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By John Ruberry

“I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star!”
Peter O’Toole’s Alan Swann character in My Favorite Year.

A couple of writers I usually agree with, the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass and Breitbart’s Joel Pollak, the latter unsuccessfully  ran for Congress six years ago in the Illinois district where I live, are predicting a Hillary Clinton win in Monday’s presidential debate at Hofstra University.

Kass and Pollak acknowledge Clinton’s extensive debate skills, she was a victorious US Senate candidate in 2000 and 2006 and Clinton came very close to winning the Democratic nomination in 2008. The latter contest had numerous debates, including some one-on-one contests between Hillary and Barack Obama. Donald Trump has never participated in a one-on-one debate.

But Americans have heard this song before. While Kass acknowledges the 1960 John F. Kennedy–Richard M. Nixon debates set the standard for future matchups being about style over substance; Nixon was the more experienced debater, but Kennedy, still the most telegenic president in American history, emerged the victor. Nixon won the substance battle–the comparatively few radio listeners to the debate agreed–but the Age of Television began over a decade earlier.

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Blogger Ruberry with Joel Pollak in 2012

And what is largely overlooked from the first Kennedy-Nixon debate, which coincidentally was held 56 years to the day ahead of Monday’s faceoff, is that Nixon had some minor health issues on debate day–a knee injury suffered on the campaign trail and a subsequent infection earlier that month led to the Republican being hospitalized. Then Nixon contracted the flu. His rotten luck continued when the GOPer banged that same knee on a car door as he was entering the debate studio. Even in black-and-white, Kennedy looked tan and fit during that first debate, although his bronze skin tone, rare among those of Irish descent, was probably because he was suffering from Addison’s disease. Nixon looked pale. He was sweating, and it appeared that he needed a shave.

The better debater–and ironically the healthier man, lost the initial and of course most important of the 1960 debates. Nixon had to wait eight more years to win the presidency.

Trump, at age 70, is the Energizer bunny of the 2016 presidential campaign. The brash teetotaler clearly has the stamina to last 90 minutes standing on the debate stage.  But three times this month Clinton, age 68, had public bouts of unhealthiness that were captured on video–a four-minute long coughing fit, a collapse as her legs uncontrollably wobbled, and a Marty Feldman-wild eyes moment.

Can Clinton endure 90 minutes on her feet with no commercial breaks? Or bathroom or coughing breaks? While waiting for an opposing quarterback to throw an interception is generally not the best tactic of a successful NFL game plan, it certainly works well for the opponents of the Chicago Bears since Jay Cutler became their QB.

As for the Age of Television, and its cousin internet video, Trump is the master here. The billionaire real estate businessman hosted his popular Apprentice franchise for 11 years on NBC. Clinton, after nearly 40 years in public life, even on her increasingly few good days, still seems uncomfortable in front of TV cameras. Just as Nixon was, ironically. I mean this as a compliment: Trump is not a politician, he’s a TV star.  A skilled negotiator, Trump knows that if you get inside an opponents head, you’ve hobbled that person. Can Clinton debate the Trump on stage and the one in her head simultaneously?

Yes, Hillary can talk about details of police better than Trump. Will that matter?

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Sure Trump can blow it for himself by meandering into an insult rant during the debate, or worse, he could offer a cruel quip if (or when?) Clinton shows another sign of ill health, which would probably result in voters sympathizing with the Democratic nominee.

Moving beyond Kennedy-Nixon, in 1980, Ronald Reagan–an actor by the way–appeared far more presidential than the policy wonk incumbent, Jimmy Carter. In 2000,  Al Gore’s imperiousness mixed with too much wonkishness gave voters the impression that he had been running for president since 1969.

Come to think of it, Hillary Clinton has been positioning herself for a presidential run since then too. You could not say that about George W. Bush in 2000. And of course you can’t say that about Donald Trump either.

Not that Trump is dumb, he isn’t. But people don’t like smartass know-it-alls.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Yesterday I spent the day in Leominster Massachusetts birthplace of Johnny Appleseed for their annual Johnny Appleseed fair manning the WQPH 89.3 FM Queen of Perpetual Help Shirley Fitchburg booth promoting Catholic radio for people and praying decades of the rosary on the spot for people’s intentions both online and in person.

At the festival I did a few interviews for WQPH. We talked to Adam Webber of the Montachusett Interfaith Hospitality Network which provides help for homeless families.

If you want to donate to MIHN their website is here.

I also spoke to Brother Alexis who while from Fitchburg has spent the last 2 1/2 decades in Italy.

