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Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst


Trump, Clinton, Gingrich highlight most memorable debate moments


Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst


Public debates on the campaign trail have long been a central component of American political culture. While the questions asked and the issues addressed have changed over time, the importance of the public debate itself has not.

In this 30-minute episode of America Speaks, political analyst and pollster Dr. Frank Luntz reviews some of the most memorable moments in recent American political campaign debates, from the funniest to the cringiest. Some of these clips will remind viewers of American greatness. Others remind us of the hypocrisy, bitterness or silliness which some have come to expect.

If you are a political junkie, this special segment of America speaks is just for you. The greatest debate moments of the last 50 years, the successes, the failures, the embarrassments, Republicans and Democrats with everything on the line 10s of millions of people watching, let’s see what worked. Let’s see what didn’t. And let’s see why. We got to start with an honorable mention, which is Rick Perry’s embarrassing moment in the 2012 debate, when he could not even identify the three agencies that he would eliminate if he were elected president. Let’s listen. It’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, education, and the watch the third one there, let’s say EPA, EPA, there you go. No.




Is EPA what you were talking about? No, sir. You can’t name the third one. The third agency of government I would I would do away with the education, the


commerce, and let’s see, I can’t the third one, I can’t sorry.


Oops. Okay, let’s get right into the countdown at number 10. How to win a debate and how to lose the debate at the same moment, the 1992 presidential contest with George Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, notice the difference in how George Bush answered the question about the debt versus Bill Clinton. Let’s take a look. We have a question right here. Yes. How has national debt personally affected each of your lives? And if it hasn’t? How can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people? If you have no experience and what’s ailing them?


Mr. President? Well, I think the national debt affects everybody.


Obviously, it has a lot to do with interest rates. It has she saying your personal personal basis? How has it affected you, as it affected you personally? Well, I’m sure it has I love my branch grandchildren, I want to think that I want to think think that they’re going to be able to afford an education. I think that that’s an important part of being a parent. If the question if you’re sick, maybe I won’t get it wrong. Are you suggesting that if somebody has means that the national debt doesn’t affect them?


I’m not sure I get it help me with a question. And I’ll try to answer. I’ve had friends that have been laid off from jobs. I know people who cannot afford to pay the mortgage on their homes, their car payment, I have personal problems with national debt. But how has it affected you? And if you have no experience in it, how can you help us if you don’t know what we’re feeling, she means more the recession, the economic problems today the country faces rather than your honor, you ought to be in the White House for a day and hear the what I hear and see what I see and read the mail I read and touch the people that I touch from time to time, I was in the Lomax ame. Church. So black church, just outside of Washington, DC. And I read in the, in the bulletin


about teenage pregnancies, about the difficulty that families are having to meet and make ends meet. I talked to parents, I mean, you got to care. Everybody cares if people aren’t doing well. But I don’t think I don’t think it’s fair to say you haven’t had cancer, therefore, you don’t know what it’s like. I don’t think it’s fair to say, you know, whatever it is, if you haven’t been hit by personally, but everybody’s affected by the debt, because of the tremendous interest that goes into paying on that debt. Everything’s more expensive. Everything comes out of your pocket in my pocket. So it’s that but I think in terms of the recession course, you feel it when you’re President of the United States. And that’s why I’m trying to do something about it by stimulating the export vesting more better education system.


Clarify, affected you again. Um, you know, people who lost their jobs lost their homes.


Well, I’ve been governor of a small state for 12 years. I’ll tell you how it’s affected me. Every year.


Congress, and the President signed laws, it makes it make us do more things gives us less money to do it with. I see people in my state, middle class people, their taxes have gone up in Washington and their services have gone down. While the wealthy have gotten tax cuts.


I have seen what’s happened in this last four years when in my state, when people lose their jobs, there’s a good chance I’ll know them by their names. When a factory closes. I know the people who ran it. When the businesses go bankrupt, I know them. And I’ve been out here for 13 months meeting in meetings just like this ever since October.


