The sticks this weekend, and I didn't get the...


May 08, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

I WAS OUT IN the sticks this weekend, and I didn't get the papers. I heard the rumors, though. I heard that Hopkins surgeons removed an 180-pound obstruction from George Bush. I assumed that meant Dan Quayle.

Imagine my surprise -- and disappointment -- to learn upon returning to the big city that I'd heard two rumors garbled together. Somebody else had a 180-pound cyst removed at Hopkins. Bush went to Bethesda Naval Hospital because of a heart problem.

It was only liberal political spin doctors who proposed removing Dan Quayle from the president.

Whether you are pro-Quayle or anti-Quayle, you look to this space for the trivia line on vice presidents running twice. Here it is.

In the 20th century, there have been 11 elections in which a president running for re-election had the option of keeping the old or choosing a new running mate.

In 1900, 1904, 1908, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1948, 1952, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1988 there was no incumbent president-vice president team available, either because of death, retirement or resignation.

William Howard Taft kept James Sherman in 1912. Woodrow Wilson kept Thomas Marshall in 1916. Herbert Hoover kept Charles Curtis in 1932. Franklin D. Roosevelt kept John Nance Garner in 1936. FDR dumped Garner for Henry Wallace in 1940. He dumped Wallace for Harry Truman in 1944.

Dwight Eisenhower kept Richard Nixon in 1956. Richard Nixon kept Spiro Agnew in 1972. Gerald Ford dumped Nelson Rockefeller for Bob Dole in 1976.

Jimmy Carter kept Walter Mondale in 1980. Ronald Reagan kept George Bush in 1984.

So, the odds are 8-3 for retention, based on the historical record.

Of course, Quayle may lose office in 1992 for reasons unrelated to him. There are other historical trends involved. Bush is a jogger. Every jogging president so far has been defeated for re-election.

There has only been one. Carter. I think he lost in 1980 in part because he once ran himself ragged, to the point of collapse, in full view of newspaper photographers and television cameras. It became a metaphor for his presidency.

I think George Bush ought to be defeated if he continues to jog. Especially now. I know the doctors say it's unrelated, but come on. He's almost 67 years old.

We think of him as a high-energy, youthful guy. But remember this: He is older now than grandfatherly old Ike was when he suffered his heart attack in 1955.

Ike didn't jog. Ike got 2 million more votes and carried two more states in 1956 -- after that heart attack and an abdominal operation -- than he got healthy in 1952.

Had he jogged, he wouldn't have. Ike played golf and fished. That's what 67-year-olds are supposed to do. He acted his age. Old joggers, who don't, have lean and hungry looks (like Bush), and you know what Shakespeare said about them.

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