FORMER VEEP Dan Quayle returned to the national spotlight Sunday (March 15) on NBC's "Meet the Press." He was a different man, with a different look and sound, portraying a new self-confidence that indicates he will be a major player in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in the year 2000.
It is said that one of the reasons for Ronald Reagan's success was that he chose three or four goals and stuck to them throughout his presidency. On "Meet the Press," Quayle said he has a "vision" for America. It includes (1) "a smaller, more responsive government," (2) "dramatic tax cuts," (3) plans to "strengthen the families" and (4) "reinvest in national defense."
Quayle, who has been getting advice from top thinkers and strategizers who worked in and with the Bush administration, spelled out his alarm over deep cuts in the defense budget, which he called "the hollowing of the American armed forces -- 40 percent reduction in real terms of national defense expenditures, 70 percent reduction in procurement." He said in order to re-fight Desert Storm today it would take 100 percent of the Marine Corps, about two-thirds of the Army, about half the Navy and about half the Air Force, which would put other American commitments around the world at risk.
Repeatedly, Quayle stressed his experience and three times mentioned he had "been in the White House for four years." None of the other presidential hopefuls has that on his resume. Some have never held elective office or know the pressure of making decisions that affect so many people.
He was strong, but fair, on the Clinton administration's ethics problems. He accused White House staffers of orchestrating a smear campaign against independent counsel Kenneth Starr, something he said the Bush administration did not do with its independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh. He said he rejects the view held by some congressional Republicans that the GOP is better off with a weakened president and might not wish to impeach him if evidence suggests he has broken the law. Quayle said "that may be political good advice, but it's not good advice for the country. We have to do what is right for the country, notwithstanding what may be in the Republican Party's best interest."
Quayle said he does not believe the president when he denies having had extramarital affairs. While Quayle expects all presidential candidates will be asked if they ever were unfaithful to their spouse, he doesn't think it is a good question unless there has been a "pattern" of such behavior. He said his personal answer to the marital infidelity question is "no." Still, he said, marital fidelity is "to some extent" relevant when considering one's qualifications for high office.
What should amaze people who have not noticed or thought about Dan Quayle in a while is the change in his demeanor. Gone is the "deer in the headlights" look. The flecks of gray hair and slight bags under the eyes give him a mature look. But even more impressive is his confident speaking style, focused, full of opinions, facts, convictions and ideas. On "Meet the Press," Quayle was relaxed and in full control of himself and the moment.
He said he believes he can overcome the stereotypes of himself because "the American people are fair." It is clear that Quayle hasn't spent all of his time on the golf course in Arizona. He's been studying and raising large amounts of money for Republican candidates. Already he seems to be warming up for a rematch with Al Gore, whom he debated in 1992. "Al Gore is connected to Bill Clinton," he said. "If Bill Clinton suffers, Al Gore suffers. Right now, Al Gore is probably flying high because of so-called `Bill Clinton's popularity,' but ... the two are very close together, and if Bill Clinton is popular in November 2000, Al Gore has a reasonable chance of getting elected, but that will not happen, and you heard it here first."
Dan Quayle flashed a confident
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