BECAUSE I WOULD like this to be a kinder and gentler nation, I have sworn off Quayle-bashing effective immediately. We can't have a kinder and gentler nation if people get their blood pressure up, which happens every time I mention the vice president.
His admirers grab their pens and write things like: "Hah! If you think you are so smart, why are you a lowly columnist and not a vice president? Shame on you." (Ross Jones, Corpus Christi, Texas.)
"Your rabid jealousy of a man who is smarter, richer, more successful, better looking and better liked than you is no reason to write such a column. Or are you simply jealous of a former newspaperman and owner who moved on to better things and wasn't stuck where you find yourself?" (Homer Blalock, El Paso, Texas.)
Actually, I had forgotten that Quayle has a newspaper background. And I must concede that he rose above his humble journalistic origins to national office. It just shows what a young man can do if he works hard and his family owns the most influential newspaper in Indiana.
Anyway, that's the last you will hear from me about Vice President Quayle. I agree with his fans that the bashing has gone on too long. By now, people either like him or they don't, so why dwell on it?
That's why my column today isn't about Dan Quayle. It's about his wife, Marilyn Quayle, a lady with a big heart.
Mrs. Quayle recently turned up in Bangladesh, where a terrible cyclone killed more than 140,000 people and brought suffering to millions of others.
She was there to help the relief effort and let the
people of Bangladesh know that she cares and America cares.
And she did just that. At one of her stops, she helped unload emergency supplies from an airplane. According to a wire service report, she spent three minutes unloading.
Then she helped distribute bags of food and clothing to the needy. The wire service report said she spent five minutes at it.
But that's probably because she was on a tight schedule, attending a briefing and providing photo opportunities for the many news crews.
Several thousand American servicemen are taking part in the relief effort, so she posed for news footage with some of them.
There are Japanese relief workers there, as well as other Americans, so she posed for the cameras with them too.
One of the better photo opportunities came when she was taken to some GIs who were building a temporary warehouse to store the relief materials.
Mrs. Quayle was given a hammer and nails and spent a few minutes driving the nails into boards. The
news reports didn't say whether her efforts at carpentry brought delight to the suffering Bangladeshis, but it pleased the news photographers.
She even posed for pictures with some of the sufferers, although they didn't appear to know who she was, the ingrates.
But that didn't matter. What mattered was that she was there, that she cared enough to have her staff work out her schedule so they could get on a military plane and fly halfway around the world to pose for pictures.
As one might expect, there were a few grumblers along the way.
Because of her visit, and the elaborate preparations that had to be made, some of the military helicopters in that area couldn't be used to bring in relief goods.
One non-commissioned officer complained: "Right now, we should have our birds up in the air lugging potatoes to the islands." Instead, the five choppers were on the ground.
Another said: "Unless she comes to work with us, it won't impress me."
And work with them she did. Five minutes here, three minutes there, a few nails in a board. That adds up. At that pace, a person could easily log a half-hour of relief work before the trip was over.
But what matters most is that the storm-battered Bangladeshis knew that she cared. There is a very old Bangladesh saying. Loosely translated, it goes like this:
"When cyclone blow, tidal wave roll, and roof fly away, Bangladesh no worry because heaven send nice foreign lady wearing baseball hat with hamburger chain logo, and we be happy again, hooray."
It makes me proud to be an American.