Quayle Welcomed by GOP Senators but Dole Is Tepid
Welcoming back one of their own, the Senate’s leading Republicans Wednesday offered vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle a warm political embrace and weapons for campaign combat, but Kansas Sen. Bob Dole also delivered an unwanted gift--a cool assessment of Quayle’s qualifications.
On his first day back in the Senate after his surprise selection as Vice President George Bush’s running mate and the tumultuous post-convention campaign, Quayle, a phalanx of security agents and Senate Republicans were ushered into Dole’s Capitol office for a formal welcome before reporters.
Dole, calling Quayle “a rising young star in our party,” cheerfully offered the 41-year-old Indiana senator a fire extinguisher.
“To spray on the press from time to time,” said Dole, who like Quayle has had rocky relations with reporters.
Framed Copy of Pledge
The Senate minority leader also offered Quayle a framed copy of the Pledge of Allegiance--a needling reminder to the Dukakis campaign that the GOP intends to keep pressuring Dukakis for his 1977 veto of a bill requiring teachers to lead their students in the pledge.
“I was trying to get you a large picture of Dukakis but they’re so disorganized. . . .,” Dole cracked.
Speaking for the other senators, Dole thanked Quayle for voting the party line in past Senate confrontations with the Democrats.
“When the chips are down, he’s there when you need him--and that makes a difference in this place,” Dole said.
But while his comments before the Senate Republicans were gracious and optimistic, Dole later offered only a tepid endorsement of the Indiana senator. Dole, who lost out to Bush in the presidential primaries, was one of several Republicans in the running for the vice presidential slot won by Quayle.
Repeats Earlier Assertions
To reporters gathered outside his office, Dole repeated earlier assertions that Quayle was not the most qualified of those who could have been chosen vice president.
“There are others who have more experience, but I think the vice president, Vice President Bush, saw certain attributes that he thought would be helpful to get him elected, and he chose Dan Quayle--George Bush’s choice,” he said.
Dole dodged when asked if he thought Quayle was qualified to be “a heartbeat” from the presidency.
“Dan Quayle, as I’ve said before, is a very quick study,” said Dole. “It’s probably not fair to compare him to somebody who’s been in the Senate 12-18 years or more, but he’s had 8 good years in the Senate, done a good job, he’s an expert in a number of areas, and I think the seasoning he’s going to get in the campaign . . . (will) put him in pretty good shape.”
Service in Upper House
The Kansas senator has served in the upper house for 20 years. Quayle’s Democratic counterpart, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, has served for 18 years.
Dole enraged Bush partisans shortly after the Republican convention when he said publicly that the controversy over Quayle’s entrance into the Indiana National Guard during the Vietnam War could damage the GOP ticket.
On Wednesday, Dole said he thought the political damage was lessened by the “media overkill” that shifted the focus of the debate to reporters’ tactics. But, he added of the voters’ reactions to the National Guard flap, “there are some that are going to remember it.”
Dole praised the apparent gains made by Quayle and Bush in recent days but backed away from describing the Indiana senator as an asset to the ticket.
‘Becoming an Asset’
“I think he’s becoming an asset,” Dole said. “Becoming.”
For good measure, Dole made a point of skewering Democrat Dukakis, whose campaign has appeared to struggle recently as Bush’s has blossomed.
“I would give Dukakis the Rip Van Winkle award for 1988,” the Kansas senator said. “I mean, I don’t know what’s happened to him. He’s been asleep. . . . He hasn’t said anything. He hasn’t done anything. It isn’t exciting.”
Does Not Answer Questions
Quayle himself did not answer questions, but in brief remarks to the senators he described the post-convention tumult as “somewhat of a roller coaster,” an understatement that drew laughter from those assembled.
“But things are rolling our way,” he said. " . . .There is a sense of excitement in the air. You can feel it.”