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Oppenheim: Dan Quayle Reminder

Recently, I was watching Dan Quayle on NBC News. It had been a while since I’d seen him.

Quayle, as you may know, was George H.W. Bush’s vice president from 1989 to 1993. Here, he was a guest on the Today Show making a case for party unity.

Now, if you’re expecting me to argue that the gaffe-prone former Veep said something dumb, sorry – he really didn’t. Instead, he expressed some rather bland support for Donald Trump, nothing particularly different from what other republicans have been saying.

What struck me was my emotional response, my return to feelings that Quayle never should have been on the ticket 28 years ago. Sure, Quayle was qualified on paper as a lawyer and a senator from Indiana. But he was picked in part because Bush, fighting a wimp factor image, didn’t want a candidate forced upon him by the party and did want to be seen as his own man.

Still, even a kind review of Dan Quayle is he wasn’t ready, and maybe never would have been. It wasn’t just he fumbled his lines. He never had the voice of a leader who could convince a majority of Americans he had grasp on the issues. The elder Bush beat Michael Dukakis, not because of, but in spite of his selection of Dan Quayle.

Then out of the blue in 2008, Sarah Palin came along - with popular appeal and charisma who connected with a portion of the electorate. But her lack of understanding in world affairs was breathtaking, as tougher interviews quickly revealed.

Democrat choices may have been more mainstream, but also sometimes imperfect. While Al Gore and Joe Biden had a history of experience, John Edwards’ personal life became a shambles, something that could have been as much of a distraction as it was with Bill Clinton.

Still, when it comes to the Veepstakes, the G.O.P. has more often taken chances with candidates not ready for prime time.
Unintentionally, Dan Quayle reminded me that so-called political phenomena really don’t come out of nowhere at all. They’re more likely just another in a long line of recklessness choices.

President Obama has been making that very point. In his Rutgers University commencement speech, he argued ignorance is not a virtue and not about challenging political correctness. It is, he said, just not knowing what you’re talking about.

Keith Oppenheim, Associate Professor in Broadcast Media Production at Champlain College, has been with the college since 2014. Prior to that, he coordinated the broadcasting program at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan (near Grand Rapids). Keith was a correspondent for CNN for 11 years and worked as a television news reporter in Providence, Scranton, Sacramento and Detroit. He produces documentaries, and his latest project, Noyana - Singing at the end of life, tells the story of a Vermont choir that sings to hospice patients.
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