Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy Nixon to McCain Obama

Jim Lehrer, Author
Jim Lehrer. Random, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6917-0
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Compact Disc - 5 pages - 978-0-307-87844-1
Paperback - 209 pages - 978-0-8129-8143-8
Hardcover - 117 pages - 978-0-679-60351-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-87847-2
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-07236-7
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In 1960, when Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy took part in the first televised debate between presidential candidates, they ushered in a new age of media politics. In this history-cum-memoir of serving as the longtime moderator of the debates, Lehrer describes this intersection of politics, performance, and journalism—with plenty of delicious behind the scenes details. Interviews with candidates reveal their love or loathing for the ritual of the presidential debates—George H.W. Bush decried its " artificiality," while Bill Clinton, unsurprisingly, "spoke with detail and delight about his experiences," like "a master politician talking shop." Students of politics will enjoy many key reference points, from Ronald Reagan's "There you go again," zinger against Walter Mondale in 1984, and Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bensen's evisceration of his opponent, Dan Quayle: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. You're no Jack Kennedy." But only hard-core media junkies of a certain generation will care about the price of the tie that Lehrer wore for the 2004 debate or find the same drama in moderating that Lehrer does: when he was asked to oversee his 11th debate, despite recent heart surgery, Lehrer writes, "Ego impulses aside, the real reason was that I wanted to do it. This was what I did. I was a moderator." (Sept.)
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