Televised presidential debates: Images and substance
1988: The image of
What you might remember: At the start of the second meeting held at UCLAs Pauley Pavilion -- CNN newsman Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis, an opponent of the death penalty, one of the more shocking questions in debate history: Governor, if [your wife] Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer? Dukakis bland response sealed his fate in the general election.
What you might have forgotten: Just about everything else in the two debates. (Lennox McLendon / Associated Press)
1992: Three candidates participated in the debates, another first.
What you might remember: In the second debate, held at the University of
What you might have forgotten: How much of a wild card Perot was. His inclusion on the stage helped elevate, by comparison, the credibility of an unknown governor from Arkansas who was trying to unseat a man who had been vice president or president for nearly 12 years. (Marcy Nighswander / Associated Press)
1996: Republican Bob Dole tried everything in his attempt to defeat Bill Clinton, a popular incumbent. Dole resigned from the Senate so he could run his campaign; he pointed out ethics problems in the Clinton administration; and he turned his trademark wit on the president, calling him “the great exaggerator.” Dole also said: "... When it comes to bridges, I want a bridge to the future. I also want a bridge to the truth.”
What you might remember: Like Reagan in 1984, Dole was 73 years old during the election season. In the second debate, after Dole answered a question about his age, Clinton said: “I can only tell you that I don’t think Sen. Dole is too old to be president. It’s the age of his ideas that I question.”
What you might have forgotten: At the beginning of the first debate, Dole gave the nation a baseball playoff game score: “I thank you very much. ... Let me first give you a sports update. The Braves, one; the Cardinals, nothing, early on.” (Mike Nelson / Associated Press)
2000: Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush held three debates. Gore was criticized for, at times, sighing audibly during Bush’s answers and rolling his eyes.
What you might remember: The word “lockbox,” but only if you watched the first meeting. Gore used it seven times in that event, then didn’t use it all in the next two sessions.
What you might have forgotten: How much conditions can change in just eight years. In answering the first question of the first debate, both candidates talked about what they would do with the nation’s budget surplus. (Don Emmert / AFP)