Former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen has died at the age of 85.
Bentsen, in failing health for more than a decade after a stroke in 1995, died at his home in Houston, said family spokesman Bill Maddox.
On the state political stage for almost half a century, Bentsen was a link to the heyday of Texas Democratic politics, when the regular wing of the state party was the fiefdom of then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson and House Speaker Sam Rayburn, Bentsen's most influential early mentor.
Although Bentsen helped Johnson in the 1950s to fend off a conservative challenge for control of the party, Bentsen gained his own first statewide victory in 1970 by defeating Texas' reigning liberal icon, Sen. Ralph W. Yarborough, in the Democratic primary. In the general election that year, Bentsen beat Republican George Bush, delaying his fellow Houstonian's national political ascent.
True to his Tory Democratic roots, Bentsen was an unabashed advocate of his state's oil industry and an early proponent of cutting corporate and capital gain tax rates.
Bentsen, however, could pull laurels even from the ashes, and he enhanced his standing as an astute politician in 1988 as the dogged Democratic vice-presidential running mate of Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
In the vice-presidential debate that year, Bentsen hammered Republican Sen. Dan Quayle, with an artful putdown that found its way into everyday speech.
When his younger opponent compared himself to President John F. Kennedy, Bentsen, his voice dripping with disdain, retorted: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."
When Clinton was elected in 1992, he asked Bentsen to become his Treasury secretary. Some presidential aides indicated the move was principally to get Bentsen out of the Senate — and the chairmanship of the Finance Committee, a position from which Bentsen could have blocked some of the new Democratic leader's more liberal economic proposals.
Many intimates believed that not long after arriving at the neo-classical Treasury Building next door to the White House, Bentsen wished he had never left Capitol Hill.
Rest in peace, Lloyd Bentsen. Greg has more.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 23, 2006 to National news | TrackBack