With people like you all over America, people that have lost their jobs, lost their livelihood lost their health insurance. What I want you to understand is, the national debt is not the only cause of that. It is because America has not invested in its people. It is because we have not grown is because we’ve had 12 years of trickle down economics. We’ve gone from first to 12th. In the world in wages, we’ve had four years where we produce no private sector jobs, most people are working harder for less money than they were making 10 years ago. It is because we are in the grip of a failed economic theory. And this decision you’re about to make better be about what kind of economic theory you want, not just people saying I’m gonna go fix it. But what are we going to do? What I think we have to do is invest in American jobs, American education, control American health care costs, and bring the American people together again, the reason why that worked for Bill Clinton, he walked towards the camera, he walked towards the participant, and instead of using numbers, he spoke from the heart. Now at number nine, the greatest takedown in any presidential debate 2016 Marco Rubio versus New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, I like Marco Rubio, and he’s a smart person and a good guy. But he simply does not have the experience to be president united states and make these decisions. We’ve watched it happen, everybody, for the last seven years, the people of New Hampshire are smart, do not make the same mistake. Again. I think the experience is not just what you did, but how it worked out. Under chris Christie’s governorship of New Jersey, they’ve been downgraded nine times their credit rating, this country already has a debt problem. We don’t need to add to it by electing someone who has experienced that running up and destroying the credit rating of a state. But I would add this let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world. We don’t want to be like the rest of the world. We want to be the United States of America. And when I’m elected President, this will become once again the single greatest nation in the history of the world, not the disaster Barack Obama has imposed upon us, you see everybody, I want the people at home to think about this. That’s what Washington DC does the drive by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information. And then the memorized 25 second speech, that is exactly what his advisers gave him.


See, Marco, Marco, the thing is this, when you’re Prezi, United States when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 32nd speech where he talked about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person, they expect you to plow the snow, they expect you to get the schools open. And when the worst natural disaster in your state’s history hits you, they expect you to rebuild their state, which is what I’ve done. None of that stuff happens on the floor of the United States Senate. It’s a fine job. I’m glad you ran for it. But it does not prepare you for President of the United States. Chris, your state got hit by a massive snowstorm two weeks ago, you didn’t even want to go back. They had to shame you into going about and then you stayed there for 36 hours. And then he left and came back to campaign. Sins are the facts. Here’s the bottom line, this notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not there it is. He knows what the memorized 25 seconds speech and that’s the


you know what the shame is Marco, the shame is that you would actually criticize somebody for showing up to work plowing the streets, getting the trains run back on time when you’ve never been responsible for that and you really


want to go back and and the fact is, I went back and got that and here’s I want to go but I went back. Oh, so wait a second. Is that one of the skills you get as a United States senator ESP also, Chris, everybody. We’re gonna go back in fact is Mark told everyone he was he had to shame them in the garbage market. And then when he decided to go back, he criticized the young lady saying what are you know what back with a mop, by the way up the floodgates? Back, it gets very literally when he gets off his top. Thank you, Governor. At number eight, what I believe at the time was the greatest takedown of all time. Kamala Harris versus Joe Biden on the issue of race. Now Biden survives it. but just barely. Let’s take a look.


So on the issue of race, I couldn’t agree more, that this is an issue that is still not being talked about truthfully, and honestly, I there is not a black man I know be he a relative, a friend or co worker who has not been the subject of some form of profiling or discrimination. Growing up my sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us her parents couldn’t play with us because she because we were black. And I will say also that in this campaign. We’ve also heard and I’m going to now direct this at Vice President Biden.


I do not believe you are a racist. And I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe and it’s personal and I was actually very it was hurtful.


To hear you talk about the reputations of


Have two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.


And, you know, there was a little girl in California, who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools. And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.


So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats, we have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly. As Attorney General California, I was very proud to put in place a requirement that all my special agents would wear body cameras and keep those cameras on.


Thank you, Vice President Biden, you have been invoked, we are going to give you a chance to respond.


