El Paso Herald-Post/October 7, 1960
NEW YORK – The great debate between Nixon and Kennedy on TV was a 10-round, no-decision Barney between a counter puncher and a bum who was afraid to lead. A good referee would have tossed them both through the skylight. About halfway through, I looked at a man sitting on the next stool in the Little Gem, a man with a chewing gum ear who used to fight under the name of Leo Brady, and asked: “Do you think this thing can be one of Those Things?”
“I was just going to ask you,” Leo said. “If I ever saw a Barney this is one.”
In the time that we come from, Leo Brady and I, a Barney was a Barney O’Leary, but we searched way back in memory and we could not remember who Barney O’Leary was or why those things were called Barney. But the Merry Widow was still echoing in our land about that time and whenever the boys went past round three without bloodshed or a knockdown, the rhythmic round of stomping would be heard booming on the board floors of the hanging gallery, then the derisive clap-clap-clap, then the whistling of the waltz.
Once in a while the referee would step between them and appeal to their better instincts to save the manly art of self-defense from another blot on its fair escutcheon by striking a few furious volleys of lefts and rights to the head and body. But I do not recall single mockery in which the better instincts of the principals responded to this heart-cry.
The referee would step through and they would lock arms about each other and sway in close embrace until the next bell. They were lost to shame.
I thought Nixon scored more near misses, but it was plain to me that he did not want to rile Kennedy and start him swinging. Nixon looked peaked and out of shape and Kennedy’s face was pulpy and his lids were puffy. When Kennedy is fine, his features are sharp. Anyway, he looked bloated, and he dogged it when he should have been boring in and bulling Nixon from rope to rope. I was surprised to discover that he had so much dog or geezer in him, after his brash defi in his acceptance speech in Los Angeles. But he certainly did tin-can it from the opening bell to the end.
Nixon may have thought he had an excuse in his intimation during the Chicago convention that he would leave the dirty work to Kennedy, but for his part would keep the campaign clean. Kennedy could take “the low road.”
This seemed to have taken the brash out of Kennedy, because he tried to out-gentleman a guy who is pretty good with the knee and the glove Iaces across the eyes himself.
On the whole, though, I blame Nixon more than Kennedy. After all, Kennedy has no philosophy or program in his heart. He just wants the power of the presidency for a good deal, the same reason that F. D. Roosevelt wanted.it. They both were rich, petulant and spoiled by adoring family women, and had no belly for the rough-and-tumble of masculine society. Roosevelt went around fluting melodious head-sounds against extravagance and promising strict economy, hut his only economy was to reduce the salaries of Army officers who couldn’t do anything about it. Then came the wildest extravagance in all history.
Kennedy’s theme song is scored for gas pipe, wash board, bongo and Dakota whistle. It doesn’t mean anything so it means everything and Nixon could tear him to tatters analyzing this gibberish. If Nixon has any belly for this fight he could say, “Well, who rescued Soviet Russia from Hitler and Japan and who smothered Stalin with railroad trains, diesels, synthetic rubber factories and tire plants, and who gave Stalin the Baltic states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans and the islands north of Japan? Wasn’t it your man Roosevelt?”
But Nixon won’t even jab.
It wasn’t Castro, was it, who deported millions of men and. women, the relatives of millions of our own Americans, from their native countries in Eastern Europe to the mysterious wilderness of Russia’s terra incognita in the Arctic Circle?
And this was done by the fawning permission of Roosevelt and Truman. Wasn’t it?
Why doesn’t Nixon haul off on the subject of Jack’s friends in the union rackets? What has Nixon got to lose? The rank and file would vote for anybody with the courage to fight for them.