Campaign Becomes Confrontation With Past : Privilege, Wealth Shaped Quayle
During Danny Quayle’s first semester at DePauw University, a professor rejected one of his papers because it assumed that Alger Hiss was guilty. Danny called his father. His father told him to resubmit the paper the way it was. If they won’t take it, he said, “we’ll find you another college.”
In the summer of Danny’s junior year at DePauw, he wanted to work for Richard M. Nixon. Again, he called his father. His father spoke to Richard G. Kleindienst, who would someday become Nixon’s attorney general. That summer, Danny Quayle chauffeured Nixon campaign officials around Miami at the Republican National Convention.
A year later, Danny was about to become eligible for the draft. War raged in Vietnam. Once more, he called his father. His father talked to at least one family employee who was a general in the Indiana National Guard. After half a year of active duty in North Carolina and Maryland, Danny Quayle spent his hitch putting out news summaries, press releases and a magazine called the Indiana National Guardsman.
Nineteen years later, Sen. James Danforth Quayle III is the Republican nominee for vice president of the United States. “Life has been very good to me,” he says. “I never had to worry about where I was going to go.”
Suddenly, however, Dan Quayle has worries the likes of which have never furrowed his brow. He and Vice President George Bush, the Republican nominee for President, face sharp questions about Quayle’s life--and whether his experience qualifies him for the second-highest office in the land.
Mostly, it has been a good life: college, law school, love at first sight, three children. It has been a life of politics: two terms in the House of Representatives, two in the Senate. It also has been a life of privilege: He comes from a wealthy and influential family. And with very few exceptions, his values have been shaped by it. When he was growing up, his father and mother were members of the John Birch Society. Like them, he holds to the flinty conservatism of the unflinching right wing.
Dan Quayle, 41, can be a tough, hard campaigner. He has courage, as well as convictions. But this campaign, his first for national office, has become his toughest--a confrontation with his own past.
He was born in Indianapolis on Feb. 4, 1947. His mother, Corinne Pulliam, is the daughter of wealthy newspaper owner Eugene C. Pulliam, a legendary figure in Indiana journalism. Dan’s father is ex-Marine James Quayle, a large man with a bulldog tattooed on his right forearm.
Shortly after Danny was born, Jim Quayle moved his wife and new son to Portsmouth, Ohio, where he went to work for a small chain of newspapers. “I wanted to get my manhood,” he remembers, “and show people that I didn’t have to work for my father-in-law.”
Nonetheless, in October of 1955, the family moved to Phoenix, and Jim Quayle went to work for the Pulliam-owned Arizona Republic and its sister newspaper, the Phoenix Gazette, as director of public relations and promotions and director of personnel. The Quaylesbought one of the first homes on the golf course at Paradise Valley Country Club, north of the city. There, using a set of his mother’s clubs, Danny Quayle acquired a passion for golf that grips him to this day.
Jim and Corinne Quayle joined the John Birch Society. “I’m not ashamed of it at all,” Dan’s father says. They were active, went to meetings, were for fighting communists. Jim Quayle says he even met Robert Welch, the Belmont, Mass., candy maker who founded the society. “He was a brilliant man with a tremendous IQ. He was, in a way, a Nostradamus, a man whose vision has come true in some sense today. The communists are making inroads.”
To Jim Quayle, meeting Welch “was like meeting the President of the United States.”
Danny’s high school years were interrupted when Eugene Pulliam, the family patriarch, declared that he wanted to sell his smallest newspaper--the Herald Press back in Huntington, Ind. Jim Quayle said he would buy it. So the family returned to Indiana.
In high school, Danny Quayle played golf day after day. He got his game down to a 1 or 2 handicap.
Another former student at Huntington High, Steven D. Updike, now a patrolman with the Huntington Police Department, describes Danny Quayle as “Joe Preppy.” He was “the penny-loafer type with the madras shirt,” remembers Updike, who says he and Danny would stop and talk in the hallways. “I don’t ever recall seeing him in blue jeans.”
