Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Remembering Lloyd Bentsen
Lloyd Bentsen has passed away this morning at his home in Houston.
Bentsen, who served in the United States Senate from 1971 until 1993, was also the 69th Secretary of the Treasury, a post which he held for two years in the Clinton administration.
Bentsen had served his country for most of his life, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II. Bentsen was also the last Democrat to represent Texas in the United States Senate.
But Bentsen is best remembered for his debate with Dan Quayle. In fact, Bentsen had been a friend of Jack Kennedy, having even gone to his wedding in 1953.
So Bentsen, who had heard that Dan Quayle had compared himself to Kennedy (in an attempt to deflect criticism of his age), was ready when Quayle compared himself to Kennedy.
The quote was, "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Fifteen years after that debate, a NewsMax story ran which claimed that the two men never met each other despite the fact that Bentsen was in Congress while Kennedy was in the Senate. But today, one of the press relations people who was helping Bentsen prepare for the debate related that Bentsen was miffed at Quayle's comparison to Kennedy, who he said he not only knew, but had attended his wedding. I verified that this story was false with a call this morning to research department at the Kennedy library. They verified that indeed, Lloyd Bentsen was on the guest list for the wedding. How well he knew him is a matter of debate (there were 800 guests at the wedding) but the facts bear out that he did know him and as such that the NewsMax story was false.
Bentsen also had a genuineness about him that politicians today would do well to heed. While he was in the Senate, Bentsen had held a series of breakfasts with lobbyists, which they donated money to his political committee and then were able to attend the breakfast. The story was blown up into a major scandal, dubbed 'Eggs McBentsen' in the media. So how did Bentsen handle it? Easy. He confessed, and said, "I don't make a lot of mistakes, but I made that one and it was a doozy." And as there was no actual crime committed, that was the end of the story. He'd confessed to everything that the journalists were digging for, so there was no more story and they had nothing more to do, so they moved on to something else. What you see today are politicians who make mistakes (just like the rest of us) but then they deny, deny and deny which only gets the media hounds digging deeper, deeper and deeper. Maybe they should take a cue from the way Bentsen handled it.