AllPolitics - Debates '96

Debate Notebook

Best Pander


- Bob Dole dropping his Web address

Image Of The Night

"It is not midnight in America, Senator, we are better off than we were four years ago."

- Bill Clinton

Best One-Liner

"Well, he's better off than he was four years ago...and I may be better off four years from now."

- Bob Dole on whether the country is better off today

Best No Comment

"No comment."

- Clinton responding to a question about possible Whitewater pardons

Best tie

Clinton's purple with white dots, over Dole's red-and-yellow subtly vertical stripes with blue and yellow horizontal squigglies.

The Real Face-Off

Clinton had bigger bags under his eyes. Dole had bigger dimples.

Better suit

These candidates are cut from the same cloth, both suit and shirt.

Wit, Sage, Raconteur...

Dole set the tone with three good jokes, at least two of them off the cuff, in the first 15 minutes.


In a question to the president, moderator Jim Lehrer quoted Dole as suggesting that Clinton has weakened U.S. credibility with "photo op foreign policy."

"Is he wrong about that?" Lehrer asked.

"If that's what he said, he's not right about that," Clinton answered.

Renewing Your Subscription, Mr. President?

"The Wall Street Journal -- hardly a friend of the Democratic party or this administration...."

- Clinton, in an effort to strengthen his point that the newspaper's negative assessment of Dole's tax plan was nonpartisan.

Best Borrowed Line

"Well, there he goes again."

- Bob Dole responding to Clinton's "bridge to the 21st century" line.

Biggest Figure Fudge

"We cut the deficit four years in a row for the first time since before the Civil War -- I mean before World War II, and maybe before the Civil War, too," Clinton said in defense of his economic record

Understatement Of The Night

"It is a very difficult environment."

- Clinton on the Mideast

A Liberal Defense

Countering the L-word charge, Clinton called the accusation a golden oldie... "I just don't think that dog will hunt this time."

Diogenes, Take Note

"It's very difficult, let's be honest about it."

- Dole's response when asked how he remains uninfluenced by big-money donors.

Best One-Liner

In response to a question whether America was better off than it was four years ago, Dole's quip as he turned to Clinton: "Well, he's better off than he was four years ago."

Some Of The Best And Worst Of All Times:

"If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it'd be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit."

- Bob Dole, 1976, vice presidential debate against Walter Mondale

"There you go again."

- Ronald Reagan to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 debate, in response to Carter's accusation Reagan had made a career of opposing Medicare

"Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

- Reagan, 1980

"Your father was right to stand up to Joe McCarthy. You were wrong to attack my patriotism."

- Bill Clinton to George Bush, 1992

"I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."

- Reagan, 1984, in a debate with Walter Mondale

"Don't patronize me, Mr. Bush."

- Geraldine Ferraro to George Bush, 1984

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

- vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle, 1988.

"Who am I? Why am I here?"

- Retired Admiral James B. Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate, 1992.

"I had a discussion with my daughter, Amy, the other day, before I came here, to ask her what the most important issue was. She said she thought nuclear weaponry and the control of nuclear arms."

- Jimmy Carter, 1976

"There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford Administration."

- Gerald Ford, 1976

"If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"

- CNN Anchor Bernard Shaw to Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis 1988

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