(February 11, 1921 – May 23, 2006) was an American politician who was a four-term United States Senator (1971–1993) from Texas and the Democratic Party nominee for vice president in 1988 on the Michael Dukakis ticket.
He also served as the 69th United States Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton.
Born in Mission, Texas, Bentsen graduated from the University of Texas School of Law before serving in the Air Force during World War II.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Europe.
After the war, he won election to the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1948 to 1955.
He defeated incumbent Senator Ralph Yarborough in the 1970 Democratic Senatorial primary and won the general election against George H.
He was reelected in 1976, 1982, and 1988, and served as the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1987 to 1993.
In the Senate, he helped win passage of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and played a role in the creation of the individual retirement account.
Bentsen sought the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination but was unable to organize an effective national campaign.
Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis chose Bentsen as his running mate in the 1988 presidential election, while the Republicans nominated Vice President George H.
Bush and Senator Dan Quayle.
During the 1988 vice-presidential debate, Quayle responded to a question about his inexperience by comparing his time in office up to that point to that of John F.
Kennedy, causing Bentsen to castigate Quayle, saying, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." Though Dukakis hoped that the selection of Bentsen would help the Democratic ticket win Texas, the Republican ticket won the state and prevailed by a wide margin in the nationwide electoral and popular vote.
Bentsen considered running for president in 1992 but chose not to challenge Bush, who was popular after the Gulf War.
After Bill Clinton defeated Bush in the 1992 general election, he offered Bentsen the position of Secretary of the Treasury.
Bentsen accepted, and as Treasury Secretary he helped win the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the passage of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993.
Bentsen retired from Clinton's Cabinet in December 1994 and was succeeded by Robert Rubin.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999 and died in his home in Houston in 2006.