I Can't Think of Anything Worse"

Oct. 12, 1961 - Former President Eisenhower told a national television audience last night that, if he were in office, he would not debate a political rival on television. General Eisenhower’s views were voiced in an hour-long interview with Walter Cronkite. The former President implied without saying so that Richard M. Nixon’s debates with then-Senator Kennedy had contributed to his defeat. Asked for his views on TV debates, the former President remarked: “I can’t think of anything worse. Any man that is an incumbent has to stick to the facts. He is a responsible man debating with someone who, if he chooses, can be irresponsible. No, if I were giving one political piece of advice to my associates in government, I would say: ‘When you’re in, never debate with an outer.’” “Suppose Mr. Kennedy takes that advice in 1964?” he was asked. “He probably will,” Gen. Eisenhower responded.


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