Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Lesson from Dan Quayle

This is from Christopher Manion's column in a recent number of The Wanderer. And the sequestration is already happening exactly as he predicted.

“ Son, Dan Quayle wants you to help him, and I said it’s OK. His guy’s gonna call you.” With that, Jesse Helms walked out of the cloakroom onto the Senate floor, handing me my only foray ever into vice- presidential politics.

In that spring of 1988, it was already clear that Vice President George H. W. Bush would be the Republican presidential nominee. All the drama focused on his choice of a running mate. Early on, Quayle was not even considered a contender. Names like Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, and Pete Domenici were floating around, but each of those carried baggage that worried pro- lifers — and Bush was the biggest question mark of all. Sen. Quayle decided that Bush needed a dependable conservative, pro- life running mate — Dan Quayle.

Quayle certainly fit the bill, but he had a problem. He had come to the Senate in 1981, in an election that gave the Republicans the majority party for the first time since the 1950s. Ronald Reagan’s coattails deserve most of the credit, but a lot of “ movement conservatives” thought they had played a role too. Quayle, a solid conservative, started keeping his distance from the grass- roots groups. I think he considered some of their leaders to be too pushy. Pushy or not, by 1988 they were also powerful — and indispensable. Dan Quayle needed them if he wanted to be Bush’s running mate.

For several weeks, at Quayle’s request, I worked with the leadership of virtually every conservative group in the country. It worked. The grassroots swelled with support, and, in August, from a motel room in rural Pennsylvania, I watched Dan Quayle accept the nomination ( my van had broken down on the way to an August seminar at Russell Kirk’s).
What happened next is instructive: The Bush campaign, under the iron hand of Jim Baker, sequestered Quayle. Baker’s crew virtually encouraged the media’s notion that Quayle was a lightweight, in need of close supervision. After Bush beat Dukakis in November, Baker’s first priority was to cleanse the executive branch of every conservative he could find. By and large, he succeeded handsomely. To keep Quayle under control, he installed Bill Kristol as Quayle’s chief of staff. And I never heard from Dan Quayle again.

Three weeks ago, Bill Kristol passionately urged John McCain to choose pro- abortion Democrat Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Obama is so bad, Kristol argued, that conservatives will have no option but McCain. But now, Kristol is suddenly aglow at McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, Lieberman’s total metaphysical opposite ( if I may for a moment be a Manichee). Meanwhile, one of Kristol’s Weekly Standard’s more unseemly colleagues attacked Ron Paul’s supporters as “ Paultards.”

In our swooning over Sarah Palin, let us not forget the lesson of Dan Quayle: The lobbyists and the DC trough- dwellers who serve as the henchmen of the McCain campaign want every bit as much control over Palin as Jim Baker wielded over Dan Quayle — or the control that Dick Cheney wields over George Bush, for that matter. George H. W. Bush picked Dan Quayle because he could not win without the grass- roots. He never understood us, but he needed us — temporarily. Then Jim Baker’s demolition crew took over.

McCain has never understood movement conservatives either. But he picked Palin to bring the grass- roots out of the bleachers back onto the playing field because he can’t win without them. Palin’s record indicates that, if she wins, she will throw out the corrupt GOP machine in Washington the same way she did in Alaska. The leaders of that corrupt machine are now running McCain’s campaign. The question is, will they be able to isolate Sarah Barracuda in some far corner in the executive wing? Only time will tell.


The Wanderer's website, as has been mentioned before, doesn't facilitate direct citations. For the rest of the article you need to get hold of the 18 September 2008 issue.