Quayle, under glass

May 13, 1991

At a moment when the two questions raging in Washington dealt with Dan Quayle's brainpower and John Sununu's privileged plane trips, what does the vice president of the United States do? Why, he boards a government plane for a $27,000 taxpayer-paid trip to play golf in Georgia.

For Quayle to make such a blunder -- no matter whether out of stupidity or arrogance -- makes a mockery out of President Bush's high-dudgeon claim that his understudy was getting "a bum rap" in the press. Quayle might as well have put a sign on his back reading, "kick me." And of course the nocturnal comics, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, et al. readily obliged.

Quayle's defenders maintain the vice president is, in private, thoughtful, decisive and self-assured. And that may well be. But his problem has little to do with the press; his problem is that he simply lacks the capacity the convince the American people that he should be entrusted with the presidency. Last Friday, 54 percent of 685 respondents in an Evening Sun SUNDIAL survey said they thought Bush should dump Quayle. And that's a better confidence rating than Quayle gets in other recent polls.

Fairly or unfairly, Quayle is the victim of the merciless eye of television. With his blue-eyed innocence and twangy Indiana accent, he simply comes across as a hayseed, a sort of Mortimer Snerd with enough country guile to get elected to the Senate, but hopelessly out of his depth in the office next to the Oval Office. It would be difficult enough for him to shake that impression even if he behaved impeccably. When he commits bonehead blunders like the $27,000 golfing trip, it's impossible.

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