Maybe it's because of all the twentieth-anniversary stuff on
Watergate, or maybe it's because of what my wife calls my J. Edgar
Hoover complex, but I'm beginning to think there's some kind of
conspiracy to make Danny Quayle look bad. It might even be a 1992
cultural elite version of the Dirty Tricks Department that Richard Nixon
had working for him in 1972.
That's why I'm not joining those who are making fun of the vice
president for promoting ignorance in our schools.
In case you missed it, what I'm not making fun of here is the way
Danny talked that 12-year-old New Jersey kid into misspelling potato
with an "e" on the end. It would be easy enough to make cheapshot jokes
in the manner of Jay Leno ("Maybe the vice president should stop
watching 'Murphy Brown' and start watching 'Sesame Street'") or David
Letterman (The cultural elite Danny doesn't like are "people who can
spell the word 'potato.'")
But that would be wrong. I'm taking the high road here.
It's partly because I wasn't sure myself how to spell potato before
all this happened; the "e" on the end looked pretty good to me. But
it's mainly becausehere comes the bombshellit wasn't the vice
president's fault in the first place.
Hardly anyone seems to have noticed, but Danny only misled the
student after somebody handed him a handwritten flash card telling him
the correct spelling is "potatoe." Who among us would have had the
orthographic courage to go against the flash card?
Normally, I'd just let the whole thing pass as another instance of
the media beating up on Poor Danny. Well, not exactly "poor" in the
financial sense of the word, but you know what I mean.
But the flash card was the giveaway, the smoking gun. You'll want
to cover the children's eyes here, because the shocking truth is this:
Danny Quayle's political opponents have wormed their way into his
confidence and they're making him look silly by handing him flash cards
with dumb things written on them.
I know it sounds goofy, but think about it. How else do you
explain some of the things the vice president has been saying lately?
What's happened, see, is that secret agents of the Values-Impaired
Cultural Elite (VICE) have infiltrated Danny's staff and are in charge
of his flash cards. They've read Chairman Mao and they've been
corrupted by his dictum, "Control a lackey's flash cards and you control
"Okay, here's what we'll do," I can imagine one of these VICE
agents saying last month. "We'll hand him a flash card saying that
Murphy Brown caused the L.A. riots by having a baby without being
"Yeah," another one might have said, "then we'll hand him a flash
card saying that he's never watched Murphy Brown."
The Truth, Mainly
"And we can even put in stage directions telling him how to
deliver the lines," a third conspirator would say. "We can make flash
cards telling him to look stern when he says funny things and to grin
when he says anything else. It'll be great!"
We should have caught on a long time ago. Remember back before
the Gulf War when the president was arguing that he didn't need
congressional authorization to go to war, no matter what the
Constitution says? Danny alarmed Constitutional purists when he said
that "Short of a strong resolution of support, Congress can be helpful
by remaining silent."
Clearly the work of the VICE Dirty Tricks Department, Flash Card
Division. Then the same guys earlier this month had Danny criticize
Ross Perot for not respecting the Constitution.
Now that we know what's going on, it's all pretty transparent,
isn't it? You can make your own list of Dannyisms that these VICE
scoundrels have generated. And the sad thing is that it's worked.
They've succeeded in making most of us believe we've got a real
chowderhead just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, as we pundits
But you can't fool all the people all the time and the bad guys
went too far when one of them said "I know what we can have him do this
week! We can have him get a grade school kid to misspell potato. It'll
make the vice president of the United States look like he's got the IQ
of a zucchini!" Then, I imagine, they guffawed their values-impaired,
culturally elite heads off at how fiendishly clever they were.
"It's fiendishly clever, don't you think?" I say to my wife when
I explain the VICE conspiracy. She rolls her eyes and says the only
thing more fiendishly clever would be for the conspirators to tell Danny
what they've apparently told George Bush: to ignore the flash cards
altogether and say whatever comes to mind. That, she says, is the
dirtiest trick of all.
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.