Previous Vice Presidential Debates Lend Perspective to Edwards, Cheney Face-Off
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JIM LEHRER: Speaking of later tonight and in anticipation of the vice presidential debates some memorable moments from past debates involving running mates. They’re part of “Debating Our Destiny,” a documentary we produced for PBS four years ago.
JIM LEHRER: On Oct. 15, 1976, at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas, Walter Mondale and Bob Dole met in the first debate ever between vice presidential candidates. Dole, known for his quick wit, demonstrated it right from the start of the debate.
BOB DOLE: I’ve known my counterpart for some time. And we’ve been friends and we’ll be friends when this debate is over. And we’ll be friends when the election is over and he’ll still be in the Senate.
WALTER MONDALE: I did not have a plan to open up an attack. But I did anticipate that he would. Unbelievably, we had anticipated that he would accuse the Democrats of starting World War II, and he did. (Laughs)
JIM LEHRER: That remark came in response to a question to dole about his support for President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon.
WALTER R. MEARS, Associated Press: Sen. Dole, two years ago when you were running for the Senate, you said that the pardon was prematurely granted and that it was a mistake. You approve of it now. And if the issue was fair game in your 1974 campaign in Kansas, why is it not an appropriate topic now?
BOB DOLE: It is an appropriate topic, I guess, but it’s not a very good issue any more than the war in Vietnam would be, or World War II or World War I or the war in Korea– all Democrat wars, all in this century. I figured out the other day, if we added up the killed and wounded in democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit. If we want to go back and rake that over and over and over, we can do that.
WALTER MONDALE: Unbelievable. I had to try to keep a straight face, because… I think they blew the election right there.
WALTER MONDALE: I think Sen. Dole has richly earned his reputation as a hatchet man tonight by implying and stating that World War II and the Korean War were Democratic wars.
JIM LEHRER: How did that happen? How did you happen to say “Democratic wars?” Is this something you went in….
BOB DOLE: This was boilerplate. In those days, you know, I had a stack of briefing books about two feet high. That was in the briefing book, which I received from, you know, the Ford people, the national committee. And I guess I should have exercised my own judgment. In any event, I probably wish I hadn’t said it.
JIM LEHRER: You do wish you hadn’t said it?
BOB DOLE: Yeah.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Did you…
BOB DOLE: One of my heroes was FDR and I’m a World War II veteran, so I didn’t… it wasn’t my view to run around and say, “Well, the Democrats start all the wars in the world.”
JIM LEHRER: Were you expecting the negative reaction– let’s put it that way– when you finished?
BOB DOLE: Not really. My role in that campaign was to go out and try to go to the edge, you know, to keep pushing the Mondale/Carter group. I guess some referred to me as the hatchet man, but… maybe that was correct. Ford had sort of the Rose Garden strategy, and I was out in the briar patch. I used to tell him, “Please call me home.” (Applause)
JIM LEHRER: On Oct. 11, 1984, Geraldine Ferraro met Vice President George Bush on the stage of Philadelphia’s civic theater for their one and only debate. Early in the debate, Vice President Bush had criticized former President Carter for his handling of the Iran hostage crisis. Ferraro, in turn, questioned President Reagan’s response to the more recent embassy and marine barracks bombings in Lebanon.
GERALDINE FERRARO: Are we going to take proper precautions before we put Americans in situations where they’re in danger, or are we just going to walk away throwing our arms up in the air now, quite a reversal from the first time… from the first time when he said he was going to do something, or is this president going to take some action?
GEORGE BUSH: Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon. Iran: We were held by a foreign government. In Lebanon, you had a wanton terrorist action where the government opposed it.
SPOKESMAN: Congresswoman Ferraro?
GERALDINE FERRARO: Let me just say, first of all, that I almost resent Vice President Bush your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy. (Applause )
GEORGE BUSH: “Patronize. Don’t patronize me.” I mean…
JIM LEHRER: That was the big line of that debate.
GEORGE BUSH: She was ready. She had probably been rehearsed for that, and I can’t even remember what it was. I said, “let me help you with that” or something. And all of that brought the crowd to its feet.
GERALDINE FERRARO: I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to scold. I didn’t want to tell him that he wasn’t dealing with me as an equal. I didn’t want to have to do that. I wanted just to focus on me and I didn’t want to give any sort of a negative impression to anybody that’s watching. (Cheers and applause)
JIM LEHRER: Tens of millions of Americans were waiting to hear Quayle’s answers when he took the stage at Omaha Civic Theater to debate Lloyd Bentsen, Oct. 5, 1988.
JIM LEHRER: Did you feel that, “oh, my goodness, if I make a mistake, if I make a serious mistake, it could hurt George Bush’s chances of election”?
DAN QUAYLE: Oh, of course. Absolutely. And that’s why you’re very careful and choose your words carefully and make sure that you don’t make any major mistakes, gaffes. That’s what the press is looking for.
