It may somehow blow over, but at the moment it seems more and more likely that George Bush's running mate selection will prove an impossible burden for the GOP ticket. Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana at the very least has demonstrated a shocking ineptitude in dealing with the tough questions the press has been asking about his past — his pulling strings to get into the National Guard to avoid Vietnam service, the Paula Parkinson sex scandal, the scale of his inherited wealth. New Orleans has been electric with rumors that it's only a matter of time before Bush will be forced to bounce him. A Washington Post reporter told me yesterday that Quayle would be bounced within 48 hours, based on material the investigative reporters had been assembling. This suggests the Post will break what it has tomorrow morning, after the convention nominates Quayle tonight — if in fact Bush goes ahead with the balloting tonight.
What I've picked up here are more than rumors. A former White House political operative who was active when the Paula Parkinson story broke advised me that he knew of nine separate golf trips involving Parkinson and more than 30 members of Congress, Democratic and Republican, and that Quayle was on all of the trips! Parkinson denies having sex with Quayle, but even if Quayle did nothing but golf, as he asserted at his press conference Wednesday, his other assertion that he did not see the lady before or after the single weekend that was reported would put him in a difficult situation. He has already acknowledged that he made phone calls to "important people" to help him get into the National Guard, which in itself points up his privileged background. Democratic voices are already offering free advice to Bush to dump Quayle quickly. The Dukakis team is said to be pinching themselves to see if they're dreaming, unable to believe their luck.
The great shock to the political pros in New Orleans was that Bush would pick such an obvious mismatch, two silver spoons on the same ticket, even if Quayle were squeaky clean! On top of everything else, there are rumors today that the news hawks have come up with a DePauw professor who says he's ready to testify that Quayle cheated in college, and this was a hidden reason the faculty first voted in '82 to deny him an honorary degree, not merely his C average. It occurs to me that Quayle can't survive. He would have to bow out with the excuse that he cannot subject his young family to these indignities, which would perhaps minimize damage to Bush.
If this happens, the most likely fall back for Bush would be Bob Dole, who was told by the V.P. that he was the penultimate choice! That fact was widely reported, which means it would be extremely difficult for Bush to go for someone other than Dole. It would be a direct personal insult to the Kansan. The selection of Quayle ("Kemp without Kemp") was a personal insult to Jack Kemp--although he has not given the slightest indication that he has thought in these terms. He remains serene.
At this point, there is very little sense in New Orleans of a Bush victory this fall, even less sense of a Bush-Quayle victory. The ineptness has been so profound that the Dukakis-Bentsen competence theme even has resonance among the GOP delegates. The first big decision with James Baker III in command of the campaign has been a fiasco. When I mentioned to Richard Darman three weeks ago the rumors of Quayle's selection as VP, he laughed at the idea, ridiculing it, just as every other political professional I talked to pooh-poohed it as silly and improbable. All I can think of at the moment is that truth is stranger than fiction. My cheerful thought of the day is that President Dukakis will move heaven and earth to prevent a tax increase in his first term.