The Truth, Mainly - 06/29/1992

VICE agents conspire to make Danny look like chowderhead
by Leon Satterfield

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 because—here comes the bombshell—it 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 his destiny."

"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 married."

"Yeah," another one might have said, "then we'll hand him a flash card saying that he's never watched Murphy Brown."

"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 say.

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.

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