Lloyd Bentsen, Senator, Treasury Secretary and Vice Presidential Nominee has died. Despite a lifetime of dignified public service, Bentsen will be remembered for the Greatest Line Ever in politics.
Bentsen was the Democratic 1988 Vice Presidential nominee. He faced Dan Qualye in a debate. When Qualye compared himself to JFK, Bentsen struck with The Line:
"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
I always want to know where the cool moment comes from. What the back story is. In this case you can learn it in Clinton and Me a book written by Clinton's humor speech writer.
The lesson is, don't be a stationary target. Qualye was getting knocked a lot in 1988 for being young and inexperienced. After several "deer in the headlights" moments with the press he settled on the answer that he has served just as much time in the US Senate as President Kennedy did before Kennedy became President, so surely he could be Vice President. Qualye kept giving the same answer again and again, which allowed Bentsen and his staff the time to craft their devastating response. Bentsen had The Line, crafted to perfection, ready to go. Qualye walked into it, and was crushed for all time. So always come up with fresh material, cause the killer response to your zig is coming if you don't start zagging.