When Geraldine Ferraro was selected as Walter Mondale’s Democratic running mate in 1984, after serving three terms in the House of Representatives, her experience and competence were rarely questioned. Instead, the Democratic Party was applauded for selecting someone “untested on the national stage,” according to the Washington Post. This has not been the reaction to the choice of Indiana Senator Dan Quayle, who was selected to run with Republican candidate George Bush.
But, despite this media bias, The 1988 Almanac of American Politics says that Quayle “has been one of the most active and successful members of the Republican class of 1980. With choice committee assignments – Budget, Armed Services, Labor and Human Resources – he has worked harder and accomplished more than almost anyone expected.”
Congressional Quarterly, a non-partisan directory of congressmen, says: “Quayle’s reputation has come a long way since he joined the Senate in 1981 at age 33. Dismissed then by many as a blow-dried pretty boy with two unremarkable House terms under his belt, Quayle today is seen as a diligent senator willing to work on complicated defense issues and interested in reforming Senate procedures to make the chamber function more efficiently.”
Since his appearance on the national political scene, Quayle has surprised political observers. In 1976, as a newcomer, he challenged Democrat Rep. J. Edward Roush in what political observers said was a futile race. However, Quayle beat him by a large margin. In 1980, he ran against nationally-known three-term Senator Birch Bayh and won. He won re-election with 61 percent of the vote, the largest victory in a statewide election in Indiana history.
Besides upsetting political analysts in campaigning, Quayle has taken a lead role in reforming the Senate’s own procedures and has been noted in Congressional Quarterly for his work in the area of domestic policy, employment, and health matters.
Quayle, a born-again Christian who attends a conservative Presbyterian church in the Washington area, is outspoken about his moral views and has taken a strong stand on issues that are of concern to Christians:
- Pro-life record. Quayle has consistently opposed the federal funding of abortion, and voted to amend the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion.
- Prayer in schools. He has also backed constitutional amendments to permit prayer in government schools and other public buildings, and to prohibit the compulsory busing of students to schools other than those nearest to their homes in order to achieve racial balance.
- Fiscal policies. In 1982 and again in 1987, Quayle voted for proposed constitutional amendments to balance the federal budget unless a three-fifths majority of Congress agreed to deficit spending. He also supported the 1981 tax-cut program.
- Defense platform. According to the Congressional Quarterly, he was a leader among Republican senators blocking consideration of a defense bill because Democrats had added language making it difficult for President Reagan to proceed with his space-based anti-missile system, the Strategic Defense Initiative.
During the drafting of the INF Treaty, Fred Ikle, former secretary of Defense, told The Washington Times that Quayle was the first to notice significant flaws in the document. Quayle led a successful fight to force U.S. and Soviet negotiators to close a loophole that seemed to allow the Soviets to build and deploy so-called futuristic warheads on missiles with ranges otherwise banned by the treaty.
Although considered an outspoken leader on defense issues in the Senate, the media has attempted to reinforce Quayle’s “lightweight” image by implying that he evaded the trenches of Vietnam by using well-connected relatives to get into the National Guard. But thorough media investigations of the matter have not brought any incriminating evidence against the youthful senator.
Capt. Cathi Kiger, state public affairs officer for the Indiana National Guard, said there were vacancies in the Indianapolis headquarters detachment that Quayle joined even three months after he formally enlisted. “There is no evidence,” Kiger said, “that Quayle was given special consideration.”
The National Guard controversy is obviously an attempt by the media to discredit Quayle. Few news commentaries have reported that Quayle is not the only legislator to have served in the National Guard or failed to go to war. Of the 131 congressmen born from 1942 to 1950, and thus eligible for the draft, nearly two-thirds never entered into military duty of any kind, according to official statistics reprinted by The Washington Times in August of 1988. Senator Jeffrey Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat up for re-election, has not received media flack for joining the Army Reserve during the height of the Vietnam war in 1968.