Top 10 memorable debate moments
September 6th, 2011
12:30 PM ET
2 years ago

Top 10 memorable debate moments

(CNN) - We remember how the nation was surprised when, in 1960, Richard Nixon showed up to the first televised debate with John F. Kennedy looking tired, pasty and with visible razor stubble, a stark contrast to the young, fresh senator from Massachusetts would later take the White House. Or Ronald Reagan quipping to Jimmy Carter in 1980 after one of his attacks on the California governor, "There you go again."

Leading up to CNN's "Tea Party Republican Debate" on Sept. 12, we took a look at the 10 Most Memorable Moments of recent debates:

1. "You're no Jack Kennedy" | Nebraska, 1988 (Oct. 5)
During the 1988 vice presidential debate in Omaha, Neb., Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, the running mate of Michael Dukakis, shot back at his opponent, Rep. Dan Quayle, about a comparison between Quayle and JFK: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy: I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

2. "Who Am I? Why Am I Here?" | Georgia, 1992 (Oct. 13)
Admiral James Stockdale, the affable running mate of Reform Party candidate Ross Perot, tried for a funny opening line during the 1992 vice presidential debate in Atlanta against Dan Quayle. His now famous "Who Am I, Why Am I Here" phrase later became raw meat for Saturday Night Live's Phil Hartman.

3. "My opponent's youth and inexperience" | Kentucky, 1984 (Oct. 21)
Ronald Reagan, who had been hammered about his age (he was 73 at the time), decided to turn the question upside down, making fun of his younger opponent, Walter Mondale, who was 17 years his junior. "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience."

4. "You're likable enough, Hillary" | New Hampshire, 2008 (Jan. 5)
In an unusually awkward moment for then-Sen. Barack Obama, Sen., Hillary Clinton was asked why people didn't seem to like her as much as Obama. After admitting "Well, that hurts my feelings," Clinton smiled, then (sort of) praised Obama:
CLINTON: "He's very likable. I agree with that. I don't think I'm that bad."
OBAMA: "You're likable enough, Hillary, no doubt about it."
CLINTON: "Thank you, I appreciate that..."

5. "If Kitty Dukakis were raped…" | California, 1988 (Oct. 13)
During the 1988 presidential debate, CNN's Bernard Shaw, who researched to find a question that would engage Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, asked him if he would be in favor of the death penalty for the attacker if his wife was raped and murdered. Dukakis responded with a rather dry, unemotional reply: "No, I don't, Bernard. And I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent, and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime."

6. "Where's the beef?" | New York, 1984 (March 11)
During the Democratic primary debates of 1984, Walter Mondale was annoyed by the brash success of Gary Hart, who kept bragging about his "new ideas." "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?'"

7. "I am paying for this microphone" | New Hampshire, 1980 (Feb. 23)
A visibly angry Ronald Reagan, who was trying to explain why he invited other candidates to the debate, shot back at the moderator of the New Hampshire debate after he ordered the former governor's microphone muted: "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green." (The editor's name was actually Mr. Breen, not Green).

8. McCain on Woodstock : "I was tied up at the time" | 2007 (Oct 22)
During the Republican presidential debate in 2007, Sen. John McCain, a decorated Vietnam War hero, was asked about his support of Hillary Clinton's support for a Woodstock museum . McCain responded that he missed the 60's concert: "I was tied up at the time."

9. "The YouTube and The Snowman" | South Carolina, 2007 (July 23)
In one of the first forays into social media, CNN joined with YouTube to sponsor a Democratic presidential debate using video questions submitted online. Of the 39 questions chosen from nearly 3,000 submitted included one from an animated, talking snowman asking about global warming. Yes, really.

10. "Lightning Strike" | New Hampshire, 2007 (June 5)
During the Republican primary debate in New Hampshire, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in the middle of answering a question on abortion when a lightning strike hit and knocked out his mic. His response: "Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that's happening right now." (Laughter.)

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