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Former Vice President Dan Quayle: A Mini Biography

My writing interests are general, with expertise in science, history, biographies, and “how-to” topics. I have written over seventy books.

Who was George H.W. Bush's vice president?

Who was George H.W. Bush's vice president?

Early Life

James Danforth Quayle was born on February 4, 1947, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His parents were Martha Corinne nee Pulliam and James Cline Quayle, whose name originated from the Isle of Man, the birthplace of his great-grandfather. His mother’s family was wealthy as his grandfather, Eugene C. Pulliam, was an influential publishing entrepreneur, founder of Central Newspapers, Inc. and owner of several major newspapers, including The Indianapolis Star and The Arizona Republic. In 1955, James C. Quayle took over a branch of the publishing empire of his wife’s family, and the couple moved to Arizona.

Quayle spent most of his childhood years in a suburb of Phoenix, known as Paradise Valley, but returned to Indiana in his youth. After graduating from Huntington High School in 1965, he enrolled at DePauw University, where he studied political science, receiving his B.A. degree in 1969. As a student, he was a member of the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon, and served for three years as the letterman for the university's golf team. Soon after graduation, he joined the Indiana Army National Guard, serving from 1969 to 1975, finally leaving as a sergeant.

Political Career

Quayle attended Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and obtained his J.D. in 1974. During his time at Indiana, he met his future wife, Marilyn. She was also a student of the law school, attending night classes at the same time as Quayle. After marriage, the couple practiced law in Huntington, Indiana, for a short period.

In 1971, while studying for his J.D., Quayle began to work as an investigator for the Consumer Protection Division of the Indiana Attorney General's Office. In the same year, he became administrative assistant to Indiana’s Governor Edgar Whitcomb, making his way into politics. In the last year of law school, he was appointed Director of the Inheritance Tax Division of the Indiana Department of Revenue. After obtaining his J.D. in 1974, he started to work for one of the family’s newspapers, the Huntington Herald-Press, where he took the position of associate publisher.

Interested in a political career, Quayle entered the 1976 election for the House of Representatives. He was elected to represent Indiana’s fourth congressional district, winning against the Democrat J. Edward Roush, who had already served eight terms. Two years later, Quayle was re-elected with the greatest percentage margin in the history of the northeast Indiana district. In 1980, four years after his launch on the national political scene, and at the age of only 33, Quayle became the youngest elected Senator from Indiana by defeating incumbent Democrat Birch Bayh. Quayle’s political career seemed to establish record after record, transforming him into an influential figure in the political history of Indiana. In 1986, his second election for Senate brought him a new victory as he took 61% of the votes, achieving the largest margin ever in a statewide Indiana election. His opponent, the Democrat Jill Long suffered a humiliating defeat.

As his reputation grew significantly, Quayle received an invitation in 1978 from Congressman Leo Ryan of California to join him in a delegation to Guyana, where he had to investigate conditions at the Jonestown settlement. Quayle was unable to accept the invitation. Later, he received the news of Ryan being murdered in a violent attack that led to the Jonestown massacre.

Senator Dan Quayle and his wife Marilyn attend the launching ceremony for the Aegis guided missile cruiser USS VINCENNES at Ingalls Shipbuilding 1984.

Senator Dan Quayle and his wife Marilyn attend the launching ceremony for the Aegis guided missile cruiser USS VINCENNES at Ingalls Shipbuilding 1984.

Vice President of the United States

In 1988, during a Republican convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, the nominee for the presidential election, George H.W. Bush designated Quayle to be his running mate, stirring a lot of controversy among Republicans. Quayle benefited though from the support of President Ronald Reagan who appreciated him for his energetic and enthusiastic personality. Media coverage of the convention raised several issues about Bush’s decision, questioning Quayle about his military service and limited political experience. Quayle found it difficult to handle properly the inquisitive journalists and provided them with rather evasive answers. Bush’s staff mildly criticized him for the inability to offer satisfying answers about his military records while the rest of the delegates to the convention blamed the media for seeking inappropriately to undermine Quayle’s position. Despite this incident, Bush and Quayle made a good team and took the lead in public opinion polls for the rest of the presidential campaign.

In October 1988, Quayle and Democratic candidate Lloyd Bentsen met in a vice presidential debate, in which Quayle’s limited political experience became the subject of discussion. However, Quayle maintained a firm position during the debate, comparing his 12-year experience in Congress with the experience of President John F. Kennedy, who spent 14 years in congressional service. The comparison was factual, yet it seemed stretched to Bentsen whose response was that Quayle was in no way J.F. Kennedy. Quayle remained loyal to his strategy of criticizing the Democratic presidential nominee Dukakis for being too liberal. One month later, Bush was elected President of the United States with a 53-46 margin, and Quayle became Vice President.

During the presidential campaign, Quayle’s office released financial disclosure forms that revealed to the public Quayle’s net worth of approximately $1.2 million in assets. The sum seemed rather low considering the family’s wealth. Quayle admitted that the family trust is worth an estimated $600 million and that he would inherit a part of it later in his life.

Bush appointed Quayle as the chairman of the National Space Council and Quayle took his role very seriously, calling for greater efforts in protecting the planet against asteroids. He was also named head of the Council on Competitiveness. As Vice President, he became interested in international relations and made official trips to dozens of countries all around the world.

