Am I the only one here who's going to speak up for Dan Quayle? This is a role, I must admit, that I never expected to assume.
I do like to think that during the elder George Bush's administration I was not the worst of the Quayle-bashers. Yes, it was obvious whom I had in mind when, during that period, I suggested an amendment to the Constitution making a C average a requirement for the presidency. On the other hand, I was always sympathetic to Mr. Quayle's spelling problems. I happen to have a small deficit in that area myself. In moments of ruthlessly honest self-examination— moments I have always tried to keep to an absolute minimum — I have to admit that I'm still not certain how I would have made that call on the spelling of potato.
Anyway, fair's fair, and it has apparently been left to me to remind everybody of that. What I'm talking about is Mr. Quayle's military service during the Vietnam War. Remember now? When Dan Quayle was chosen by George H. W. Bush to become the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1988, a firestorm broke out on the subject of whether the considerable influence of his family in Indiana had been used to get him a slot in the National Guard.
At the time it was thought that if the jackals of the press, who were in full pursuit, managed to find proof that influence had been used — that he had been jumped over a waiting list of less than influential Hoosiers, one of whom might have gone to Vietnam in place of this cosseted rich boy and been killed — Mr. Quayle would have had difficulty remaining on the ticket.
But in the current furor about George W. Bush's military record it seems to be taken for granted that Mr. Bush got into the so-called Champagne unit of the Texas Air National Guard through influence. The stories begin by saying he was jumped over a 500-man waiting list. Then they quickly go on to investigate the details of his sojourn in Alabama. Using influence to get into the guard and therefore out of Vietnam is no longer disqualifying for "sons of the powerful"; it's assumed. Or could it be that Dan Quayle is judged by stricter standards than other politicians?
That possibility makes it worth taking another look at his academic record. When Mr. Quayle finally authorized the indirect release of his marks, for a long Washington Post profile by Bob Woodward and David Broder — a profile, I should mention, that was much more favorable than people had expected — it turned out that he'd had a C+ average. George W. Bush had a straight C. Dick Cheney flunked out of Yale twice. Nobody accuses them of not being able to spell potato. I bring up these matters not to embarrass the president and the vice president. They have enough embarrassments as it is. But fair's fair.[Nitpicker emphasis]
Who would have thought at the time that we were no where near the bottom of that barrel.