Death Penalty, Dan Quayle Are Subjects of Bush-Dukakis Debate

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NBC Nightly News
Tom Brokaw/Ken Bode
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NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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In the final presidential debate between Vice President George H.W. Bush and Governor Michael Dukakis, CNN's Bernard Shaw asks Dukakis if he would favor the death penalty if his wife Kitty were raped and murdered. Dukakis gives a lawyerly answer. Bush defends his vice presidential running mate Dan Quayle.



"Death Penalty, Dan Quayle Are Subjects of Bush-Dukakis Debate." Ken Bode, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 14 Oct. 1988. NBC Learn. Web. 11 August 2015.


Bode, K. (Reporter), & Brokaw, T. (Anchor). (1988, October 14). Death Penalty, Dan Quayle Are Subjects of Bush-Dukakis Debate. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Death Penalty, Dan Quayle Are Subjects of Bush-Dukakis Debate" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 10/14/1988. Accessed Tue Aug 11 2015 from NBC Learn:


Death Penalty, Dan Quayle Are Subjects of Bush-Dukakis Debate

TOM BROKAW, anchor: 

Polls and political pros, the consensus tonight is that Vice President George Bush won last night’s debate and made it all the harder for Governor Michael Dukakis to catch and pass him in the 25 days remaining. In all of the Friday morning quarterbacking there is common agreement that Dukakis failed to seize the debate and make it his night. NBC’s Ken Bode explains what happened.

KEN BODE, reporting: 

The first question of the night, other members of the panel tried to persuade Bernard Shaw to ask it differently.

Mr. BERNARD SHAW, Debate Moderator: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?

Governor MICHAEL DUKAKIS, Democratic Presidential Candidate: No I don’t Bernard and I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty all of my life…

BODE: Dukakis answered the question almost abstractly, showing no emotion, without mentioning his wife’s name. It was expected that Dukakis would hit hard on Dan Quayle’s qualifications to be president.

Mr. SHAW: If you are elected and die before Inauguration Day…

BODE: But Bush got the first crack at the Quayle question.

Mr. GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, GOP Presidential Candidate: I would have confidence in him, and I made a good selection. And I’ve never seen such a pounding, an unfair pounding on a young senator in my entire life.

BODE: About the only time Dukakis got to deal with Quayle all night was in a one-minute rebuttal.

Gov. DUKAKIS: I picked Lloyd Bentsen, Mr. Bush picked Dan Quayle and before he did it he said watch my choice for vice president, it will tell all. And it sure did. It sure did.

BODE: Part of the Vice President’s game plan was to pin Dukakis in the liberal corner.

Mr. BUSH: He’s the one that said, I am a liberal, traditional liberal, progressive liberal Democrat.

Gov. DUKAKIS: The labels… the Vice President called me a liberal two or three times, said I was coming from the left. Let's stop labeling each other and let's get to the heart of the matter, which is the future of this country.

BODE: There appeared to be missed opportunities for Dukakis, as when he was asked to list his personal heroes in America today.

DUKAKIS: ...many people who I admire in this country today, some of them are in public life, in the Senate and the Congress, some of my fellow governors.

BODE: A missed opportunity to name some names and provide a window on his own personality. High on the Dukakis agenda was the matter of style: how to appear more personable, more likable.

Gov. DUKAKIS: I think I am a reasonably likable guy, but I’m also a serious guy. I think the presidency of the United States is a very serious office.

BODE: Ultimately it was George Bush who seemed most genuinely at ease last night.

Mr. BUSH: …Try to dump the sludge from Massachusetts off the beaches off of New Jersey. I’m not gonna do that. That boo was excessively loud. Can you add 5 seconds, Bernie, out of fairness? Come on, give me five?

BODE: Bush was dead certain about one thing last night: when he was asked if he would agree to another debate, he said “no, no more debates” four times. Ken Bode, NBC News, Los Angeles.