It was part book tour, part campaign speech and all love-in for former Vice President Dan Quayle, as he spoke Thursday to hundreds of GOP enthusiasts at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace.
Quayle made the stop during a national tour to sell his latest book, which reprises the theme he brought to the political center stage four years ago: family values.
Sounding upbeat, he repeatedly attacked President Clinton, while championing lower taxes, education and the radical overhaul of welfare, and repeatedly stressing values, values, values.
“Values do matter. Character does count,” said Quayle, as he revisited the almost legendary “Murphy Brown” speech. “The model family is an intact family. . . . Candidate Bill Clinton criticized that speech. Today, he is giving that speech.”
Quayle is popular among conservatives, and in the past year has made frequent appearances nationwide to maintain political visibility, while banking campaign chits from GOP candidates. It is a tactic right out of the Nixon campaign playbook, and one that Nixon used to revive his presidential hopes after the bitter defeat at the hands of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and then-California Gov. Pat Brown in 1962.
Thursday was no different. Before appearing at the library for the speech, book signing and luncheon, Quayle held a fund-raising breakfast in Whittier for his political action committee, the Campaign America PAC. After the luncheon, it was off to Burbank, where the former senator from Indiana was a guest on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.
Quayle, who opted out of the 1996 presidential race last year amid fund-raising problems, seemed more candidate than book-peddler while at the library. The 500 people at the $15-a-ticket morning lecture applauded frequently, never harder than when he attacked the tax system and proposed moving “toward a low tax rate for all"--all the while saving the home mortgage deduction.
There also was homage to Nixon. Quayle lauded the former president, recalled their last conversation and said the Yorba Linda native made “a lasting contribution to the history of the world” by his opening to the People’s Republic of China and ending the Vietnam War.
During a brief question-and-answer period, one question hung in the air: Are you going to run for president? When someone asked it, there was a burst of applause.
Quayle answered that family considerations had played a role in his decision to forgo the presidential race in 1995. He then pointed out that he and Marilyn would be “empty-nesters” in August, when daughter Corine goes off to Vanderbilt University. Finally, he remarked that Bob Dole is 73 and Ronald Reagan was 73 when he was reelected in 1984. “I have seven presidential elections before I am 73,” concluded the 49-year-old Quayle.
The audience loved it.
The reaction of Dorothy Nordman, president of the La Habra branch of Republican Women Federated, was typical. “I’d go anyplace to hear him,” she said, while waiting for Quayle to autograph her copy of the $25 book Quayle coauthored with psychologist Diane Medved.
She was carrying a wind-breaker that belonged to her late husband, and which already bore the signature of Bob Dole. “I don’t think he would object to signing next to Dole, do you?”