I’d also like to thank him for joining me in many of the rosary decades that I prayed for others.

ewtn-interviews-025Our next day started with breakfast at St Bernard’s monastery where Brother Christopher made our crew acquainted with the Benedictine Brew the Monastery’s coffee blend and then we were off to pick up our other pilgrims and run a few errands with our new Bus driver and headed for the EWTN studios in Irondale for our day there.

Benedictine Brew
Benedictine Brew
Benedictine Brew[/caption]

The Site of EWTN was the original location of Mother Angelica’s monastery before she built and moved to the Shrine of the most blessed sacrament in Hanceville. When we arrived Our day began with the Noon mass at the chapel (which is not televised) That is where I met Lucy who you might recognize if you watch the daily mass the short oriental lady who goes every day. It turned out her daughter lives in Fitchburg which was quite a coincidence. Several pilgrims from other groups were just as excited to meet her as the various EWTN celebs and priests and posed for a picture with her that I took for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had a late lunch in the small cafeteria area for pilgrims where we met Brother Leo of the “Hey Brother Leo” book series who sat for a brief interview

also on site was Jack Williams from EWTN Radio’s morning glory and open line who would be joining us on Fr. Pacwa’s show later that evening.

this was immediately followed by an hour long talk from Fr. Miguel on God’s calling. Here is a brief excerpt:

After our talk our group was divided into two groups, one went with Fr. Leo and the other with a woman named porta who sat for an interview later on Friday:

sets on wheels
sets on wheels
I was in Porta’s group and she led us thorough the EWTN studio’s where we would be going later in the evening for Fr. Pacwa’s show. A few of us took pictures on the set while it was empty.

She also showed up Mother Angelica’s office which had become a green room for guests.

Most of the various set backgrounds were on wheels so they could be quickly switched for one show to the other. Various other set backgrounds from shows no longer on the air were stored on site.

After that section we were taken to the technical area where the various technicians were located. I asked about hackers and they said while there were occasional attacks they had no luck getting in, of course being EWTN being a religious network the wasn’t a lot of incentive for the various financial hackers to target them.

the Caption Lady
the Caption Lady

As the tour continued I fell behind to talk to various workers who had been there or decades. Many had been surprised to find themselves at EWTN but it had really been a home to them.

When the tour was over we had dinner at EWTN again in the cafeteria area. While there I spoke to the oldest pilgrim in our group.

As well as Fr. Leonard Mary who had been in Fitchburg for a pilgrimage last year who remembered me (I told you the scarf comes in handy)

after dinner we had some free time to pray the liturgy of the hours, visit the blessed sacrament or get confession before the evening’s show.

Our group was the largest of those at EWTN but there were others from Texas and a few individuals who had also come to join us in the audience live.

Two Camera men were on opposite sides to take shots one focused on Fr. Pacwa and one to focus on his guest. Additionally there was one stationary camera set to catch the pair of them. A monitor on the side wall showed us which camera was feeding live at any given time.

The audience for the show
The audience for the show
Before the Show Fr. Pacwa came out in a cowboy hat and gave us some brief instructions or the live show remind us that if we were looking at the monitor rather than the show when the engineer turned to the audience we would be looking away. He joked once the video was available on DVD or online could watch the broadcast freeze the broadcast and look at ourselves on TV to our hearts content.

The show ran an hour, the first guest was Jack Williams who I had interviewed earlier who briefly talked about EWTN radio and plugged our station.

The Primary guest was Peter Williamson who has written a series of biblical commentaries

During the first break they asked who wanted to ask questions. We raised our hands they asked us what the questions were and then had us line up to the side. When our turn would come they signaled go to the mike and Fr would call on us when he was ready.

When he called on me they he asked jokingly if I had been told the EWTN studios were in Alaska rather than alabama because of the scarf.

When the show was over it turned out there was an issue with the initial into of Jack Williams so we watched as they re-recorded Fr. Mitch’s brief into of Jack for the broadcast, made slightly more complicated by him not being there so Fr. had to make sure that he faced toward where Jack was supposed to be.

When that was done Fr. Pacwa started taking pictures with people. that went on for long while. I took advantage of that time to interview his guest Peter Williamson

When I was done the pictures continued unabated. It was as if every single person there wanted a shot but despite the long day Fr. Pacwa did have a few minutes for me.

By this time it was really late so we piled on the bus and said our goodbyes and we headed back for the night, where we at the monastery packed as Wednesday would be our last night there and the next day would start early.