After graduation in Huntington, he went to DePauw at Greencastle, where his grandfather and father had attended college. It was then, during the early months of his academic career, that one of Danny’s professors returned a paper he had written on Hiss, a top State Department official convicted of perjury on grounds that he had lied when he denied passing secret documents to a communist spy.
The professor told Danny to rewrite the paper. Danny phoned his father at home and told him that the professor said: “Some of us know that Alger Hiss wasn’t guilty.”
He asked his father what to do.
“Danny, I can’t believe that,” Jim Quayle replied. “Don’t you change a doggone word in that paper. You pack your bags and we’ll find you another college if it’s necessary. But you submit that paper again, just the way you had it.”
Danny did. The paper was accepted as it was.
At DePauw, he got his golf game down to scratch. He joined Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, to which his grandfather and father had belonged before him. Members were known as “Dekes.” They had a reputation as “party guys with low academic standing,” said another student at DePauw at the time.
Although Deke houses on other campuses might have been different, Danny has Delta Kappa Epsilon membership in common with other top Republicans. Bush belongs to the fraternity. So does former President Gerald R. Ford.
Debate Over Degree
Although Jim Quayle remembers son Danny as a C student, others say some of his grades were lower. In fact, among the Dekes at DePauw, fraternity brother Joseph A. Wert said, Danny’s grades were the worst.
His record was so bad that the faculty voted 32 to 24 on Feb. 15, 1982, against giving him an honorary degree after he was elected to the Senate. At a rancorous meeting, DePauw President Richard Rosser pleaded with the faculty, saying Quayle had already been invited to speak at commencement, and it would be embarrassing to deny him a degree.
Finally, the faculty relented.
But a student group started a petition drive to express “utter disgust.”
Some faculty members think that at least one reason Rosser pushed so hard was that he did not want to offend the Pulliams, whose patriarch had given the school its first radio station. As owner of the Indianapolis Star and the Indianapolis News, Eugene C. Pulliam was one of DePauw’s most powerful alumni in Indiana.
Two student journalists at the radio station were fired for reporting the debate over Quayle’s honorary degree. And its news director quit under pressure.
In the midst of the debate, the faculty investigated longstanding rumors that Quayle had been involved in a plagiarism incident. In the end, philosophy professor Roger Gustavsson said, the faculty was “not able to establish anything.”
But another professor, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said: “These rumors of plagiarism have been around for so long, and we have taken them so seriously, because they fit into the view we had of him, a view of him as a corner-cutter, a manipulator, an apple-polisher, a kid who tried to get by on looks and family connections.”
“He was a C student, and received a D in one political science course,” English professor Robert Sedlack said. “He was a mediocre student, a nice guy who played golf and was popular at the fraternity, a guy who didn’t work at all; that is the universal picture of him that people here have.”
Danny was not active in student government at DePauw. His father says he does not know where his son’s interest in politics came from. Jim Quayle says Danny was not even a Young Republican. But in 1968, when he became an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in Miami, Jim Quayle got a telephone call from Danny, who said: “I want a job to go to work for Nixon this summer.”
“I don’t know if I can get you one, but I’ll try,” his father replied.
Many of the people supporting Nixon were friends of Sen. Barry Goldwater back in Arizona, and Jim Quayle knew them from his days at the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette. He called one of them at his law office in New York.
Kleindienst, who would become one of Nixon’s attorneys general and who pleaded guilty to lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee during Watergate, said: “Jim, I’ll see what I can do.”
That summer, Danny Quayle went to the Miami convention as the driver for Nixon’s Midwestern campaign coordinator.
“He liked that,” Jim Quayle says.
But the next summer was not such a happy one.
Now Dan Quayle was a senior and about to be eligible for the draft. The United States was at war in Vietnam. “That is when the maneuvering started for the National Guard,” fellow Deke Joe Wert says.
Jim Quayle says his son telephoned.
He says that he, in turn, telephoned two employees of the Pulliam newspapers, Managing Editor Wendell Phillippi of the Indianapolis News, who was a retired major general of the Guard, and Howard Wilcox, who did promotional and public relations work for the News and the Indianapolis Star.
