During a 1988 vice-presidential debate in Omaha, Nebraska, Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen included a memorable zinger at Republican Sen. Dan Quayle.
Quayle concluded one of his responses by drawing a parallel between himself and John F. Kennedy, America’s 35th president.
“I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country,” Quayle said. “I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.”
The moderator pivoted to Bentsen, who looked over at Quayle and said, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy – Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”
Quayle, who did not make eye contact with Bentsen until he delivered the put-down, responded, “That was really uncalled for, senator.”
Quayle went on to become the 44th US vice president, during the term of President George H.W. Bush.
Here is a video of the exchange between Quayle and Bentsen:
And a transcript:
Tom Brokaw of NBC News: Senator Quayle, I don’t mean to beat this drum until it has no more sound in it. But to follow up on Brit Hume’s question, when you said that it was a hypothetical situation, it is, sir, after all, the reason that we’re here tonight, because you are running not just for vice president. [Applause]
Brokaw: And if you cite the experience that you had in Congress, surely you must have some plan in mind about what you would do if it fell to you to become president of the United States, as it has to so many vice presidents just in the last 25 years or so.
Quayle: Let me try to answer the question one more time. I think this is the fourth time that I’ve had this question.
Brokaw: The third time.
Quayle: Three times that I’ve had this question – and I will try to answer it again for you, as clearly as I can, because the question you are asking is what kind of qualifications does Dan Quayle have to be president, what kind of qualifications do I have and what would I do in this kind of a situation. And what would I do in this situation? I would make sure that the people in the Cabinet and the people that are advisers to the president are called in, and I would talk to them, and I will work with them. And I will know them on a firsthand basis, because as vice president I will sit on the National Security Council.
And I will know them on a firsthand basis, because I’m going to be coordinating the drug effort. I will know them on a firsthand basis because Vice President George Bush is going to re-create the Space Council, and I will be in charge of that. I will have day-to-day activities with all the people in government. And then, if that unfortunate situation happens – if that situation, which would be very tragic, happens, I will be prepared to carry out the responsibilities of the presidency of the United States of America.
And I will be prepared to do that.
I will be prepared not only because of my service in the Congress, but because of my ability to communicate and to lead. It is not just age – it’s accomplishments, it’s experience. I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration, if that unfortunate event would ever occur.
Moderator: Senator Bentsen.
Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy. [Shouts and applause] What has to be done in a situation like that is to call in the …
Moderator: Please, please, once again you are only taking time away from your own candidate.
Quayle: That was really uncalled for, senator. [Shouts and applause]
Bentsen: You are the one that was making the comparison, senator – and I’m one who knew him well. And frankly I think you are so far apart in the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well taken.