He Knew Jack Kennedy, He Served With Jack Kennedy

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Former Texas Senator and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, utterer of the most devastating one-liner in vice presidential (or just plain presidential) debate history, is dead at age 85.

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  1. …most devastating one-liner in vice presidential (or just plain presidential) debate history…

    It couldn’t have been that devastating; Dukakis lost.

  2. what do you mean, PL? that remark is as clear as boston harbor…

    🙂

  3. Dukakis lost, but Quayle never again regained his footing and to this day is viewed as an idiot. The “Potatoe” spelling correction sealed the deal, though.

  4. thedifferentphil,

    Quayle didn’t need the Bentsen remark for that to happen though.

  5. True enough. But is speeded it up. At the time there were still people saying that he looked like Robert Redford and could help with the Repub’s gender gap, and that he was a solid conservative etc. to boot. Maybe only Bill Kristol, his ex chief of staff, is his sole remaining defender. And probably not him either.

  6. My favorite line was from the 1992 Vice Presidential debates, and came from Admiral James Stockdale. Who am I and why am I here?.

    Priceless. It brought me to hysterical laughter and instantly endeared me to that very confused man.

  7. On Meet the Press July 25, moderator Tim Russert asked Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen whether the floods in the Midwest would drag the nation’s economy downward. No, Bentsen said confidently, the floods might stimulate the economy. “alot of concrete will be poured,” he said. “You have to look at all the jobs that will be created to repair the damage.”

    From Reason’s own Rick Henderson back in Oct 1993

    https://reason.com/9310/ed.rick.shtml

  8. Who am I and why am I here?

    The most brilliant line ever. If I run for POTUS, I’m gonna say that and nothing else in each debate 🙂

  9. I hate coming off as defending Quayle, but let’s just review here:

    1) Quayle is asked about concerns that he is too young and/or inexperienced to be POTUS;

    2) Quayle responds, in so many words, that age by itself isn’t that important, and that he has more political experience than a previous POTUS (JFK) had upon enterring office;

    3) Bentsen responds that Quayle “is no [JFK].”

    Bentsen’s remark may have been rhetorically “devastating,” but it was logically weak.

    All I know about this is what I’ve read – I am too young myself to know anything about the context of the exchange beyond what I can read in the debate transcript. Wikipedia’s entry on the subject makes it sound like Quayle may have been comparing himself to JFK in the course of his campaign, which would be different from merely using JFK as a hurdle for age/experience qualification. Bentsen’s remarks would make sense as a reply to actual comparisons, but not so much to the specific comments Quayle made in that debate

  10. You know, I recall the prevailing opinion about Bentsen’s remark being that it was snarky and too obviously “in the script”. I don’t think it did anything except give the media something to go “Oooooooh” about.

    Debates are such a waste of time, anyway. Even a proper debate wouldn’t test the qualities needed in a president. . .unless extemporaneous speaking had somehow returned to vogue.

    Speaking of Quayle, I still can’t believe that Bush didn’t find someone a little more impressive to fill the VP slot. There had been talk of offering the gig to Jack Kemp, which might’ve given the ticket enough heft to have won in 1992.

  11. Quayle was simply a marketing gimmick and nothing more. Bush came across as an old doddard, so they sexed up the ticket with a fresh face with perfect hair. All style and no substance.

    The thing is, Quayle always had that “deer in the headlights” look. I remember one reporter asking him what he would, as vice president, do if Bush got kakked. After blinking and gulping for a minute, he offered, in a small voice:

    “…..I would, first, say a prayer….”

    I was a rabid Republican at the time, and even then I remember muttering “You’re such an idiot.”

    Quayle was very good in providing the rope to hang him. That whole Murphy Brown flap was a classic case. All he did was give a bunch of screetching harpies a national podium to cram yet another helping of their baby-boomer crap down our throats.

    I respect that Bentsen was a force of conservatism in the Clinton administration, and that he was a bomber pilot (what balz). But the guy was a terrible public speaker, at least the one time I saw him live. His voice was very weak and dispassionate.

  12. Help the bombardier!

  13. “Quayle was simply a marketing gimmick and nothing more. Bush came across as an old doddard, so they sexed up the ticket with a fresh face with perfect hair. All style and no substance.”

    Good thing the Democrats never fell into that trap.

    Sometime I think there are two Americas…

  14. Sometime I think there are two Americas…

    Both stupid. I can’t tell you the level of flabbergastification I had when I heard that GW Bush was running for POTUS. When he was nominated, I wondered if I was on Bizarro Earth. Sometimes I feel like each party is trying to lose when the nominees are selected.

    Actually, the Dems have done fairly well in the POTUS elections with at least having experience of some sort. Clinton-Gore and Gore-Lieberman had fair credentials, all other failings aside. I’d say Edwards wasn’t really a great VP choice, but he wasn’t a doofus, either. Kerry was at least a doofus with long-term Senate experience.

    On the other hand, experience in getting corrupted by politics is of dubious value, and I think I’d prefer any candidate from “outside”. Which is why I like governors better than anyone with DC experience.

  15. “Quayle was simply a marketing gimmick and nothing more. Bush came across as an old doddard, so they sexed up the ticket with a fresh face with perfect hair. All style and no substance.”

    You guys ever heard of John Edwards?

  16. Kerry was at least a doofus with long-term Senate experience.

    You say that like spending years in the Senate is a good thing.

