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LBJ Unlikely To Debate Next Year

Dec. 15, 1963 - There is growing doubt in Washington that President Johnson will take part in televised debates with his Republican opponent in next year’s Presidential campaign. Mr. Johnson has made no decision on the matter, and White House press secretary Pierre Salinger said it had not yet been formally discussed by the President and his advisers. At least two of Mr. Johnson’s closest associates have said privately, however, that they will advise him strongly against participating in debates like those between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960. And Mr. Johnson told a recent visitor, during a discussion of the form his news conferences ought to take, that he did not believe the President of the United States should debate with anyone. The President’s advisers oppose the debates for roughly the same reason — that a head of state should not put himself in a position where his status might be lowered. They point out that neither Mr. Kennedy nor Mr. Nixon was President in 1960. In addition, a new Newsweek poll shows Mr. Johnson holding a massive nationwide lead over any prospective Republican opponent. The pollster, Louis Harris, said if the election were held today, President Johnson “would overwhelm the Republicans in a landslide rivaled in modern times only by Franklin Roosevelt’s victory over Alf Landon in 1936.” Finally, when discussing the possibility of debates, Mr. Johnson’s advisers also point out that the President, under challenge by his opponent, might have to choose between divulging classified information or adopting a false position to conceal it.


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