Vice President Biden.


mischaracterized my position across the board, I did not praise racist. That is not true. Number one, number two, if we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights, and whether I did or not, I’m happy to do that. I was a public defender, I didn’t become a prosecutor, I came out, I left a good law firm to become a public defender, when in fact, when in fact, when in fact, my city was in flames because of the assassination of Dr. King, number one, number two, as the US as excuse me as the Vice President, United States, I work with a man who, in fact, we work very hard to see to it, we dealt with these issues in a major, major way. The fact is that in terms of busing, the busing I never you would have been able to go to school the same exact way because it was a local decision made by your city council. That’s fine. That’s one of the things argued for that we should not be, we should be breaking down these lines. But so the bottom line here is, look, everything I’ve done in my career, I ran because of civil rights, I continue to think we have to make fundamental changes in civil rights. And those civil rights, by the way, include not just only African Americans, but the LGBT community. Vice President Biden, do you agree today? Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America, though? Do you agree, I did not oppose busing in America, what I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed. Why did not a failure of states to integrate public schools in America I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley California Public Schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education because your city council made that decision it was federal government must them in


the civil rights. That’s why we need to pass the Equality Act. That’s why we need to pass the era because there are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of r&b part of the era from the very beginning. 32nd you’re gonna wonder why number seven came in as high as it did stay for the entire segment. Because the really powerful comment comes at the very end, after getting the subpoena, you delete 33,000 emails, and then you acid wash him or bleach him, as you would say, very expensive process. So we’re gonna get a special prosecutor, and we’re going to look into it because you know, what people have been, their lives have been destroyed for doing 1/5 of what you’ve done, and it’s a disgrace. And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of that. I want to follow up on that talked about, because everything he just said is absolutely false. But I’m not surprised. And the first debate, and we ended up first the audience needs to hear that it would be impossible to be fact checking Donald all the time, I’d never get to talk about anything I want to do and how we’re going to really make lives better for people. So once again, go to Hillary We have literally Trump you can fact check, fat check fact check him in real time. Last time at the first debate, we had millions of people fact checking. So I expect we’ll have millions more fact checking. Because, you know, it is It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country, because you’d be in jail. Secretary Clinton.


We were conducting focus groups when that debate quip was uttered. And to my surprise, the public liked it. They liked the fact that Donald Trump took the campaign to Hillary Clinton, and that attack actually helped his campaign in the closing days of the 2016 election one of the funniest moments in


In a presidential debate, even though the topic itself wasn’t funny at all, John McCain describing where he was in the 1960s, in case you missed it. A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert Museum. Now, my friends, I wasn’t there. I’m sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event.


I was I was tied up at the time, but the fact is,


but the fact is.


What distinguishes the fifth most important debate moment in history is that we saw a side of Ronald Reagan that no one had ever seen before. He was calm, cool and collected, except in this primary outburst in New Hampshire for the 1980 presidential campaign. And this outburst may have given him the election was boarded by Sue, you asked me if you would make an announcement. And I asked you to make an anonymous witness all man please turn Mr. Reagan’s mic off


Mr. Green, would you turn out for me if you’re


paying for this microphone?


To be candid, of all the debate clips, this one’s my favorite. I knew Newt Gingrich. I was in the room when this happened. And I never dreamed that a presidential candidate would be able to take down a CNN anchor. But that’s exactly what happened. As you know, your ex wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with the Washington Post. And this story has now gone viral on the internet. In it she says that you came to her in 1999. At a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that? No, but I will.


I think the destructive, vicious negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.


Want to say


every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things


to take an ex wife


and make it two days before the primary. A significant question or presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.


My my two daughters.


My two daughters wrote the head of ADC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it. And I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.


As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know it is a subject of conversation in the campaign. I’m not I get your point. I take your point, John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else you and your staff chose to start this debate with


Okay, let me be quite clear.


Let me be quite clear, the story is false. Every personal friend I have knew us in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested in


because they would like to attack any Republican, they’re attacking the governor. They’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll present get around to the Senator Senator Santorum, and Congressman Paul, I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking the public. Young people watching may not remember this clip, but it was significant at the time, because it was a takedown of a vice presidential candidate unlike anything we’d ever seen before. Let’s take a look. I have far more experience than many others


that sought the office of Vice President this country. I have as much experience in the Congress, as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.


I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration. That unfortunately then whatever occur, Senator Benson?




I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy.


Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.


Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.


That was really uncalled for Senator.


