Remembrance Of Things Past- Introducing Danny Quayle -as George H.W. Bush’s Vice Presidential Selection- August 16, 1988.
The old saying goes you only have once to make a first impression. With Dan Quayle that seems to be the case. When the Republican nominee for President George H.W. Bush announced that the 41 year old U.S. Senator from Indiana was his selection- Quayle came across as ‘not ready for prime time”- as a lightweight- and rightfully or wrongfully that image stuck to him.
The Quayle announcement came as a shocker- although he’d been in the U.S. Senate since 1981 he was a virtual unknown outside of his home state of Indiana. He hadn’t particularly distinguished himself yet in the U.S. Senate- even in his home state he was overshadowed by their senior senator Richard Lugar who would serve from 1977-2013. Why was Dan Quayle chosen? I have always thought it was about stature. Bush had image problems himself- and I don’t think he was going to choose someone who would overshadow him. Bob Dole and Jack Kemp much better selections were considered but they were high profile politicians. Dan Quayle would not be a threat to overshadow him. I saw the announcement as it happened and Quayle came off looking too young and when he started talking seemed to be suffering from hyperventilation. He seemed more like a cheerleader than someone who should be put in this position. It was his introduction to the nation- a tough position to be in. It was a very hot and humid day in New Orleans also. Bush survived the Quayle pick- rarely is the choice of Vice President the tipping point in elections. I think the biggest selection in recent times was when Jack Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson- Johnson was a big help in the 1960. Even Milhous Nixon selecting a boob like Spiro Agnew didn’t sink him in 1968. There were more embarrassing moments in that campaign for Quayle- the most memorable being when Dukakis’s Vice Presidential pick Lloyd Bentsen took him to school in the VP debate “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy. (Prolonged shouts and applause.) But in the end the Bush/Quayle campaign survived and won the election easily- due in big part to The Boogie Man- Harvey LeRoy ‘Lee” Atwater -Bush’s campaign manager. I contend Bush would have won re-election in 1992 if Lee Atwater hadn’t come up with brain cancer and died. But that’s another story for another day.