The Instigator
ndedo
Pro (for)
Winning
5 Points
The Contender
SolonKR
Con (against)
Losing
2 Points

Richard Nixon was a better president than John F. Kennedy

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
ndedo
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/23/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,007 times Debate No: 41111
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)

 

ndedo

Pro

R1: Acceptance
R2: Arguments
R3: Rebuttals
R4: Rebuttals and conclusions

My position is that Richard Nixon was an all-around better, more effective president than John F. Kennedy in spite of the Watergate scandal. Please use round 1 only for acceptance and stating your position and I'll give my argument in round 2.
SolonKR

Con

I will accept this challenge, and will attempt to prove that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a better, more effective president than Richard Nixon.

As you have not defined "better", for the purposes of this debate I shall define it as "of a more excellent or effective type or quality".

I look forward to seeing your first argument.
Debate Round No. 1
ndedo

Pro

(I'll extend your definition of the word better; by better president, I mean that he accomplished more to improve the situation of the country diplomatically, economically, and socially while in office.)

I argue that Richard Nixon was a better president than John F. Kennedy based on his long list of accomplishments in all areas of the political spectrum. These include:

1. Foreign Policy
a.) Opening trade and diplomatic relations with China
b.) Ending U.S. involvement in Vietnam
c.) Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1972 as well as Cold War detente policy
3. Advancing environmental protection by creating the Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as introducing numerous bills to Congress in this area (including the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act).
4. Ending the draft
5. Women's rights (Title IX)
6. Civil rights
a.) Affirmative Action legislation; Philadelphia Plan
b.) Strongly enforced desegregation in Southern schools

I'll get a bit more detailed on some of the most important ones.

Visit to China
Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972 initiated closer diplomatic relations with the most populous country in the world and one of the most powerful. It established the mutually beneficial trade that still goes on between the two countries today and is widely acclaimed as Nixon's greatest achievement.

Vietnam
When it became clear that the war was a lost cause, he began the policy of Vietnamization to replace American soldiers with South Vietnamese ones in order to pull out of Vietnam. The war war hotly protested at the time as more than 300 Americans were dying per week with little being accomplished, with no end in sight. He also ended the draft in 19

Environmental protection
Nixon's support of environmental protection was unprecedented, and the consensus today is that the environment is in a much better shape than it would have been without his policies. His Environmental Protection Agency cut down on pollution that was detrimental to the nation's industrial areas in the decades preceding him.

Title IX
This bit of legislation stopped schools from discriminating against women and girls in sports and other publicly funded activities. This is known as the law that revolutionized women's sports.

President Nixon accomplished more during his presidency than most. The list goes on and on, and all of these far-reaching achievements are still relevant today and are seen as positive improvements made by Nixon and his administration.

Now let's compare him to President Kennedy. As a conservative Republican, Nixon was under constant scrutiny by the liberal media, who, according to columnist Peter Bloch, "saw themselves as the last bastion of defense of our very freedoms against the Nixon administration"s onslaught." Conversely, the mainstream media during the Kennedy years was too busy fawning over the Camelot fanfare and the "American Royal Family." While this does not reflect any fault of Kennedy himself, it explains why he and his relatively ineffective time as president are given such a generous analysis. Handsome, rosy-eyed, and popular do not make a president. I mean no disrespect by this, but his assassination and and the mystery surrounding it has contributed to his being lauded as an American hero, and without that factor, he would be remembered as a simply mediocre president.
I will allow my opponent to list what he considers to be Kennedy's most significant accomplishments in office and offer my rebuttals in the next round.
SolonKR

Con

First, I do not believe that one's success as president can be measured by his accomplishments in office alone. I will not deny that Nixon had the accomplishments in office he did (though I do intend to offer a rebuttal of them of the next round). However, Nixon also destroyed the trust of the American people in government; this would not be repaired until the 1980's.

The first part of my argument I will offer is that Kennedy, with respect to the time in office, did no less than Nixon. Kennedy was the first president recognized as supporting the socially liberal views of the American people; he passed executive orders that banned discrimination based on race. Socially, he also abolished the federal death penalty. In addition, scientifically, he brought the space race to the forefront of America, and initiated Project Apollo. Many technological advances in society resulted.

With regards to foreign policy, he defused the Cuban Missile Crisis. He also signed the predecessor to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by Nixon, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He established the Peace Corps, and the Alliance for Progress. He also created diplomatic ties with Israel. It also goes without saying that he gave some of the most effective and remembered speeches in American history.

