Op-Ed: Top five vice presidential debate moments in U.S. TV history

Posted Oct 11, 2012 by Andrew Moran
Tonight, the only United States vice presidential debate will take place between Vice President Joe Biden and the Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan. This is the perfect time to look back at some of the top moments of the past VP debates.
Former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle
Former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle
U.S. Department of Defense
Last week, Digital Journal provided the top 10 presidential debate moments in U.S. television history. On Thursday, we take a look at some powerful, questionable and downright baffling vice presidential debate instances for the past few decades.
On Thursday evening, Mr. Gaffe himself, Vice President Joe Biden, will go one-on-one with Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, who made the news this week after getting snippy with a local Michigan reporter.
Will Biden embarrass his boss? Will the vice president make some smart (or nonsensical) cracks? Will Ryan seal the deal for Mitt Romney? Will the VP nominee ask the audience who he is and why is he here?
Instead of rambling on like Senator Bob Dole did in 1976, here are five of the absolute best moments in VP debate history.
5. Senator Bob Dole (R) vs. Vice President Walter Mondale (D) – 1976
Talk about evading a question! Dole apparently didn’t like the question that the debate moderator gave, which was if it is appropriate or not to talk about President Gerald Ford’s pardoning of President Richard Nixon.
Instead of answering the question directly, he started talking about the Democratic wars.
“It is an appropriate topic, I guess, but it’s not a very good issue, anymore than the war in Vietnam or World War II or World War I or the war in Korea; all Democrat wars, all in this century,” explained Dole. “I figured the other day that if you add up the killed and wounded, Democrat wars in this century would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit.”
4. Vice President George H.W. Bush (R) vs. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D) – 1984
Ferraro didn’t like the vice president’s attitude and she made it known, which led to an ovation from the crowd. Unfortunately, her debate performance didn’t help former Vice President Walter Mondale defeat the incumbent President Ronald Reagan.
“I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.”
3. Vice President Dan Quayle (R) vs. Senator Al Gore (D) vs. Adm. James Stockdale (I) – 1992
Quayle certainly wasn’t the smartest vice president in U.S. history and will be known for his constant blunders. However, his performance in Atlanta of Oct. 1992 was superb and for some reason had a fiery spirit and had a number of zingers.
Unfortunately, akin to Ferraro, his debate performance didn’t help his boss, President George H.W. Bush, who was defeated by Governor Bill Clinton.
This won’t be Quayle’s only mention in debate moments.
2. Adm. James Stockdale (I) vs. Vice President Dan Quayle (R) vs. Senator Al Gore (D) – 1992
What a way to introduce yourself to the nation’s electorate.
“Who am I? Why am I here?”
Although Stockdale’s opponents, the debate moderator and the audience chuckled, this was the beginning of the end for Ross Perot’s candidacy. Perot polled consistently well, but Stockdale’s debate performances and his paucity of confidence was one of the reasons the third party candidate lost.
1. Senator Dan Quayle (R) vs. Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D) – 1988
Quayle attempted to compare himself to former President John F. Kennedy with his level of experience, but it failed on a whole new level.
“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy,” said Bentsen, which led to a roaring and will live on forever as one of the greatest debate moments in the history of vice presidential debates.
After that statement, there are a few things you should know about Bentsen: you don’t mess with Bentsen, you don’t try to debate Bentsen and Bentsen wants you to have enough room for his fist so he can ram it into your stomach and break your spine.
Be sure to follow @a_moran3 on Twitter for live coverage of the vice presidential debate starting at 9 p.m. EST.