Quayle Finds Value Keeping Politics in Family
By Donald P. Baker
The setting and timing was ideal for Dan Quayle, whose defense of family values in the early 1990s made him a foil for a television sitcom. Now five years later, when "Murphy Brown's" depiction of illegitimacy has been one-upped by "Ellen's" homosexuality, the former vice president was here in the Deep South still touting old-fashioned alternatives to popular culture.
He also was promoting his new book, "The American Family: Discovering the Values That Make Us Strong."
Speaking at the dedication of a Center for Family Strengths at Faulkner University, Quayle said that five diverse families he wrote about in the book agreed on how to deal with children and television.
"They all curtailed the amount their children could watch, in some way," Quayle told an approving audience of 1,100 at this small Christian college whose new center will conduct research on what makes successful marriages and families.
"They did it the old-fashioned way," Quayle went on. "They sat down and watched with their children and determined what shows they could watch. If they didn't want their children to watch a particular program guess what? they turned it off. That's a good rule for all families. Just turn if off once in a while. Pick up a book. You'll learn something."
Quayle said the subjects of his book a rural white family in Virginia, a black family in Chicago, a single mother in Indianapolis, a Latino family in Los Angeles and a mixed-race family in Hawaii shared four other values communication, discipline, religion and education.
But the value they most prized, he said, was education, the success of which he said is dependent upon accountability.
"But you know what," Quayle said, "accountability begins at home. We just can't send that child out the door and expect that child to be prepared to learn. Parents have to assume more accountability."
That theme provided him with an opportunity to criticize, at least indirectly, the Clinton administration's education policy.
"I don't mind someone saying, 'Here are some national standards,' but I'll tell you what. I don't want some federal bureaucrat coming in here and micromanaging our education system," he said.
"Another way to measure it," he said, "is to have a little old-fashioned competition. Shouldn't every parent be allowed to choose where their children go to school? Of course they should."
The speech was well received by the audience, many of whom are affiliated with the Church of Christ, the Protestant denomination that helps finance the school.
"I appreciate his stand in favor of families," said Tracy Moore, pastor of the Bay Minette, Ala., Church of Christ. "He's following the Bible teaching about the family."
Beth Warren, a Faulkner sophomore from Pensacola, Fla., said Quayle "could make a great president. We need someone there with character."
Retiree Nina Herring of Montgomery said, "His views are more in line with mine than the present administration's. He'd help us return this country to what it once was, by stressing integrity and family values."
Quayle avoided any direct reference to partisan politics in his speech, but later, in an interview, the former vice president, who endured ridicule in office for his views and gaffes, made it clear he is enjoying being on the giving end as a private citizen.
He chided the Clinton administration, and particularly his successor and potential presidential opponent, Vice President Gore, for alleged illegal fund-raising activities.
"Somehow they say, 'So what, we violated these rules. Let's just change the rules, make new laws.' I say, let's bring to justice those who broke the laws, then we'll get on to campaign finance reform. But you just can't let people break the law."
Nothing like that ever happened when he and President George Bush were in office, Quayle said. "We went to fund-raising events but never made any phone calls asking for $50,000 or $10,000. Just didn't do it. It's a campaign function."
Quayle's speech here, and one the next day before a Rotary club in Birmingham, are part of a breakneck schedule designed to keep him in the public eye as he plans his presidential bid in three years. He is so serious about it that his golf game is suffering.
"Some people think I moved to Arizona to play golf," Quayle said. "If I was there very much, and had some time, that's exactly what I'd like to be doing."
Instead, he is on the road most of the time, where his golf handicap is "what I call a traveling five."
The traveling not only keeps up his visibility, but it pays the bills.
For his 18-minute speech here, Quayle received $30,000. Other income comes from his membership on a couple of corporation boards. He also travels in behalf of Campaign America, the Republican political action committee he inherited from Bush.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company