the limits of détente

I get the impression that Marshall McLuhan was not impressed with the first Ford-Carter debate (in Philadelphia) (via):

The rebellion of the medium against the message he refers to was the breakdown of the audio part of the broadcast near the end of the debate. When the candidates learned that they could not be heard on tv, they apparently just stood there and waited for the problem to be fixed. For 27 minutes.

Years later, Carter and Ford talked about the experience for a PBS documentary (video here, starting at 3:52):

JIM LEHRER: Everyone in America who was watching, you know, was very – couldn’t figure out – this was unreal. What was it like standing there?

PRESIDENT CARTER: I watched that tape afterwards and it was embarrassing to me that both President Ford and I stood there almost like robots. We didn’t move around, we didn’t walk over and shake hands with each other. We just stood there.

PRESIDENT FORD: I suspect both of us would have liked to sit down and relax while the technicians were fixing the system, but I think both of us were hesitant to make any gesture that might look like we weren’t physically or mentally able to handle a problem like this.

JIM LEHRER: The delay continued for 27 minutes before the technicians were able to trace the problem to a blown transformer and replace it.

PRESIDENT CARTER: So I don’t know who was more ill at ease, me or President Ford.

JIM LEHRER: It looked like a tie to me.

PRESIDENT CARTER: It was a tie. Neither one of us was at ease, there’s no doubt about that. Those events, I think, to some degree let the American public size up the candidates, and I don’t think either one of us made any points on that deal.

If they could not have stood up to the audio, could they have stood up to the Soviets?

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