  17. Nah, I despise them all, R C.

  18. Dennis Miller’s rant on Stockdale’s critics:

    “Now I know (Stockdale’s name has) become a buzzword in this culture for doddering old man, but let’s look at the record, folks. The guy was the first guy in and the last guy out of Vietnam, a war that many Americans, including our present President, did not want to dirty their hands with.

    The reason he had to turn his hearing aid on at that debate is because those fucking animals knocked his eardrums out when he wouldn’t spill his guts. He teaches philosophy at Stanford University, he’s a brilliant, sensitive, courageous man. And yet he committed the one unpardonable sin in our culture: he was bad on television.

    “Somewhere out there Paddy Chayefsky must be laughing his ass off. …”

  19. Yeah, the idea that good public speaking (on TV, no less) is the only quality a president needs is beyond me.

    Of course, the only thing a good libertarian president needs is the ability to veto bills, to refuse to enforce laws, and to otherwise screw up the system. Oh, and to defeat several impeachment hearings over the course of his administration.

  20. Chortle. I’m voting for Chauncey Gardner. He has gravitas.

  21. ProL:

    he really had some optimistic views on the economy.

    and:

    “I like to watch”
    “oh! wait a minute! I’ll go get warren!”

    yooooo so went there!

  22. i’m not a conspiracy nut. and yes, i know that’s how conspiracy nuts begin all of their diatribes. but i used to be convinced, and still kind of suspect, that bush chose quayle because he was more deeply involved in iran-contra than anyone suspected, and this was his insurance policy against impeachment if it ever came to light. i was quite impressed with the cleverness of this theory, which i came up with all by my little old self, so i always considered his choice of qualye evidence of bush’s genius (evil genius, but genius), not the opoosite.

    of course, my theory was based on the assumption that nobody would want someone that dumb to be president, and that assumption has pretty much been shot to hell…

    and now, in keeping with the pattern of all 3 of my previous posts to hit and run in the last few months, i hearby declare this thread dead.

    -cab

  23. 1) Quayle is asked about concerns that he is too young and/or inexperienced to be POTUS;

    2) Quayle responds, in so many words, that age by itself isn’t that important, and that he has more political experience than a previous POTUS (JFK) had upon enterring office;

    3) Bentsen responds that Quayle “is no [JFK].”

    Bentsen’s remark may have been rhetorically “devastating,” but it was logically weak.

    True in the most literal sense, but of course the subtext is that Quayle is obviously trying to get people to associate his name with JFK’s. Part of what made Bentsen’s remark work so well was that he called Quayle out on the BS subtext.

    Also, it does work logically if you read it as Bentsen stipulating to Quayle’s literal point but disagreeing with it’s larger meaning, i.e. if you read him as saying, “I agree that you have the same amount of Congressional experience that Jack Kennedy had, but you are no Jack Kennedy.”

  24. Pro Libertate,

    I can’t tell you the level of flabbergastification I had when I heard that GW Bush was running for POTUS.

    I wasn’t. For a large section of the U.S. electorate GWB pushes all the right buttons (or did in 2000 at least).

  25. differentanon,
    You have hit the nail on the head.
    Bentson was being the pure asshole he was.
    Yet Quayle was too stupid to tell him to go fuck himself.
    This byte of history is sad, sad, sad.

    And we have gone downhill since.
    Oh frabjous day! Calooh, Callay!

  26. Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    Well, I can’t argue with his success. It probably says more about me than about Bush that I was surprised at his nomination and victory. I suppose it didn’t really matter–it’s not like either major party was going to run a candidate I was going to like, right?

  27. The thing is, Quayle always had that “deer in the headlights” look. I remember one reporter asking him what he would, as vice president, do if Bush got kakked. After blinking and gulping for a minute, he offered, in a small voice:

    “…..I would, first, say a prayer….”

    Okay, I disliked Quayle intensely then, dislike him a bit less so now (absence makes the snark grow milder?) but even I had to feel a bit of pity for him there. Think about it – you’re the Vice President, the President is shot, what do you do? Of course, if you’re religious, you say a prayer first. What the hell else are you going to do?

    It was a stupid, unfair question, far too general to be given anything other than the most trivial of answers. Which, unfortunately, is what he did, instead of calling the moderator on it.

  28. Sammy:

    It was a tough question, and maybe a bit of a sucker-punch. But Quayle was running to be second-in-command in arguably the toughest job in the world. So he should be able to take the hit and not blink.

    But he didn’t. Like I said, the idiot stood there for a good three seconds and looked very uncomfortable. Hardly the decisive take-charge type.

    And I felt his answer was a bit pandering. Who gives a fuck that the guy prays? Praying is a highly personal thing… except for those who are trying to prove something or seek to profit from it. And the irony is that Jesus railed against people who do this.

  29. Mr. Nice Guy and Sammy,

    Quayle’s statement about what he would do if Bush bought it was cut off. Here it is in its entirety:
    “I would, first, say a prayer. . .of thanks.”

  30. Bentsen’s remark may have been rhetorically “devastating,” but it was logically weak.

    That was the beauty of it, just a complete, out-of-the-blue, ad hominem put-down, and damn the rules of order.

  31. Dennis Miller’s rant on Stockdale’s critics

    I’ve always found that one of the more memorable bits of his rants…

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