Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More on Reagan v. RFK

You will look in vain in any of the liberal biographies of Robert Kennedy for a single mention of his debate with Reagan, which even Kennedy realized he had lost to the Gipper. As he was leaving the TV studio, Bobby growled at his aide Frank Mankiewicz, "Who the f--- got me into this??"

CBS taped the show, and reportedly had to edit it down in part to downplay the rudeness and radicalism of the student audience. The only exception to this rudeness was a question from an American Rhodes scholar in the student audience--faormer basketball player and later U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.

Discussions - 2 Comments

I agree that Reagan brings it strong in this transcript--his command of facts and ability to think on his feet and express himself eloquently come across quite clearly--but is it totally accurate to describe this simply as a "debate" between him and RFK?

It’s billed as a "town meeting" and they were both there to take questions from the student audience. Obviously RR and RFK disagreed on some points, such as whether the Viet Cong belonged in the peace talks, but the sharpest exchanges seem to be with the students.

I wonder if RFK’s negative reaction to the experience didn’t come as much from the sheer hostility of some of these preselected (by whom? one wonders) young people, including the Russian who faithfully spouts the Kremlin line.

If nothing else, reading through this is a useful reminder that a readiness to think ill of the US and its motives certainly didn’t start with George W. Bush.

On the brighter side, a particular highlight for me was RR’s advocacy of using linkage diplomacy to get the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall--20 years and a month before the great speech in which RR went to the Wall itself and challenged Mr. Gorbachev to do exactly that. Reagan was a modern-day Joshua.

If there’s a tape of this program, someone should get it into the hands of C-Span; it would be a marvelous addition to their "American Political Archives" show.

Phil, nice to hear from you. Glad you are still at it.

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