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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin 2: Put your hand in the hand…

National news commentators were almost apoplectic Wednesday night when Trump and Hillary Clinton didn’t shake hands before or after the final debate. That was down from two shakes in the first debate and one rather grudging one at the end of the second.

Colleague Jonathan Brunt did a little digging for the blog on Thursday and determined that it was the first presidential debate in the “modern era” in which the candidates didn’t shake hands at least once. 

By modern era debates, politicos usually mean since 1976, when the practice resumed after a 16-year hiatus brought on by Richard Nixon and his five o’clock shadow cleaned by John Kennedy. That raises the question, did Nixon and JFK shake hands for their four debates?

For three debates, the answer is yes, but not on camera. Those first debates were pretty formal, with the television coverage starting and ending with the candidates at their podiums. But there are news photos of the two candidates shaking hands either before or after the first, second and fourth.

It’s a sure bet they didn’t shake hands for the third but not because of any animus. Kennedy was in New York for that debate but Nixon was in Los Angeles. They were tied together for television by a satellite link

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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