Trouble With the Newsmedia

During his vice-presidency, Quayle was the subject of criticism and ridicule both in the media and among the public in the United States and abroad. He was regarded by most as generally incompetent with an incoherent speech that showed him as an intellectual lightweight. Many of his public statements were confusing, self-contradictory, or plain wrong. After Bush made an official announcement about the Space Exploration Initiative regarding a manned landing on Mars, Quayle gave an interview in which he seemed to lack minimal scientific knowledge. He made several erroneous statements about the possibility of life on Mars. In 1992, he stated in an interview that homosexuality was a choice, yet a wrong one.

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In 1992, Quayle went through another incident that stained his reputation and attracted severe criticism from Americans. While participating in a spelling bee at the Munoz Rivera Elementary School in Trenton, New Jersey, Quayle corrected the spelling of a 12-year-old student of “potato” to “potatoe." He was widely derided by Americans for his error. In his book of memoirs, he revealed that the cards provided by the school included this unusual misspelling and that he relied on them, despite feeling uncomfortable with the version. He simply preferred to trust the written material given by the school.

In the same year, Quayle got into public attention with another scandal. He gave a speech about the Los Angeles riots in which he attributed the violence prevalent in society to the decay of moral values and the disrespect for the traditional family in the United States. To emphasize his points, he referred to the popular TV program Murphy Brown about a single mother with a highly-paid career. He stated that viewing Murphy Brown as an example of success is harmful because such an attitude diminishes the role and importance of a father. The incident became known as the Murphy Brown speech, and it stirred many public disputes in the country. The outcry lasted for many months, affecting the results of the 1992 presidential campaign. Years later, the actress who played Murphy Brown confessed that she considered the speech very intelligent and that fathers should not be taken for granted.

1989 Presidential Inauguration - George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle swearing in ceremony.

1989 Presidential Inauguration - George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle swearing in ceremony.

1992 Presidential Election

During the 1992 presidential election, the Bush/Quayle team decided to run for re-election. The other candidates were Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and his running mate, Tennessee Senator Al Gore, as well as Texas businessman Ross Perot and his running mate, retired Admiral James Stockdale. Many Republican strategists considered Quayle a liability and aggressively requested his replacement. However, their efforts proved to be in vain as Quayle secured a second nomination. To regain his lost popularity among the Republicans, Quayle adopted an offensive strategy in the vice presidential debate, criticizing his opponents to the relief of Republicans who appreciated his performance. Despite Quayle having a powerful strategy, he failed to gain the trust of American voters. The post-debate polls showed mixed results. On election day, November 3, Bill Clinton won the election by a wide margin in the Electoral College, receiving 43% of the popular vote against George H.W. Bush's 37.5% and Ross Perot's 18.9%. It was the first time since 1968 that a candidate won the presidency with less than half of the popular vote.

At the end of his term, Quayle described the vice presidency as awkward, because the Vice President is also the president of the Senate, yet he is part of the legislative branch, not of the executive one. While being paid by the Senate, the Vice President must make sure to follow the President’s agenda and orders, despite his personal views.

Life After Vice Presidency

After his vice presidency work, Quayle considered running for Governor of Indiana, yet changed his mind because of some health issues related to phlebitis. In 1996, he and his wife Marilyn moved back to Arizona, yet he did not put an end to his political career. Three years later, he became a candidate for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, running against George W. Bush. He began the race by attacking Bush, but a month after coming 8th in a contest among Republican candidates, he left the race and expressed his support for Bush.

After the election, Quayle took a job as an investment banker in Phoenix, Arizona. While he was mentioned in the race for Governor of Arizona around the 2002 election, he refused to place his candidacy and set back from the political scene for the next couple of years. In 2010, Quayle announced in an interview that his son, Ben Quayle had his own political goals and he would run for the U.S. Congress to represent Arizona’s third congressional district. Quayle’s son won the election but his time in Congress ended after a term. He lost the re-election because of the redistricting process.

Quayle remained marginally involved in political and social issues after his vice presidency. In 2011, he gave his support to Mitt Romney who was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. For the 2012 presidential election, Quayle endorsed Jeb Bush, also a Republican. Bush lost the nomination to Donald Trump and Quayle decided to offer his support to Trump instead. Quayle visited Trump several times at Trump Tower in New York.

In 1994, Quayle’s memoir, entitled Standing Firm, was published and became a bestseller. He authored other books such as The American Family: Discovering the Values that Make Us Strong (1996) and Worth Fighting For (1999). At the same time, he was chairman of a national political action committee known as Campaign America.

Quayle currently writes a column in a nationally syndicated newspaper. Besides his writing, he is active in several corporate boards and business ventures. He serves as a member of the board of directors of several successful companies. His most important role is chairman of the Global Investments division of Cerberus Capital Management, a private-equity firm worth billions of dollars. Some of the deals negotiated by Quayle for Cerberus in Northern Ireland are investigated by the Irish government. Quayle himself is also investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The reason for the investigation is a possible misuse of the vice presidential office.

Among his other attributions, Quayle is the president of Quayle and Associates and director of Aozora Bank in Tokyo, Japan. He is also Honorary Trustee Emeritus of the Hudson Institute. After his political career declined, he opened the Dan Quayle Center and Museum in Huntington, Indiana, where visitors can find information on all U.S. vice presidents, including Quayle.

List of References:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Doug West


Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on February 25, 2017:


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