With all of this in mind, it is false to say that Kennedy's time in office was by any means "ineffective".

The second part of my argument is that, given that my aforementioned point is true, and both men had their major accomplishments, Nixon's legacy of Watergate damaged society enough to make his legacy ultimately worse than Kennedy's. Because the two were relatively equal in terms of accomplishments, the stain of Watergate caused Nixon to ultimately be a worse president than Kennedy.

Due to the fact that we have agreed to not post rebuttals in this round, I shall wait to refute my opponents' points until the next round.

I would also like to take a moment to point out that my opponent did in fact cite sources for the round, and you may find them in the comments. I would also like to thank him for his good-will time check.

Sources:
http://us-presidents.findthedata.org...
http://www.whitehouse.gov...
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com...
Debate Round No. 2
ndedo

Pro

The accomplishments of Kennedy have a bit more to them than what my opponent has mentioned. Here are my rebuttals to some of them.

"[Kennedy] passed executive orders that banned discrimination based on race."
This sounds good, but in the area of civil rights as a whole, he was somewhat lacking. Kennedy got elected with promises of supporting the civil rights movement, but failed to follow through on them. To claim that Kennedy was a major proponent of civil rights is almost laughable. His famed "accomplishment" of forcing the integration of TWO black students into the University of Alabama was a symbolic victory, though it pales in comparison with Nixon's forced integration of 70% of Southern public schools. What he did do in the area of civil rights was reluctant and slow. Many blacks who had elected him grew tired and frustrated with waiting and began to turn to violent protest, something MLK tried to reign in. The executive orders he passed only happened because of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's persuasion.
While campaigning for the 1960 election, he and his opponent Nixon (who made similar promises) were competing for the endorsements of major figures in the movement, among them Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King. Skeptical of his promises, Robinson was even asked by Kennedy what it would take to get his support, to which he replied "Look, Senator, I don't want any of your damn money!" (this is from the Rampersad biography of Robinson). He then went on to campaign for Nixon, who he and many others believed was more reliable. Before the election, Martin Luther King refused to meet with Kennedy several times for the same reasons and only did so reluctantly. When Kennedy made his now famous phone call to King's wife while King was in jail, it was only to win his support afterwards. When the call made the news, the Kennedy's were terrified that the election had been lost by his indiscretion, though it turned out to increase his political stock among liberals and helped him narrowly win.

"With regards to foreign policy, he defused the Cuban Missile Crisis."
This statement leaves out the fact that the crisis only took place as a result of Kennedy's failures in foreign policy. Beginning with his CIA support of the disastrous invasion of the Bay of Pigs, the presidency was marred with failure in this area. At the Vienna Summit, he was humiliated by Soviet leader Khrushchev in negotiations. His weak performance contributed to Khrushchev's decision to place missiles in Cuba. Kennedy rashly responded by publicly threatening war if the Soviets did not withdraw. This committed the U.S. to action and escalated the crisis to the brink of nuclear war, something that was totally unneccesary and foolish. Historians agree that the administration could have easily negotiated the problem through private diplomatic channels. Also, Secretary of State admitted that Cuban missiles did not even alter the nuclear balance of power and could have been ignored altogether. His "defusing" of the crisis came as a result of a pledge to not invade Cuba as well as a secret deal to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey. His further attempts to have Castro assassinated by the CIA were denounced by Lyndon Johnson as “a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean.”

"It also goes without saying that he gave some of the most effective and remembered speeches in American history."
This is true, but effective for what reasons? As mentioned before, his speech threatening the Soviets over Cuba nearly destroyed the world in nuclear war. His other speeches, while symbolically significant and patriotically rousing, were just that: speeches. Whatever positive effect they achieved for their eloquence and grandeur should instead be attributed to his speech-writers for whom he was simply the face-man. Nixon, on the other hand, is able to be remembered for more doing than talking.

For the above reasons, I argue that the statement, "The two were relatively equal in terms of accomplishments," is misguided and false.

