It’s not often that debates between candidates for Vice President of the United States generate a famous quotation – or even much attention. But there are some notable exceptions.
One is the October 13, 1992 vice-presidential debate, in which Independent Ross Perot’s V.P. pick, James Stockdale, said “Who am I? Why am I here?” (It had the unfortunate effect of making him seem a bit out to lunch.)
A more famous quote from a vice-presidential debate occurred four years earlier on October 5, 1988.
In that one, Republican V.P. candidate Senator Dan Quayle debated Senator Lloyd Bentsen, candidate for the Democratic Party. (The presidential candidates were Republican George Herbert Walker Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis.)
At one point during the debate, journalist Tom Brokaw asked Quayle if he was prepared to serve as president in the event that became necessary.
Quayle replied: “I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.”
Bentsen responded with this famous zinger:
“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.”
The Democrats and the media loved it. And, ever since then the linguistic formula “You’re no [fill in the name]” has been part of our language, usually used for comedic effect.
Of course, despite all the attention the line received, Bush and Quayle handily beat Dukakis and Bentsen in the November 1988 election.
And, though the famous quip made Bentsen seem like a debating genius, he didn’t come up with it on the spur of the moment – and probably didn’t coin it.
Before the debate, Bentsen received extensive training from top professional speakers trainer and debate coach Michael Sheehan.
Sheehan knew Quayle often compared himself to President Kennedy when reporters asked him about his qualifications. Sheehan also knew that Bentsen knew Kennedy.
So, during their practice for the vice-presidential debate, Sheehan had Bentsen prepare and hone a response in advance. Indeed, some political observers assume Sheehan created the famed Kennedy response for Bentsen.
Sheehan is the best of the best when it comes to speakers training for politicians (and corporate executives, celebrities and anyone else).
I actually happen to know Michael Sheehan and here’s my opinion about who coined the “You’re no Jack Kennedy” quote: Lloyd Bentsen is no Michael Sheehan.
Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to October 5:
• “Hold the fort! I am coming!” - Legendary Civil War signal flag message sent by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to a beleaguered Union garrison at Allatoona Pass, Georgia on October 5, 1864.
• “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” - Chevrolet ad jingle famously sung by Dinah Shore in every episode of the The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, which first aired on October 5, 1956.