Quayle keeps stressing morality in New York

June 16, 1992|By Thomas Easton | Thomas Easton,New York Bureau of The Sun

NEW YORK -- Broadening his campaign for conservative moral values, Vice President Dan Quayle yesterday added the "sitcom elite" to other groups he has derided in recent weeks, saying "people ought to think about what they are watching, and business ought to think about what they are sponsoring."

His comments came at a lunch sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, a young conservative organization that has become an increasingly visible advocate of differing approaches to urban problems.

The timing of Mr. Quayle's visit was auspicious. In recent speeches, Mr. Quayle has derided what he perceives to be the immoral actions of a character on a prime-time television show and cited New York as the most visible real-life reflection of the failure of permissive government.

Although that has made him the subject of derision in some quarters, he has touched a chord. His appearance yesterday drew hundreds, including prominent attorneys, executives and media figures, many of whom likely fall within a group Mr. Quayle has mocked as the amoral "cultural elite" of the country.

A genuine re-examination by many of long-held views about government and public conduct seems to be going on here. Recent polls have shown rising unhappiness about prospects for New York. That, in turn, has provided a platform for new thoughts on morality encompassing a broad array of opinions, including Mr. Quayle's.

Anticipating a new barrage of criticism of the city from Mr. Quayle, one of the major tabloids ran the vice president's face on page one, headlined "Target New York." As Mr. Quayle began to speak uptown, city and state politicians delivered rebuttals a mile away on the downtown steps of City Hall.

Mr. Quayle did not disappoint. Noting New York would soon host the Democratic convention, he said: "In so many ways the liberal Democrats chose the perfect site for their convention -- almost as if they feel a strange compulsion to return to the scene of the crime.

"As we watch this spectacle on our televisions," he continued, "I suspect many Americans from all around the country will be left with this conviction: We must not let them do to the rest of America what they have done to the people of New York City."

To reform the city's troubled education system, Mr. Quayle said, educators must advocate appropriate conduct to children. "One reason our schools are in a crisis is because they have, in many ways, lost their moral bearings," he said. "When eighth graders are squandering the gift of youthful innocence in premarital sex, the solution is not to give them a condom. The solution is to give them a value-based education."

His comments drew scattered applause and no boos.

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