Ralph Yarborough, the liberal senator that Lloyd Bentsen defeated in a bitter 1970 Texas Democratic primary, said Thursday his old rival did the right thing when he attacked Dan Quayle for comparing himself to John Kennedy.

"Quayle looked like a pipsqueak to compare himself to JFK," Yarborough said. "Some may think Bentsen was too rough. I think it was justified."I am no friend of Bentsen, but I am glad Bentsen set him down. He needed to be dressed down on that."

Yarborough lost his seat to Bentsen in one of the most bitter political races in a state known for rough-and-tumble fights between the conservative and liberal wings of the state Democratic Party.

The political wound of that race has never really healed, but Yarborough, 85 and still an unvarnished liberal, had no apologies for Bentsen's thrust at Quayle during their debate Wednesday night.

Quayle, 41, said he has as much experience in Congress as Kennedy had when he ran for the White House.

"It was the essence of arrogance" to compare his credentials with Kennedy's, Yarborough said from his home in Austin, Texas.

Yarborough was an enthusiastic supporter of Kennedy and his programs, served with him on the Senate Labor Committee and backed him over fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson in their fight for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960. Texas conservatives paid him back in the 1970 showdown with Bentsen.