Not long afterward, Phillippi says, Dan came to the newsroom to talk to him personally. On Dan Quayle’s behalf, Phillippi phoned the office of the adjutant general at the headquarters of the Indiana National Guard. “I talked to whoever answered the phone,” Phillippi says. “I said he was a good man and we ought to get him in.”
Wilcox says he got no call and Dan’s father “must be mistaken.”
At the Guard, Col. Wyatt Cole, now retired, and Sgt. Vernon Maddox recall Phillippi’s influence. Dan Quayle got in on May 19, 1969. By the end of year, both men say, the Guard had waiting lists that were from six weeks to three months long.
Whether there was a waiting list on May 19 remains unclear.
Both men believed that Dan Quayle had benefited from the influence of the family-owned Indianapolis newspapers, whose editorials had been strongly supportive of then-Gov. Edgar D. Whitcomb, who was commander-in-chief of the Guard.
“Let’s face it,” Cole says, “Eugene Pulliam was as good as in the governor’s office.”
Trained as Welder
Dan Quayle went to Ft. Bragg, N.C., on July 28, 1969, for basic training, then moved on to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland on Sept. 27, 1969, to be trained as a welder. He was released from active duty on Dec. 18, 1969, to be home in time for Christmas.
But he never worked as a welder. Because his six-month active duty requirement had been fulfilled, he worked only one weekend each month and one two-week stint each summer. He was assigned to a public information unit, based at National Guard headquarters just minutes from downtown Indianapolis, where he worked on news summaries for troops on maneuvers, press releases telling Indiana residents what their Guardsmen were doing and a magazine, which came out four times a year but was rarely larger than 32 pages.
Enlistees in Quayle’s unit knew they would never see combat, Cole and Maddox say. “Headquarters detachment in combat? No chance,” Cole says. Maddox adds: “It would never happen. And that’s what made it so popular.”
At the time, Dan Quayle talked tough about Vietnam.
The war came up often during “bull sessions . . . when everything was done and you’re sitting around with nothing else to do,” says Maj. Samuel R. Graves II, who was Quayle’s commander. “Some of the guys thought Vietnam was patently wrong.
“Dan was the opposite. He was much more to the right than the rest of us. . . . He was supportive of the war, impossibly conservative.”
Dan’s Visit to Dean
Meanwhile, Quayle applied for admission to the law school at Indiana University at Indianapolis. Jim Quayle says his son’s grades were not good enough to get him in. So Dan went to the dean, his father recalls, and declared: “This isn’t fair. The other schools you’re taking students from aren’t as hard as DePauw. I had harder courses, and, therefore, you should allow me to get in if I can test in.”
Dan Quayle was admitted, but his father does not remember whether he took a test.
His father denies that the Pulliam family made any political contributions to get him into the National Guard. But he says Eugene Pulliam contributed money about this same time to Indiana University. Jim Quayle calls it “a significant contribution.”
At law school, Dan Quayle met Marilyn Tucker, a day student, whose father was an Indianapolis physician. Six weeks after their first date, they decided to get married.
Dan Quayle had landed a job in the state attorney general’s office. It was a political appointment, says Don Tabbert, a Republican attorney in Indianapolis who was Gov. Whitcomb’s top adviser at the time. The next year, Tabbert hired Quayle to work as one of Whitcomb’s four administrative assistants.
“This was the political system,” Tabbert says, “not the merit system.”
The Pulliam family and the political contacts it brought were among Quayle’s attractions, Tabbert says. “Pulliam had an empire,” he adds, “and it was real.”
When Whitcomb left office, Dan Quayle moved on to the state Department of Revenue as director of the Inheritance Tax Division.
In 1976, Orvas Beers, a local Republican leader, went to lunch with Dan Quayle and a dozen others. “We needed a good candidate for Congress. Danny was sitting across the table from me. We walked out together. I said: ‘How would you like to run?’
“Dan said he would have to call his father and ask him.”
Ran Against Veteran Member
It was a month before the primary. Dan Quayle ran against a 20-year member of Congress, a liberal. He won.
Quayle came to Washington in 1977 and quickly established a staunchly conservative voting record, advocating tax cuts, a larger military budget, reduced federal spending and a hard line on Iran.
