Quayle Declares War

May 31, 1994

The battle for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination is under way, and it is already at the hand-to-hand combat stage. Who started the war? Dan Quayle.

The former vice president started it early this month with the publication of his book, "Standing Firm," and the tour he embarked on to promote it. The vice president responds to the Democratic and liberal criticism and jokes about him. That is routine. Not so routine is the fact that he also zings many of his fellow Republicans, especially some who are thought to be his rivals for the '96 nomination: James Baker, Jack Kemp, Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan.

His criticism of Mr. Buchanan is especially harsh. He all but accuses him of running against George Bush in the 1992 primaries merely to get his lecture fees up, and he suggests that the prime time televised Buchanan speech to the Republican National Convention in Houston drove away moderate Republican and independent voters in the fall, perhaps costing President Bush re-election.

Mr. Buchanan responded in his Washington Times column by charging Mr. Quayle with disloyalty to friends, revisionism and catering to liberals in the media. And Mr. Quayle fired back in the Washington Times, deriding Mr. Buchanan and his criticism as "almost comical."

Mr. Quayle may be so harsh because he sees Mr. Buchanan as his main, perhaps only, competitor for the support of the important Republican bloc generally labeled "conservative Christians." The former vice president emphasizes his own faith and conservative values throughout the book.

The Quayle book is almost entirely devoted to his vice presidential career. But it does have very brief reminders that despite the jokes he endured 1989-1993, he was quite a vote-getter before then, ousting a popular representative, then a popular senator en route to the vice presidency. We suspect that rivals in both parties underestimate him in 1996 at their peril.

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