Bentsen to Quayle: 'You're no Jack Kennedy'

Democrat Lloyd Bentsen's sharp retort to Republican Dan Quayle that 'you're no Jack Kennedy' dominated the campaign Thursday, with Bentsen defending his remark and President Reagan and Quayle calling it 'a cheap shot.'

On a flight to Texas from Omaha, Neb., site of Wednesday's vice presidential debate, Bentsen, the senior senator from the Lone Star State, told reporters his Kennedy response to Quayle was not prepared and that anger prompted it.


'Quayle is trying to wrap the mantle of John Kennedy around him. John Kennedy was a war hero. He was a distinguished lawmaker,' Bentsen said aboard his campaign plane.

Quayle, 41, served in the Indiana National Guard at the height of the Vietnam War rather than face combat duty and questions have been raised about the level of his academic and congressional achievement.

The sharp exchange came Wednesday night when Quayle was asked three different times to explain what he would do if he was thrust into the presidency. He said he would be ready to take over and work with administration officials.


'I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency,' Quayle said.

Bentsen faced Quayle and said: 'Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.'

Quayle replied, 'That was really uncalled for, senator.'

A CBS poll released Thursday showed that voters called Bentsen the winner by a 2-1 margin. One-fourth of Bush supporters even gave Bentsen the edge in the debate.

But the percentage of voters who were worried about Quayle's ability to serve dropped from 52 percent before the debate to 48 percent afterwards. The percentage that believed he understood the complications facing the president rose from 42 percent to 54 percent, according to the poll.

Still, CBS said 43 percent now believe the vice presidential candidates 'matter a lot' to the decision on who to support, an increase of 9 percentage points from the last poll.

Quayle, on a flight from Joplin to Springfield, Mo., where he was campaigning with former President Gerald Ford, was asked about Bentsen's remark.

'Quite frankly,' Quayle said, 'I thought it was a cheap shot.'

In Washington, Reagan was asked if he thought the testy exchange during the debate would harm Quayle, the junior senator from Indiana.


'No, I thought that remark was a cheap shot and unbecoming to a senator of the United States,' Reagan said.

'The only comparison he was making was that he was being attacked and I think unfairly on the basis of his age and his experience in government,' Reagan said. 'And he was pointing out that John Kennedy, who sought the highest office and won it, had actually less experience in government than he had.'

Both the Bush and Dukakis campaigns expressed pleasure with the debate, arguing that their respective running mate bested the other.

Dukakis, traveling from Boston to Longview, Texas, for a campaign appearance with Bentsen, said Quayle 'didn't have a sense of strength of control or anything.'

'I've never seen Senator Quayle up close like that,' Dukakis told reporters aboard his campaign plane. 'It is very disturbing.

'I thought what happened yesterday was ... a real plus for us, especially among the undecided voters,' Dukakis said.

Bentsen said, 'I'm just delighted how it went last night. The overnight polls (were) extraordinary.'

Late Thursday, as he arrived in Memphis, Dukakis said the issue of Bush's choice of Quayle as his running mate us 'one of the reasons why people are switching, why this campaign of ours is beginning to move, and why we're going to win in November.'


In an effort to exploit the Quayle question, the Democrat's campaign bagn airing two new commercials across the nation Thursday - one shows an empty Oval Office, headlines about Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford taking over the presidency, and says of the selection of Quayle, 'Hopefully, we'll never know how great a lapse of judgment that really was.'

Lee Atwater, Bush's campaign manager who traveled with the vice president to his Texas campaign appearance, told reporters that both candidates in the debate proved they were competent and qualified.

'But ultimately there are two gladiators in the arena who are going to count in the end and that's George Bush and Michael Dukakis,' Atwater said.

Bush, also campaigning in Texas, praised the performance of his vice presidential candidate in the debate and Quayle said 'things went very well last night.'

Asked if he were glad the debate was over, Quayle said, 'I'd like to have another one.'

He expressed frustration, though, that most of the questions dealt with domestic issues rather than being split between domestic and foreign policy.

In Fort Worth, Texas, Bush again charged before an audience of law enforcement officers that Dukakis was soft on crime and said, 'Clint Eastwood's answer to violent crime was, 'Go ahead, make my day!'


'My opponent's answer is slightly different. His motto is, 'Go ahead, have a nice weekend,'' Bush said, referring to the former weekend prison furlough program in Massachusetts.

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