BRIT HUME, ABC News: Let us assume if we can, for the sake of this question, that you become vice president and the president is incapacitated for one reason or another, and you have to take the reins of power. When that moment came, what would be the first steps that you’d take, and why?
DAN QUAYLE: First, I’d say a prayer for myself and for the country that I’m about to lead. And then I would assemble his people and talk.
BRIT HUME: What would you do next? (Laughter)
DAN QUAYLE: I don’t believe that it’s proper for me to get into the specifics of a hypothetical situation like that.
QUESTIONER: Sen. Quayle, I don’t mean to beat this drum until it has no more sound left in it, but to follow up on Brit Hume’s question, 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.
DAN QUAYLE: Let me try to answer the question one more time. I think this is the fourth time that I have had this question.
QUESTIONER: Third time.
DAN QUAYLE: Three times that I’ve had this question. And I’ll try to answer it again for you, as clearly as I can. 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.
QUESTIONER: Sen. Bentsen?
LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy. ( Cheers and booing )
DAN QUAYLE: That was really uncalled for, Senator. ( Cheers and applause )
LLOYD BENTSEN: You’re the one that was making the comparison, Senator. And I’m one who knew him well. And frankly, I think you’re so far apart in the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well taken.
JIM LEHRER: Did you think that was a cheap shot? What was your thought when you were standing there and he said that?
DAN QUAYLE: We actually had anticipated him using a line like that because during the campaign, if you recall, a lot of people, reporters– probably you, Jim, as well– would say, “well, what kind of experience do you really have?” And I would always make the factual reference to the experience that I had in the Congress and in the Senate to the experience that Jack Kennedy had before he was elected president– a factual statement. That was it. Not any comparison, but it was a factual statement. The staff said, “You know, sometime, you might get in a little trouble with that.” I said, “Look, it’s just a statement of fact.” They said, “Okay, we know that.” What I wasn’t anticipating was the crowd getting involved as much. And they got very involved, as you can listen on the tape. That I did not expect. But I was somewhat prepared for his line. It was a good line.
JIM LEHRER: Did you feel it hurt you in the long run?
DAN QUAYLE: In the long run, yes, because you guys keep running it over and over again. I’m sure you’re going to run it again on this program, and it’s not a good moment. (Laughter )
JIM LEHRER: There was a third candidate in that ’92 debate that neither Quayle nor Gore nor the viewing audience knew much about. He was Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot’s running mate on the reform ticket. The three men took the stage at Georgia Tech University on Oct. 13, 1992. Several news organizations later would describe the event as a brawl.
JIM LEHRER: In general terms, how would you characterize that experience for you?
JAMES STOCKDALE: It was terribly frustrating because I remember I started with….
JAMES STOCKDALE: Who am I? Why am I here? ( Laughter ) …and I never got back to that because there was never an opportunity for me to explain my life to people. It was so different from Quayle and gore. Four years in solitary confinement in Vietnam, seven- and-a-half years in prisons; dropped the first bomb that started the first American bombing raid into North Vietnam. I don’t say it just to brag, but I mean my sensitivities are completely different.
JAMES STOCKDALE: The best thing I had going for me was I had no contact with Washington for all those years. ( Laughter )
JIM LEHRER: As the two exchanged blows, Admiral Stockdale for the most part remained merely a spectator.
DAN QUAYLE: Bill Clinton has trouble telling the truth. And truth and integrity are prerequisites to being president of the united states.
AL GORE: I want to respond to that. ( Applause ) I want to respond to that. George bush, in case you’ve forgotten, Dan, said, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” (Laughter) And you know what?
DAN QUAYLE: I didn’t think I was going to hear that tonight.
AL GORE: Hold on.
DAN QUAYLE: Pass our Family Leave Act because it goes to small businesses, whereas the major problem is your proposal excluded small business. That’s the problem. Now let me talk about health care…
AL GORE: Did you require it? Did you require it?
DAN QUAYLE: My turn. It’s my turn.
AL GORE: Did you require….
DAN QUAYLE: Lighten up, Al. My turn.
AL GORE: It’s a free discussion.
DAN QUAYLE: Take a breath, Al. Inhale.
AL GORE: It’s a free discussion.
QUESTIONER: Can we give Admiral Stockdale a chance to jump in here if he wants to.
JAMES STOCKDALE: I would like to get in. I feel like I’m an observer at a ping-pong game. (Laughter)
JAMES STOCKDALE: I was standing there trying to figure out how I could get my oar in and never really did. And they’re just exercising right where they live. Every day, they’ll take an issue like Medicare and they’ll go from this way to that and four different ways you can look at it. And they dance counterclockwise around. Oh, I mean… I said, “what am I doing here? How in the hell can I break in and tell ‘em this is… that that’s not the whole story on being the national leader?”
JIM LEHRER: Once again those were highlights from our PBS documentary looking at past presidential and vice presidential debates.