Presidential debate: 7 defining moments in history (+video)

From Ronald Reagan’s one-liner, “There you go again,” to Al Gore’s heavy sighs and eye rolls, zingers and mannerisms can define a presidential debate even more than the candidates’ positions on critical issues. Here is a look back at seven defining debate moments.

1988 vice presidential debate: Dan Quayle vs. Lloyd Bentsen

Sen. Dan Quayle (R) of Indiana was elected vice president in 1988, but he was on the wrong side of a defining moment during the vice presidential debate on Oct. 5 that year.

The recurring criticism of Senator Quayle’s lack of experience – especially if became necessary for him to take over the presidency – became a heated topic during the debate.

Panelist Tom Brokaw, repeating the question of Brit Hume, another journalist on the panel, asked Quayle what specific plans he had if he became president.

Quayle, frustrated with having to answer the same question three times, compared his amount of experience to that of Kennedy when he ran for the office:

“I will be prepared not only because of my service in the Congress, but because of my ability to communicate and to lead,” Quayle said. “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.”

His opponent, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) of Texas, shot back:  “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

Quayle had anticipated that Senator Bentsen might respond in that way, but he had not expected the audience to shout and applaud.

“What I wasn't anticipating was the crowd getting involved as much, and they got very involved, as you can listen on the tape,” Quayle told PBS's Lehrer in 2008. “That I did not expect because there were certain rules or understanding that you had that the crowd was to be there to observe, and not to participate. And they did, and I wasn't prepared for that, but I was somewhat prepared for his line. It was a good line.”

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