George Bush's finely honed sense of loyalty and duty, a character trait traceable to his schoolboy days in chapel, figures large in crucial political decisions as he confronts a surging Clinton-Gore team. Common wisdom says he will bring in Secretary of State James Baker to run his campaign, citing just these values to overcome Mr. Baker's reluctance. And he will keep Dan Quayle on his ticket, despite popular doubts about his competence, for these very same reasons.
If this is right, it will in no way represent a triumph of sentiment over the depressing realities that beset the president's re-election effort. Mr. Bush has said he will do whatever is necessary to win a second term in the White House, and we believe him. Bringing in Mr. Baker to impose coherence, not only on his advisers but on himself, seems to be imperative. Keeping Mr. Quayle will be a mistake in terms of the nation's welfare. But to jettison his vice president would open Mr. Bush to charges of personal betrayal, something that would make him flinch and anger party conservatives.
If the decision were Mr. Baker's, he probably would get rid of Mr. Quayle in a trice. He never approved of the Quayle selection in the first place. But Mr. Baker has always known the president is boss, and he is unlikely to do anything to jeopardize his own political future -- a future in which a 1996 bid for the White House cannot be excluded.