"Nixon's legacy of Watergate damaged society enough to make his legacy ultimately worse than Kennedy's."
Nixon's involvement in Watergate was undoubtedly corrupt, but it is at least rivaled by the corruption of Kennedy's administration. The mainstream media was as loyal to the Kennedys as it was hateful towards Nixon. Had journalists actually reported on the corruption that they no doubt were aware of, Kennedy would have surely been impeached. He had deep ties with the Chicago mob and even shared a mistress with mob boss Sam Giancana, Judith Campbell Exner. In addition to Exner, his mistresses included Marilyn Monroe, Danish journalist Inga Arvad, and several White House interns. Documents that would have revealed further corruption during the administration were destroyed by the Kennedy family following the assassination. Had all of this come to the light, any damage Nixon did to people's trust in government would have already taken place. It should also be noted that Watergate was a failure and did not even accomplish anything; in spite of this, Nixon won the election in the 6th biggest landslide in American history, with a majority in 49 states.


On a side note, I would like to thank my opponent for pointing out my sources for the first round; it's much appreciated!

Sources:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com...
http://seekingalpha.com...
http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.theamericanconservative.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
SolonKR

Con

As the opponent did not disagree with the

Rebuttals:
First, I would like to challenge the validity of his sources used. My main point of contention is "http://www.theamericanconservative.com...;. This website, in addition to being clearly biased by its title, was written by Patrick Buchanan, whose books include several anti-minority works and far-fetched horror stories ("State of Emergency: The Third-World Invasion and Conquest of America" and "The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization"). Buchanan also in the article addressed the ousting of Nixon due to Watergate as a "coup d'etat" by an "elite press". I am sure that my opponent can agree that, while the media may have been biased, Nixon's impeachment trial was completely justified. He also at the end of the article compares Watergate to the Iran-Contra affair, saying they were both attempts by a liberal media to stop conservative presidents. Whether or not this is true, it ignores the essential fact that both were irresponsible, immoral, and unethical. A source such as this should not be considered valid.
Secondly, "http://seekingalpha.com...; is taken from a blog, and cannot be considered a reliable source for that reason. Otherwise, I would be able to win this debate due to the sheer number of Kennedy-idolizers out there. However, this is an academic debate on which president had a better impact on history.
Finally, a majority of the sources used are from Wikipedia, which can be edited by almost anyone.

In terms of content, these are my rebuttals:
1) "It should also be noted that Watergate was a failure and did not even accomplish anything; in spite of this, Nixon won the election in the 6th biggest landslide in American history, with a majority in 49 states."
The problem with this statement is that it assumes that a president's greatness can be measured by how well they do in elections. Andrew Jackson managed more than 76 percent of the electoral vote when he ran for re-election; however, he committed crimes against the Native Americans, openly defying John Marshall's ruling that the Cherokees were a sovereign nation and had certain rights; as well, he sank the U.S. into a financial crisis late in his term. Many elections have been won even by a 2/3 majority; according to the list my own opponent cites here (http://en.wikipedia.org...), twenty-two of the fifty-seven elections were won by at least that margin. Even more in contrast to my opponent's point is the fact that Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy's successor, won re-election by a landslide as well, with more than 90% of the electoral vote.
Source for statistics used unless otherwise noted: http://www.archives.gov...

2) "...the [Cuban Missile] crisis only took place as a result of Kennedy's failures in foreign policy." It is strange that my opponent considers it a problem solely caused by Kennedy, when the original Bay of Pigs plan was set forth under the Eisenhower administration, with Richard Nixon as vice president. Nixon had a very strong role in the plan, in fact. The plan was set to come to fruition very soon after Kennedy took office, and his hands were tied by the previous administration.

3) "As mentioned before, his speech threatening the Soviets over Cuba nearly destroyed the world in nuclear war." I would like to see factual evidence of that.

4) "When Kennedy made his now famous phone call to King's wife while King was in jail, it was only to win his support afterwards. When the call made the news, the Kennedy's were terrified that the election had been lost by his indiscretion, though it turned out to increase his political stock among liberals and helped him narrowly win." There is a gap of logic here, and no source to back up this claim. My opponent states that the sole reason for supporting King was to get an endorsement in the election from him to gain support from the civil rights movement; however, he also states that the Kennedy's were terrified that the fact that the call went public might have lost him supporters. If he was going for MLK's support, and consequentially the support of the civil rights movement, it would be inaccurate to state that he would be afraid of getting the support; having MLK's endorsement would have lost Kennedy voters in the South either way. The whole paragraph this statement is taken from is rampant with "facts" without sources.

