Ottawa, Illinois, on August 21, 1858:
Suddenly came an event. Lincoln wrote a challenge. Douglas met it. A debate was to be staged. The two men were to stand on platforms together and argue in seven different parts of the state with all Illinois watching, and the whole country listening…
And Abraham Lincoln said,
“This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world-enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites-causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty-criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest."
And Stephen A. Douglas said:
"I should like to know, if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle, and making exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man says it does not mean a negro, why may not another man say it does not mean another man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get this statute book in which we find it and tear it out. Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man-this race and that race and the other race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position, discarding our standard that we have left us. Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal."
One hundred and two years later, another pair of politicians mounted a mutual rostrum and made political as well as broadcasting history. The 1960 electronic version of the Lincoln-Douglas confrontations -- four "Great Debates" between Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy said: "In the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln said the question was whether this Nation could exist half slave or half free. In the election of 1960, and with the world around us, the question is whether the world will exist half slave or half free, whether it will move in the direction of freedom, in the direction of the road that we are taking, or whether it will move in the direction of slavery. I think it will depend in great measure upon what we do here in the United States, on the kind of society that we build, on the kind of strength that we maintain."
"I don't believe in big government, but I believe in effective governmental action, and I think that's the only way that the United States is going to maintain its freedom; it's the only way that we're going to move ahead. I think we can do a better job. I think we're going to have to do a better job if we are going to meet the responsibilities which time and events have placed upon us.We cannot turn the job over to anyone else. If the United States fails, then the whole cause of freedom fails, and I think it depends in great measure on what we do here in this country."
2008, Obama/Clinton debates
LA Times: Did Obama Give Hillary The Finger?
And other silliness