OMAHA — Following are excerpts from Wednesday night's debate between vice presidential candidates Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle:
Qualifications for Office
Quayle: Qualifications for the office of vice president or President are not age alone. We must look at accomplishments, and we must look at experience. I have more experience than others that have sought the office of vice president. Now let's look at qualifications, and let's look at the three biggest issues that are going to be confronting America in the next presidency. Those three issues are national security and arms control, jobs and education, and the federal budget deficit. On each one of those issues, I have more experience than does the governor of Massachusetts . . . And if qualifications alone are going to be the issue in this campaign, George Bush has more qualifications than Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen combined.
Bentsen: This debate tonight is not about the qualifications for the vice presidency. The debate is whether or not Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen are qualified to be President of the United States. Because . . . if tragedy should occur, we have to step in there without any margin for error, without time for preparation, to take over the responsibility for the biggest job in the world, that of running this great country of ours, to take over the awesome responsibility for commanding the nuclear weaponry that this country has. No, the debate tonight is a debate about the presidency itself, and a presidential decision that has to be made by you. The stakes could not be higher.
Bentsen: . . . We have a contract with the American people on Social Security, and Social Security is an issue where Sen. Quayle has voted eight times to cut the benefits on Social Security . . . when you talk about Social Security, the people that are going to protect it are the Democrats who brought forth that program.
Quayle: Sen. Bentsen, you know that I did not vote to cut Social Security benefits eight times. What I have voted for, and what Sen. Bentsen has voted for, is to delay the cost-of-living adjustments . . . they use this for political advantage. What they try to do time and time again is to scare the old people of this country.
Quayle: If you bring up the environment, you can't help but think about the environmental policy of the governor of Massachusetts. He talks about being an environmentalist. Well, let me tell you about his environmental policy. The Boston Harbor, the Boston Harbor which is the dirtiest waterway in America, tons of raw sewage go in there each and every day. What has the governor of Massachusetts done about that? Virtually nothing . . .
Bentsen: Well, this late conversion is interesting to me. When they talk about Boston Harbor, and he says he hasn't done anything, the facts are he has a $6-billion program under way on waste treatment . . . And I'm the one who has just received the environmental award in Texas for the work I've done to clean up the bays, to clean up the water off the coast of Texas. Now I think we know well who's going to help clean up this environment.
Aid to Nicaraguan Contras
Bentsen: Gov. Dukakis and I have disagreed on the Contra program, no question about that. But my big difference with this Administration is they look at the Contra aid program as the only way to resolve that problem. They concentrate on that. And I really think we have to give peace a chance.
Quayle: There's no doubt, in a Dukakis Administration, that the aid would be cut off to the democratic resistance in Nicaragua and that is unfortunate. The reason it is unfortunate--because it is beyond me why it's OK for the Soviet Union to put in billions of dollars to prop up the communist Sandinistas but somehow it's wrong for the United States to give a few dollars to the democratic resistance.
Debt and Deficit
Bentsen: You know, if you let me write $200 billion worth of hot checks every year, I could give you an illusion of prosperity, too. . . . As an Administration that has more than doubled the national debt--and they've done that in less than eight years--they have taken this country from the No. 1 lender nation in the world to the No. 1 debtor nation in the world. And the interest on that debt next year, on this Reagan-Bush debt of our nation, is going to be $640 for every man, woman and child in America because of this kind of a credit card mentality.
Quayle: Sen. Bentsen talks about running up the debt. Well, the governor of Massachusetts has run up more debt than all the governors in the history of Massachusetts combined going back to the days of the Pilgrims. I don't believe that that's the kind of policy that we want. . . . We've got interest rates down. We got inflation down. People are working again. America is held in respect once again around the world. But we're going to build on that change.
Breakfast Club for Lobbyists