5) "Had all of this [corruption under Kennedy] come to the light, any damage Nixon did to people's trust in government would have already taken place." This is purely speculative. The important fact of the matter is that it did in fact happen under Nixon. The scandal that Nixon was involved in changed the face of government forever, it destroyed the Republican party as it was known then, and it helped to bring the incompetent Jimmy Carter into office. Through all of this, Nixon indirectly caused the foreign policy issues that plagued America in the later 1970s and early 1980s. (Sources: http://www.examiner.com... and http://usatoday30.usatoday.com...).
Debate Round No. 3
ndedo

Pro

Counter-Rebuttals and Conclusion


I vigorously restate that Kennedy was a failure in foreign policy.

He got the U.S. involved in Vietnam, which was a mess that Nixon got the country out of.

The Bay of Pigs invasion was indeed, as my opponent said, a plan set forth by the previous administration. However I dispute the claim that "... [Kennedy's] hands were tied by the previous administration." He refused to offer air support for the Cuban rebels and yet he went through with the plan. Being a foolishly dangerous plan to begin with, it would have been prudent to stop it. Even if my opponent is correct in saying that the president had no choice, it is ridiculous to halfheartedly support the rebels without air support, which would might changed the outcome and avoided the crisis later on. My point here is that Kennedy should have gone all-in, or not at all. Instead, his weakness here and at the Vienna Summit displayed to Kruschev that he was a weak leader and encouraged him to place missiles in Cuba.

I made the point about Kennedy's reckless threats nearly causing nuclear war based on this evidence, which my opponent has since requested to see. It is an well-known fact that his public ultimatum on October 22, 1962 for the missiles to be removed was the point that the situation was escalated to the level of a crisis. The missiles could have been removed through private diplomatic channels and the escalation was unnecessary.

My opponent found issue with my statement in round 3 about the margin of victory in Nixon's re-election. By making this statement, I was not attempting to support the idea that Nixon was a good president; it was solely intended to be evidence of the idea that Watergate was not as dastardly of a scandal as it is played up to be, as it failed to do anything to turn the election in Nixon's favor and wouldn't have made a difference if it had gone unnoticed. I recognize that election margins do not reflect the merit of a president.

Throughout the debate, there has been some disagreement on how presidential greatness can be measured. If my opponent has sought to show that accomplishments are not the greatest measure of this, I believe that he has done a poor job of proving it. If integrity is a notable exclusion from my list of criteria, then I argue that I have clearly shown that Kennedy was by no means a moral role model, even if he appeared to be at the time. My opponent has based his argument on the idea that since, according to him, the two presidents were relatively equal in terms of accomplishments, the distrust in government caused by the Watergate scandal makes Nixon the worse president. I believe that my arguments have clearly shown that the first part of this thesis is incorrect. I concede some noteworthy accomplishments to Kennedy: he did indeed bring about the space race and Project Apollo; he established the fairly successful Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps; he signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; he also made diplomatic ties with Israel official. However, I do not feel that my opponent offered sufficient explanation for why these are significant or equal to the accomplishments of Nixon. He has also neglected to offer rebuttals for my original argument for what Nixon did accomplish; the only rebuttals posted thus far have been counter rebuttals to my own rebuttals. This seems to concede their merit.

The second part of my opponent's argument, which is that present day distrust in government was a negative result of Nixon's administration, is questionable. By this, I do not mean that Nixon caused it; I argue that it isn't necessarily that bad. When citizens distrust their government, there is a much higher standard for accountability. Having absolute trust in government is not a good thing; it only allows for more corruption, like that which took place unchecked under Kennedy.

I feel that I have shown through my arguments that Nixon was a better president than Kennedy, and I hope that voters feel the same way. I realize that I've neglected to give an in-depth rebuttal to my opponent's questioning of my sources as I'm writing this literally to the buzzer.
SolonKR

Con

SolonKR forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by ndedo 3 years ago
ndedo
Possibly confusing typo at the end of my conclusion: "By this, I do not mean that Nixon caused [distrust in government]..."
To clear this up, it should be "I do not deny that Nixon caused it..."
Posted by SolonKR 3 years ago
SolonKR
My apologies for the short phrase at the start of my argument; it was a typo :(
Posted by ndedo 3 years ago
ndedo
In Round 2, I forgot to add my sources at the end of the argument so I will post them here.

http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://abcnews.go.com...
http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Guidestone 3 years ago
Guidestone
ndedoSolonKRTied
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Total points awarded:42 
Reasons for voting decision: Con forfeited a round, and didn't address some of Pro's arguments.
Vote Placed by yay842 3 years ago
yay842
ndedoSolonKRTied
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: forfeit at the last round