His two terms in the House were marked by criticism that he frequently was absent from Capitol Hill. An Indiana newspaper reported that Quayle missed 40 of 61 sessions of the House Foreign Affairs Committee over a 14-month period.
Nineteen-eighty turned out to be another of Quayle’s lucky years. There had been widespread speculation that Birch Bayh, Indiana’s liberal, veteran senator, would be challenged by his longtime foe Otis R. Bowen, now the secretary of Health and Human Services. However, Bowen’s wife became ill, he declined to run and Quayle, then 32, jumped into the race.
“He was very aggressive,” said a former Bayh adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity. He also had help. Bayh was one of several long-term senators--including Frank Church of Idaho and George S. McGovern of South Dakota--targeted for defeat by conservative groups, including the Moral Majority and the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC). In Indiana, there was even one group which called itself SOB--Ship Out Bayh.
The campaign got ugly. A brochure disseminated by Quayle’s campaign insinuated that Bayh supported “promotion of homosexuality, sex education for elementary students” and “federal control of all church youth camps and conference grounds.” Right-to-life groups accused Bayh of being a “baby killer” because he refused to support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
Most Expensive Indiana Race
The Senate race between Quayle and Bayh was the most expensive in Hoosier history and one of the most bitter. Bayh, despite spending $2.7 million, was defeated. Quayle spent $2.2 million and garnered 54% of the vote, beating the incumbent by 167,000 votes as part of the Reagan landslide nationally and in Indiana, where the President won by 400,000 votes.
Only two months after he took his oath of office, Quayle and two former colleagues from the House--Democrat Thomas B. Evans Jr. of Delaware and Republican Tom Railsback of Illinois--had to defend themselves against charges that they had voted against a crop insurance bill in return for the sexual favors of Paula Parkinson, a Washington lobbyist.
Quayle denied having sex with Parkinson and no evidence that he did ever was produced.
A Justice Department investigation concluded in September, 1981, that there was no evidence that any of the congressmen swapped votes for sex or other inducements and, for Quayle, the flap blew over.
Votes as Conservative
His supporters and his critics say that, as a senator, the vast majority of Quayle’s votes are grounded in his long-held conservative principles. He has a cumulative score of 9% “right” and 91% “wrong” on key votes, according to the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education. On the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, he has enthusiastically opposed legislation to increase the minimum wage, to give workers 60 days’ advance notice of plant closings, to limit the right of employers to use lie detectors, and to give workers written notice of prior exposure to high-risk chemicals.
Quayle, however, is a favorite of the Chamber of Commerce and of the anti-union National Right to Work Committee. Conservative Digest gave Quayle a 90% “right” ranking on 10 key votes in its latest tally this year. The American Security Council, a group that advocates developing and maintaining weapons systems to achieve strategic military superiority, gave him a 100% rating in 1986, the latest year for which its figures were available.
Conversely, liberal groups, such as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Organization for Women, the National Abortion Rights Action League and Public Citizen, all give Quayle low marks.
Voted Against Rights Act
Ralph Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference, called Quayle’s civil rights record “abysmal. This year, he was one of only 14 senators who voted against final passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which prohibits the federal funding of institutions that discriminate against women, disabled persons, minorities and older Americans.”
Sandra Jordan, a spokeswoman for the National Abortion Rights Action League, said Quayle had “voted wrong” 36 of 39 times on reproductive rights issues.
None of this seemed to hurt him with Indiana voters. He won reelection to the Senate by trouncing Jill Long, an underfinanced Valparaiso city councilwoman. Quayle got 61% of the vote, more than any senator in Indiana history. Long raised just $127,000; Quayle raised $1.9 million, the bulk of it from business executives and corporate political action committees.
Major reporting on this story was done by staff writers Douglas Frantz, Douglas Jehl and James Risen. Also contributing were Sara Fritz, Larry Green, Robert L. Jackson, Patricia Klein Lerner, Keith Love, Elizabeth Mehren, Jack Nelson and Thomas B. Rosenstiel.