- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

HOUSTON (AP) — Former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen had a “massive, positive impact” during his two years as Treasury secretary in one of the country’s most economically challenging times, former President Bill Clinton told mourners yesterday.

Mr. Bentsen was “one of the very few candidates for the vice presidency in the history of the republic who lost and came out better than he went in,” Mr. Clinton said, drawing laughs at a memorial service at First Presbyterian Church, held after a private graveside service for Mr. Bentsen’s family.

Mr. Bentsen, who represented Texas in Congress for 28 years and was Mr. Clinton’s first Treasury secretary, died at his Houston home May 23 at age 85. He had been under a doctor’s care and in a wheelchair since suffering two strokes in 1998.

As Mr. Clinton’s first Treasury secretary, from 1993 to 1994, Mr. Bentsen was instrumental in developing the country’s economic plan and in winning passage of a plan to expand trade relations with Mexico, Mr. Clinton said.

“It’s still a controversial issue, but I ask you to think how much more complex and difficult this immigration debate would be today” if that plan had not been approved, Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Bentsen also is credited with helping pass a program providing billions to help Russia’s economy as it teetered on the brink of collapse and could have “started the Cold War all over again,” Mr. Clinton said.

The aid to Russia “was opposed by 76 percent of the American people, but Lloyd knew it was right, and we got it through,” Mr. Clinton said. “I say this just to remind you that in two short years that as the secretary of the Treasury, he had a massive, positive impact on people here at home and all around the world.”

During the 1988 vice presidential debate, Mr. Bentsen, the running mate of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, famously put down vice presidential rival Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana after Mr. Quayle commented that he had as much experience in Congress as John F. Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy,” Mr. Bentsen said. “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Also attending the service were Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat; former Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry; former Secretary of State James A. Baker III; former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; former House Speaker Jim Wright; and Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn of Texas.

Among the more than 60 honorary pallbearers were Mr. Clinton; Mr. Dukakis; former President George Bush; Mr. Baker and two other former secretaries of state, Madeleine K. Albright and Henry Kissinger; former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan; Lady Bird Johnson; former Texas Govs. Bill Hobby and Ann Richards; and Southwest Airlines Chairman Herb Kelleher.

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