OK, I didn't really hear that, but it's the kind of silly joke that's being bandied about these days regarding the vice president's importance. The fact that people regard the office of the vice president as important today has great historical significance. The first vice president, John Adams, said that it was "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." President Truman painted a more vivid picture, saying that all the vice presidents in history "were about as useful as a cow's fifth teat."
But all that's changed. Now it's a big deal to be vice president. I'm not just saying that because of all the attention Dick Cheney has been getting. Many people think whoever John Kerry chooses for a running mate could determine the outcome of this year's election. All of this got me thinking about one of the most entertaining former vice presidents — Dan Quayle. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that if Kerry wants to win, he should choose Dan Quayle as his running mate.
I know that the so-called "experts" have recommended other people for the job.. But Quayle just might be the answer for Kerry. First of all, Quayle has the experience. So, he knows where the office is, he knows the guy who parks the cars, and he knows where they keep the snacks. It would be a quick learning curve, and he could get right to work.
Dan Quayle was mocked by Democrats and abandoned by Republicans. Like many famous people in history, it's quite possible that he was just ahead of his time. Why do I think his time is now? Let's see: He railed against Hollywood and the "cultural elite." He often spoke of morals and family values. He was mocked for not being able to spell "potato." People laughed at the difficulty he had in putting a sentence together. He had trouble admitting mistakes and backing down from previous statements. His critics called him stupid. His friends called him passionate. Some said he was a spoiled rich kid who had everything handed to him. Others said he came from a tradition of service. Doesn't all this sound just a little familiar?
In 2004, intellectualism is out, and bumbling is okay. Today if Dan Quayle said the same kinds of things he said when he was in office, like, "We're going to have the best-educated American people in the world," or "Republicans understand the importance of bondage between mother and child," the voters would embrace him. They'd laugh it off, and say he was a "regular guy, just like us."
If Kerry picked Quayle, one thing is for sure — there would finally be some quotable statements coming out of the Democratic camp. I can't think of anything that Kerry has said recently. Can you? Even if he said, "I think my running mate is an idiot, and I disagree with everything he says," we'd finally know where Kerry stood.
It would be a brilliant tactic. Having a running mate he disagrees with philosophically and politically would be an amazing innovation in American politics. Criticizing Quayle would be a clever way for Kerry to attack the policies of a popular wartime President without seeming "unpatriotic." The Democrats could point to the Kerry-Quayle ticket as proof that everyone is welcome "in their tent." They'd say, "We can disagree about everything and still be on the same team." Who would be the Great Uniter then? I'm telling you, Kerry-Quayle can't lose.
Some of you may feel I made a few leaps in logic and common sense in this column. But, to quote Dan Quayle, "I stand by all the misstatements that I've made."
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver