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I'm no Lloyd Bentsen

Senator, Treasury Secretary, and former Vice Presidential Candidate Lloyd Bentsen died today, but mainly I knew him for the biggest political debate knock out punch ever given on prime time television. I was a college student and living in Oregon at the time. It was the first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential election so I was following it fairly closely.

vpheader.jpgOn the evening of October 5, 1988 a bunch of fellow students and I gathered in a professor's living room and we watched the debate live. Bentsen's debate opponent was the very easy to ridicule Dan Quayle - but looking back on it, Quayle's political obituary was written that night when Bentsen retorted to Quayle's predictable comparison of his youthfulness with that of John F. Kennedy -

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."

Oh, did we hoot and holler at that one. Now, 18 years later, I really wonder what was accomplished. Quayle went on to be our Vice President. Bentsen served out his term as Senator and went on to be Secretary of the Treasury. On one hand I think that it was a bold way to unmask demagoguery. On the other hand, apart from being a feel good moment for us on the left, it didn't really change anything. Dukakis and Bentsen went on to lose and lose big. And, in the final analysis, would I like to be remembered primarily as a person who destroyed another person in public? And yet, again, didn't Quayle deserve the schooling he got?

At any rate, may he rest in peace. And what do I know? I'm no Lloyd Bentsen.

[You can read the entire text of that debate here and the famous exchange here.]

Here's a strange little music video that uses the famous soundbite:

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