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Briefing and Opinion
October 15, 2004

Don't answer that
1988 Quayle-Bentsen Vice Presidential Debate

Another characteristics of the interchanges in the vice presidential debate was a noticeable lack of fit between the questions and the answers. For example, when Senator Quayle was responding to a question from Jon Margolis regarding the subsidy program, the senator did not mention the subsidy program, but rather he began his response with a generic attack on Carter's grain embargo and ended the answer with an attack on Dukakis and his Harvard associates wanting farmers to grow Belgium endive. This had no relationship to the question asked.

Bentsen also had some misfits between questions asked and answers given. Specifically, when he responded to another lengthy Margolis question related to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the senator managed to spend more time talking about the "Bonnie and Clyde of environmental protection" Ann Gorsuch and James Watt than the mishandling of OSHA regulations.

Source: RHETORICAL STUDIES OF NATIONAL POLITICAL DEBATES 1960-1992, Chapter 8, 1988 Quayle-Bentsen Vice Presidential Debate by Warren D. Decker
Pause, don't hesitate
1988 Quayle-Bentsen Vice Presidential Debate

Tom Brokaw asked for the third time what Senator Quayle would do in the event he had to assume the presidency. Quayle responded in part by saying, "I would [hesitation] make sure [hesitation] that the people in the cabinet [hesitation] and the and the people that are advisors to the president are called in, and i would talk to them and i will work with them."....

In contrast, Bentsen handled the delivery aspects of his responses quite well. ...Quayle stated, "I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency." and Bentsen responded, "Senator, i served with Jack Kennedy [pause] I knew Jack Kennedy, [pause] Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. [pause] Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."

Source: RHETORICAL STUDIES OF NATIONAL POLITICAL DEBATES 1960-1992, edited by Robert V. Friedenberg of Miami University (of Ohio), Chapter 8, 1988 Quayle-Bentsen Vice Presidential Debate by Warren D. Decker
E is for E-C-O-N-O-M-Y
1992 Bush-Clinton Presidential Debates

He [Bush] wanted to claim the economy was basically okay. Yet he wanted to make proposals for dealing with economic problems. It would have been better if he had just said, "Yes, the economy is in terrible shape. Iím sorry about that, but I felt it was necessary to address the foreign problems first. Now that those are solved, I pledge to turn to the domestic problems with the same intensity and sagacity which I used to defeat Saddam Hussein." Such an approach would have allowed him to make his domestic proposals without simultaneously implying that they were not needed too, and would remind people of his foreign policy successes without having them undermine his campaign stances.

Source: RHETORICAL STUDIES OF NATIONAL POLITICAL DEBATES 1960-1992, Chapter 9, 1992 Bush-Clinton Presidential Debates by Dan F. Hahn

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