VICE PRESIDENT Dan Quayle had a great opportunity to display boldness, honesty and courage. But he proved to be a cringing disappointment.
A few days ago, Quayle played golf as a guest at Cypress Point, an exclusive California club considered to be the world's most beautiful.
But some liberals heard about it and expressed horror that Quayle would dare swat a ball around a course that has an all-white membership.
Quayle promptly canceled his round for the next day and blew town. An aide issued a mealy-mouthed statement saying that Quayle hadn't realized he did wrong and that he doesn't condone discrimination.
In other words, he did the politically correct thing. And political correctness has become the social trend of the 1990s. It means that nobody should do or say anything that can possibly offend anyone.
But in being politically correct, Quayle must know in his heart of hearts that he was being dishonest. If he hadn't, he would have defiantly played that second round of golf.
And when his critics bleated at him, he would have faced them and said:
"Yes, I admit that I played golf at Cypress Point, and I am shocked and dismayed by the insensitivity and bigotry of the liberals who have criticized me for doing so.
"It appears that the liberals believe that an individual must take full responsibility for everything he or she does. They don't consider that a person can be shaped by his early experiences; that all sorts of socioeconomic conditions can push him in one direction or another.
"As any liberal should know, social conditions and environment have pushed some people into a life of crime, a sense of hopelessness, toward all sorts of degradation.
"They should remember that an individual can't necessarily avoid becoming what he is and what he does; that he is molded by forces beyond his control.
"And that's what happened to me. In my case, I became a white male person. I admit it. But I had no choice. I was born that way. Am I to be condemned for my genetic origins?
"And I also admit that at an early age, I became a golfer. I didn't know I was doing anything wrong. I was young and impressionable and I fell in with a crowd that hit golf balls, so I hit them too.
"I became obsessed with hitting golf balls. I don't know if I was an addict; that might be too strong a word. But at the very least, I had a golfing disorder. There were long periods of time when that is all I wanted to do. And, I admit it even today, that there are times when I am gripped by this uncontrollable urge.
"I'm not alone. This disorder, addiction, dependency -- whatever you choose to call it -- has afflicted millions of others.
"In extreme cases, it causes men to neglect their work, their families, their Sunday morning religious obligations. It has driven many to excessive drink, to deep moods of melancholy, listlessness, frustration, idle daydreaming, suicidal rage and to dress funny.
"Medical science has found no cure for it, although it has been with us for hundreds of years. An ancient English king once tried to forbid his subjects from playing at 'goff,' as it was then called, because it led them to shirk their practice of archery, spear-tossing, sheep-shearing, blacksmithing, wench-pinching and other civic duties. But so strong was their addiction that they ignored the king's order and, I believe, he took up the game himself, although I don't believe he ever became more than a duffer.
"Now it has spread throughout our society. There are those who even call it 'The White Man's Curse,' because it afflicts those of the pale-pink skin persuasion. Some believe we are vulnerable because while we cannot leap high, as Michael Jordan does, or run like the wind, as Bo Jackson does, we do possess the unique hand-eye coordination and stamina needed to ride great distances in electric carts.
"And so, being a white, middle-class male, I golf. I try to keep the urge under control, but there are times when it overpowers me. When the opportunity presented itself to play Cypress Point, with the winds howling off the Pacific, the ocean waves crashing almost to the fairways, it was like waving a snifter of cognac under the nose of a boozer, or dropping a fat campaign contribution on the desk of a congressman. I couldn't help myself.
"So let the liberals condemn me for not being able to help being what I am: a product of my birth and environment.
"But I would ask them one question: 'Where were they when I wanted to try out for the Harlem Globetrotters?'"