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    Anecdotal Observations On History & Politics

    Entries in presidential (3)


    A Brief History of Inauguration "Firsts" with Chris Matthews

    Graphic by Andrew Gooss

    Brush up on your history of US Inaugurations with this montage of "firsts" from the last 57 inaugurations.


    The 2013 inauguration marks the fifty-seventh time a President has been sworn into office -- and like any national tradition, the ceremony, from oath to parade, has evolved over the last two and a quarter centuries.

    Washington’s Inauguration was not only a first for our country, but also the first and only to be rescheduled because Congress delayed the election.  Andrew Jackson was the first sworn in on the east side of the Capitol Building and Reagan was the first sworn in on the west. The shortest Inaugural address was George Washington’s second while the longest was William Henry Harrison’s, who talked for almost two hours in the winter rain. He caught pneumonia and died a month later.Six Presidents have taken the oath outside Washington, George Washington, first in New York City and then Philadelphia, John Adams, in Philadelphia, Chester Arthur, in New York, Teddy Roosevelt, in Buffalo, Calvin Coolidge, in Plymouth Vermont and LBJ, in Dallas.

    James Polk’s Inauguration was the first to be covered using the telegraph, and Warren Harding’s parade was the first to use cars. James Buchanan’s Inaugural was the first one photographed and William McKinley’s was the first filmed.  Calvin Coolidge’s was the first on radio and Hoover’s was first in a movie newsreel. The first inauguration to be televised was Harry Truman’s and the first streamed on the internet was Bill Clinton’s second. Lincoln’s parade was the first to include African Americans and Wilson’s was the first to include women.

    While bad weather moved the ceremony indoors for William Howard Taft and Ronald Reagan, Grant toughed it out in 16 degrees, and Jack Kennedy in 20 degrees, without an overcoat.

    FDR’s inauguration was the first held in January, after a constitutional amendment moved the date up from March.  And finally, more people witnessed Barack Obama’s first than any other event ever held in Washington.


    The Presidential Debate Tradition

    The presidential debates are an opportunity to see the candidates side by side as they make their pitch, but they’re also something that we, as voters, may take for granted. The forums that we’ve come to expect every four years are essentially a recent phenomenon, occurring only in one presidential election before 1976.
    While the first presidential debate in US history is often falsely attributed to Lincoln-Douglass, they were in fact held for the Illinois Senate race of 1858, which Lincoln lost. It was the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960, which are commonly referred to as the “first televised presidential debates,” that were actually the first presidential debates -- they just also happened to be televised.
    But Kennedy-Nixon did little to establish the precedent for election cycles to follow, as no debates were held in 1964, ’68 and ‘72. In each race the frontrunner declined the invitation in part because they were polling so far ahead that there was little incentive to engage an opponent on an equal playing field. Once rebuffed, challengers often took to publicly goading their opponent into a one-on-one, as did underdog candidates Goldwater, Humphrey and McGovern in their respective races.
    The trend of “frontrunner rebuff” ended in 1976 when the sitting President, Gerald Ford, challenged Democratic Nominee Jimmy Carter to debate – in effect, challenging the challenger – throwing down the gauntlet in his convention speech, no less.  Despite polling fifteen points ahead, Carter took the risk and accepted the President’s invitation, setting a new precedent of participating, regardless of standing in the polls.
    Those debates in 1976 and the two to follow in 1980 and 1984 proved increasingly difficult to arrange, and almost didn’t happen in 1980. The problem was that representatives of both candidates were tasked with working out the details, a drawn-out negotiation that proved difficult for rival campaigns each hoping for a strategic advantage in the heat of an election. In 1980, the deadlock was not resolved until October 18th, only 17 days before the November 4th election.
    In an attempt to simplify the negotiation and establish debates as a permanent part of the electoral process, the RNC and DNC came together in 1985 to recommend the now-standard schedule of four debates: three presidential, and one vice-presidential. Labeled by the Christian Science Monitor as “the great debate debate,” the result was the establishment in 1987 of the bipartisan, nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsors, schedules and produces the forums to this day – transforming the Presidential debates from that of novelty to established tradition.


    Presidential Debates: Before You Pick that Tie, Consider...

    The below was written for NBC's FIRST READ blog and can be found here.

    Does it matter whether a candidate wears a red-or-blue necktie in the presidential debates?

    Well, since the first televised in color in 1976, there have been a total of 22 Presidential debates, each with two major candidates. Therefore, there have been a total of 44 ties worn in debates over the last 9 elections.

    Of those 44, a candidate has chosen to wear a red tie 30 times, a blue tie only seven times and a tie that is both colors or neither a total of seven times as well. (We’ll call this “other”).

    Red has been the go-to choice for most candidates by a large margin -- but what’s more interesting is how infrequently a candidate wears a blue tie. (George W. Bush, from a party known for red, wore blue most often).

    The “other” category, which includes ties that are both colors, such as blue and red striped in equal ratios, and ties that are neither color, such as grey or brown, are worn 16% of the time. 

    There is obviously no correlation between a candidate’s choice of tie and their rate of success (unless you’re willing to delve into the subconscious preferences of the audience), but this begs the question: what color has most often been worn by a winner?

    If you count the number of times the individual color has been worn by the eventual winner, divided by how many times the color has been worn in total, the results are counter-intuitive: a candidate who has worn red has won only won 13 of 30 times, giving the tie a mere 43 percent success rate.

    Candidates who have worn a blue tie won four out of seven times, a rate of 57 percent, and a candidate who has worn “both/neither” has won the most, in five of seven instances, with a success rate of 71 percent.

    The most notable candidates who fall into this “other” category? Reagan in 1980 wore a brown tie; Clinton was partial to striped ties in 1992; and Obama in 2008, who dared to wear a grey tie in the second debate.