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With its keen observations, diligent research, and insider revelations, Alan Schroeder’s popular, big-picture history explores the phenomenon of American presidential debates like no other volume. From pundits to political operatives, debate moderators to the viewing public, Schroeder examines how the various stakeholders make and experience this powerful event. For this third edition, Schroeder analyzes the 2008 and 2012 presidential debates and the role of social media and contemporary news outlets in shaping their design and reception. He also expands his coverage of previous campaigns, including the landmark 1960 meeting between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Second only to the Super Bowl in viewers, presidential debates are must-see TV, yet their conception and execution largely remain a mystery to the public—even to journalists. Schroeder details the key phases of the debate: anticipation, in which campaigns negotiate rules, formulate strategy, prepare answers, and steer press coverage; execution, in which the candidates, moderators, panelists, and television professionals create and project the event; and reaction, in which commentators, spin doctors, and the public evaluate the performance and move storylines in new directions. New chapters focus on real-time debate responses and the extent to which post-debate news coverage influences voter decision making and candidate behavior.
Newton Minow’s long engagement with the world of television began nearly fifty years ago when President Kennedy appointed him chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. As its head, Minow would famously dub TV a “vast wasteland,” thus inaugurating a career dedicated to reforming television to better serve the public interest. Since then, he has been chairman of PBS and on the board of CBS and elsewhere, but his most lasting contribution remains his leadership on televised presidential debates. He was assistant counsel to Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson when Stevenson first proposed the idea of the debates in 1960; he served as cochair of the presidential debates in 1976 and 1980; and he helped create and is currently vice chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organized the debates for the last two decades. Written with longtime collaborator Craig LaMay, this fascinating history offers readers for the first time a genuinely inside look into the origins of the presidential debates and the many battles—both legal and personal—that have determined who has been allowed to debate and under what circumstances. The authors do not dismiss the criticism of the presidential debates in recent years but do come down solidly in favor of them, arguing that they are one of the great accomplishments of modern American electoral politics. As they remind us, the debates were once unique in the democratic world, are now emulated across the globe, and they offer the public the only real chance to see the candidates speak in direct response to one another in a discussion of major social, economic, and foreign policy issues. Looking to the challenges posed by third-party candidates and the emergence of new media such as YouTube, Minow and LaMay ultimately make recommendations for the future, calling for the debates to become less formal, with candidates allowed to question each other and citizens allowed to question candidates directly. They also explore the many ways in which the Internet might serve to broaden the debates’ appeal and informative power. Whether it’s Clinton or Obama vs. McCain, Inside the Presidential Debates will be welcomed in 2008 by anyone interested in where this crucial part of our democracy is headed—and how it got there.
Presidential debates have had mixed reviews. Advocates praise debates as a way of making issues more central to the campaign. Others criticize them as little more than joint press conferences. How important are these debates? Do they really test knowledge and vision? Do they sort good ideas from bad, or reveal important character traits and habits of mind? In short, do they provide voters with what they need to know to choose a president? To address these questions, the authors place contemporary debates in their cultural and historical context, tracing their origins and development in the American political tradition, from the eighteenth century to the present. Although the Kennedy-Nixon TV confrontations were an historical first, debate was an element of American electoral politics by 1788 and a staple of policy deliberation throughout the colonial period. Indeed, much of the confusion over the value of debates stems in part from the long tradition of political debating in America. Thus, to make the most productive use of debate in modern presidential politics, the authors argue, we must respond to the history of this tradition. The book concludes with recommendations to preserve the best elements of traditional debate while adapting to the requirements of the broadcast age. The reforms they advocate include: substantive debates between major party representatives between elections; alternative formats; use of visual aids in debates; follow-up press conferences; a focus on fewer issues and increased experimentation in the primaries. Presidential debates provide voters with a rare opportunity to evaluate political reasoning on complex issues. In suggesting ways to make presidential debates even more effective, this thought-provoking volume makes an important contribution to America's political future.
With an update by the author for the 2012 election. A veteran newsman who has presided over eleven presidential and vice-presidential debates, Jim Lehrer gives readers a ringside seat for some of the epic political battles of our time, shedding light on all of the critical turning points and rhetorical faux pas that helped determine the outcome of America’s presidential elections. Drawing on his own experiences as “the man in the middle seat,” in-depth interviews with the candidates and his fellow moderators, and transcripts of key exchanges, Lehrer illuminates what he calls the “Major Moments” and “killer questions” that defined the debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain. In this paperback edition, he also offers his expert analysis of the 2012 Republican primary debates. Asked to sum up his experience as a participant in high-level televised debates, President George H. W. Bush memorably likened them to an evening in “tension city.” In Jim Lehrer’s absorbing account, we find out that truer words were never spoken. “A brisk and engaging memoir.”—The Washington Post “Enthralling . . . remarkable . . . a wonderful political memoir.”—Bookreporter “A really good read . . . [There is] no debating quality of Jim Lehrer’s book.”—Associated Press “Jim Lehrer is a national monument, and this riveting book shows how he became America’s moderator.”—Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage “A political junkie’s backstage pass.”—The Capital Times
There are two winners in every presidential election campaign: The inevitable winner when it begins--such as Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton in 2008--and the inevitable victor after it ends. In The Candidate, Samuel Popkin explains the difference between them. While plenty of political insiders have written about specific campaigns, only Popkin--drawing on a lifetime of presidential campaign experience and extensive research--analyzes what it takes to win the next campaign. The road to the White House is littered with geniuses of campaigns past. Why doesn't practice make perfect? Why is experience such a poor teacher? Why are the same mistakes replayed again and again? Based on detailed analyses of the winners--and losers--of the last 60 years of presidential campaigns, Popkin explains how challengers get to the White House, how incumbents stay there for a second term, and how successors hold power for their party. He looks in particular at three campaigns--George H.W. Bush's muddled campaign for reelection in 1992, Al Gore's flawed campaign for the presidency in 2000, and Hillary Clinton's mismanaged effort to win the nomination in 2008--and uncovers the lessons that Ronald Reagan can teach future candidates about teamwork. Throughout, Popkin illuminates the intricacies of presidential campaigns--the small details and the big picture, the surprising mistakes and the predictable miscues--in a riveting account of what goes on inside a campaign and what makes one succeed while another fails. As Popkin shows, a vision for the future and the audacity to run are only the first steps in a candidate's run for office. To truly survive the most grueling show on earth, presidential hopefuls have to understand the critical factors that Popkin reveals in The Candidate. In the wake of the 2012 election, Popkin's analysis looks remarkably prescient. Obama ran a strong incumbent-oriented campaign but made typical incumbent mistakes, as evidenced by his weak performance in the first debate. The Romney campaign correctly put power in the hands of a strong campaign manager, but it couldn't overcome the weaknesses of the candidate.
Looks at the occurance of, and reasons behind, negativity in presidential campaigns from 1960 to 2004.
Americans tend to see negative campaign ads as just that: negative. Pundits, journalists, voters, and scholars frequently complain that such ads undermine elections and even democratic government itself. But John G. Geer here takes the opposite stance, arguing that when political candidates attack each other, raising doubts about each other’s views and qualifications, voters—and the democratic process—benefit. In Defense of Negativity, Geer’s study of negative advertising in presidential campaigns from 1960 to 2004, asserts that the proliferating attack ads are far more likely than positive ads to focus on salient political issues, rather than politicians’ personal characteristics. Accordingly, the ads enrich the democratic process, providing voters with relevant and substantial information before they head to the polls. An important and timely contribution to American political discourse, In Defense of Negativity concludes that if we want campaigns to grapple with relevant issues and address real problems, negative ads just might be the solution.