Dan Quayle

Remember the period between the 2008 Republican Convention, but before the Katie Couric interview, when Sarah Palin was widely seen as a new politico dynamo who had breathed life into the McCain campaign? I wrote a column pointing out the the reaction to Palin eerily recalled the early reaction to Dan Quayle in 1988: [S]omewhere in the recesses of my mind, this admiring appraisal of the prospective veep's intellect struck a familiar chord. With a quick search, I discovered that, indeed, the same was said of Dan Quayle in 1988.


It was more or less this question that flummoxed Dan Quayle in the '88 debate. He had to be asked some version of it three times before he mentioned that he had the same amount of experience as JFK--which led to Lloyd Bentsen's famous line. By that standard, I think Palin handled it all right, even allowing that she has some disagreements with McCain, which would presumably influence her administration. P.S. Interesting to know Biden's a Home Depot guy. I had him pegged for a Lowe's type. P.P.S. Was Palin's "shout out" to her brother's third-grade class spontaneous?


Apropos my posting on Bill Kristol's commentary on my Spine on Sarah Palin: a reader wrote in to remind me that Bill has other credentials than intellectual. The most salient was that he was chief of staff for Dan Quayle. Now, Palin is certainly much smarter than Quayle. But, then, who isn't? Still the former vice president  and the Republican aspirant for the spitting spittoon do share their politics in a big way. Apparently, Kristol is exactly where he was 20 years ago. No change here.

Free Sarah Palin!

To do interviews, I mean. That's the cry you're hearing from the Fourth Estate, and it's one I agree with . . . as a reporter. But if I were a McCain campaign strategist, I wouldn't let Palin within a hundred feet of a reporter asking a question--which, of course, is precisely what the McCain campaign is doing. What's the upside? She's already a celebrity based on one speech, and she can keep on giving versions of that same speech during McCain campaign events and stoking her celebrity. Who knows how she'd handle herself in an interview?



TOM'S WAR Every now and then, a politician will, through accident or poor judgment, say something that tells you everything you need to know about him. (It is usually a him.) Bill Clinton's contention that "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" captured forever his evasiveness and moral relativism; Dan Quayle's mangling of the United Negro College Fund motto, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful," couldn't help but suggest that he perhaps spoke from experience. Recently, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay joined this proud fraternity.


Race to the Bottom

It would seem, on the face of it, that the only thing standing between George W. Bush and the presidency is a persistent reservation about his intellect. The doubts have crystallized around a reporter's now-famous pop quiz, in which the Texas governor could not identify various difficult-to-pronounce heads of state. Bush, according to many in the press, needs to wonk himself up, and fast. He needs to cocoon himself with all those Stanford Ph.D.s and reemerge with a deep, studied interest in the stability of Central Asia and the efficacy of scattered-site housing.


Dead Man Walking

It seems like a natural audience for a Democratic candidate. A few hundred retired union workers are sitting on folding chairs in a large hall that resembles a cafeteria at a run-down school-- right down to the off-white walls lined with tan cement columns. Outside, several letters have fallen off the billboard so that it reads, "united ood & commercia workers ufw local no.


Pox Populi

United We Stand: How We Can Take Back Our Country by Ross Perot (Hyperion, 115 pp., $4.95 paper) Not for Sale at Any Price: How We Can Save America for Our Children by Ross Perot (Hyperion, 158 pp., $5.95 paper)  On November 7, 1969, a week before the huge antiwar moratorium demonstrations, The New York Times ran a full-page advertisement in support of the Nixon administration's policy in Vietnam. A similar advertisement appeared two days later; and then, on November 15, the Times reported that the pro-Nixon advertisers had blanketed the country with 25 million postcards backing the president,


Cuomo Vadis

There is an occupational hazard of writing about Mario Cuomo: even if you are generally sympathetic to him, he'll call to correct you. And the New York governor was not daunted by his status as the front-runner for the next Supreme Court seat.


Danny and Zoe

The drama that culminated in Zoe Baird's selection as attorney general was demeaning to all the players. First, Bill Clinton made it clear that only women need apply. Then Judge Patricia Wald, who deserved to be at the top of a coed list, took herself out of the running. Brooksley Born, a Washington lawyer-activist, lost the job by leaving Clinton cold in her interview--after boasting to friends that she had clinched the nomination.