History Lesson: Past Debates

Who: Reagan and Mondale Where: Kansas City, Mo. Moderator: Edwin Newman as moderator, plus a panel including Georgie Anne Geyer, Marvin Kalb and Morton Kondracke. Format: 2 ½-minute responses; 1-minute rebuttals; 4-minute closing statements Sponsors: LWV, the ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS Ratings: 67.3 million viewers

In the final debate Reagan out maneuvered Mondale with lines such as, “I will not, for political purposes, exploit my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

1988 Election

The 1988 debates provided some of the more memorable moments in debate history. The three debates featured tense exchanges between Vice President George Bush and Michael Dukakis, and GOP vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle drawing parallels between himself and President Kennedy.

September 25, 1988

Who: Vice President George Bush, a Republican, and Democrat Michael Dukakis Where: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C. Moderator: Jim Lehrer as moderator, plus a panel including John Mashek, Peter Jennings and Ann Groer Format: 2-minute responses; 1-minute rebuttals; follow-up by panel; 2-minute closing statements Sponsor/Broadcasters: Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD); Networks Ratings: 65.1 million viewers

In their first debate, Dukakis and Bush sparred over competence and social values. One tense moment occurred when Dukakis asserted that he resented Bush “questioning my patriotism” over the Pledge of Allegiance, declaring, “Mr. Bush, I don’t question your patriotism.”

When Bush said that he had not “sorted out the penalties” for women who sought abortions or doctors who performed them, Dukakis hit Bush hard, charging Bush was “saying he is willing to brand a woman a criminal for making this choice.”

Bush, in the final 30 minutes of the debate, joked about the tense exchanges: “I’d hoped this would be a little friendlier — I wanted to thumb a ride home in his tank.”

October 5, 1988

Who: Vice-Presidential Debate — GOP candidate Dan Quayle and Democratic candidate Lloyd Bentsen Where: Omaha Civic Auditorium, Omaha, Neb. Moderator: Judy Woodruff as moderator, plus a panel including Tom Brokaw, Jon Margolis and Brit Hume Format: No opening statements; 2-minute responses; 1-minute rebuttals; 2-minute closing statements Sponsor/Broadcasters: CPD; Networks Ratings: 46.9 million viewers

The 1988 vice-presidential candidates met for one televised debate. The 90-minute forum included one memorable exchange, when Quayle was grilled on what he would do in the event that he was called upon to assume the presidency. Quayle responded that he was at least as qualified for the job as John F. Kennedy had been when he ran for president in 1960. Bentsen, in a pre-scripted reply which anticipated that Quayle might mention Kennedy, said, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.”

October 13, 1988

Who: Bush and Dukakis Where: University of California at Los Angeles Moderator: Bernard Shaw as moderator, plus a panel including Andrea Mitchell, Ann Compton and Margaret Warner Format: No opening statements; 2-minute responses; follow-up by panel; 2-minute closing statements Sponsor/Broadcasters: CPD; Networks Ratings: 67.3 million viewers

During the second debate, moderator Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis if he would still oppose the death penalty if his wife Kitty was raped and murdered. Dukakis’ unemotional “no” response made him seem cold.

1992 Election

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