You’re the one that was making the comparisons, Senator. And I’m one who knew him well. And frankly, I think you’re so far apart from the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well taken. I was conducting a focus group of Republican voters when this moment aired on nationwide television. And I gotta tell you, our group was laughing. Our group was engaged. And while a lot of them thought that this was the end of the Donald Trump campaign, for a lot more than they thought this was only the beginning. Let’s take a look at the number two moment in presidential debates. Mr. Trump,


one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides. In particular, when it comes to women.


You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. Your twitter account Only Rosie O’Donnell?


No, it wasn’t


your Twitter account?


Thank you. For the record. It was well beyond rosier. Yes, I’m sure your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound you like the temperament of a man we should elect his president? And how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women? I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been


I’ve been challenged by so many people. And I don’t frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China, we lose to Mexico, both in trade and at the border, we lose to everybody. And frankly, what I say and oftentimes it’s fun. It’s kidding, we have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megan, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you. Although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that. But you know what?




we need strength. We need energy. We need quickness. And we need brain in this country to turn it around. That I can tell you right now.


And the number one greatest moment of the presidential debates, goes back to 1984 when Ronald Reagan was slipping in the polls, and Walter Mondale was gaining, but because of this one clip, the entire campaign and American history was changed. Let’s take a look. Mr. truant. Your question to President Reagan. Mr. President, I want to raise an issue that I think has been lurking out there for two or three weeks and tastic, specifically in national security turns. You already are the oldest president in history and some of your staff say you are tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mr. Mondale.


I recall yet that President Kennedy will had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Is there any doubt in your


mind that you will be able to function in such circumstances. Not at all. Mr. truant, no. And I want you to know that also, I will not make age an issue of this campaign, I am not going to exploit for political purposes, my opponents youth and inexperience.


If I still have time, I might add Mr. to it, I might add that


it was Seneca or it was Cicero, I don’t know which that said. If it was not for the elders correcting the mistakes of the young, there would be no state. I can’t end this segment without one bonus clip, a moment that lives for the ages between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. question to you is simply this, what can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight, who see your resume and like it, but are hesitating on the likeability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more?


Well, that hurts my feelings. I’m sorry, Senator. I’m sorry.


But I’ll try to go on.


He’s very likable. I agree with that.


I don’t think I’m that fat. You’re likable enough. Thank you.


I appreciate it. And one more bonus clip, the worst moderator moments in presidential debate history. This clip arguably cost Candy Crowley her job at CNN. And there was an issue of contention between the Republicans and Democrats for the rest of the campaign. Let’s take a look at close again. I want to still get a lot of people in I want to ask you something, Mr. President, then have the governor just quickly. Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. does the buck stop with your Secretary of State as far as what went on here? Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president. And I’m always responsible. And that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I did.


The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden.


And I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened.


That this was an act of terror. And I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.


And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming in Andrews Air Force Base,


and grieving with the families.


And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State,


are you an ambassador?


anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own governor is offensive.


That’s not what we do.


That’s not what I do as President. That’s not what I do as commander in chief.


Governor, if you


I think it’s interesting. The President just said something which, which is that on the day after the attack, he went the Rose Garden garden, and said that this was an act of terror.


You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.


It was not a spontaneous demonstration. Is that what you’re saying? Please proceed, Governor


by want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi, an act of terror get the transcript? He did? In fact, sir. So let me let me call it an act.


He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take it as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You’re right this that the administration, the administration indicated that this was a reaction to a to a video and was a spontaneous reaction. Yeah, it took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And and to suggest, Am I incorrect in that regard? On Sunday, the, your your secretary or excuse me, the ambassador, the United Nations, one of the Sunday television shows and and spoke about how this was a spontaneous. I’m happy to have a longer conversation about policy, but I want to I want to move you on and


to the transcript. This segment is important because Donald Trump has said that he will not debate at least


Not with the Presidential Commission on debates. So what you’ve seen over the last 30 minutes is something that may not be repeated this year. But it certainly has to because in the end, the American people not only want to hear who their nominees what they believe what they think what they know, but they have a right to hear this. So let’s hope that we’ll be adding a couple of clips to this segment in the years to come. I’m Frank Luntz. This is America speaks at straight arrow News.

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