Lack of Qualification as the New Qualification

Donald Trump on embassy protection in Kenya and Tanzania:

Our embassies in Kenya and Tan-ZANY-a — and this was a horrible time for us — were attacked.

Well he did get Kenya right.

Donald Trump inventing a new Cabinet Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, which he refers to by its new acronym the DEP, and promising to abolish it:

Department of Environmental, I mean, the DEP is killing us environmentally, it’s just killing our businesses.

Donald Trump, April 27, 2016

It does seem a shame that the newborn baby Cabinet position, the DEP, turns out to be stillborn.

Donald Trump’s adventure into affairs both foreign and domestic is not unique to him. Sarah Palin may have set the gold standard, but she did not invent the genre.

My imagination tells me that those who may be too young to remember watching the hapless Dan Quayle on national television as he shrank to an historical footnote, may have learned about his strange saga from internet history.

Dan Quayle began as a minor politician. He was catapulted into the United States Senate by the Reagan landslide of 1980. He defeated Senator Birch Bayh and went from Congressman to Senator Quayle.

Nothing much happened after that until 1988. The “nothing much” made him a popular figure in Indiana, a state that prefers public officials who remain unobtrusive and conservative. Then Presidential candidate George H. W. Bush selected Senator Quayle as his Vice Presidential nominee and Dan Quayle’s political world began to fall apart.

He remains known for two things.

One is swallowing his tongue as if performing some dangerous circus trick with a sword.

It was an obscene period in our nation’s history. No, not our nation’s, but in World War II. I mean we, we all lived in this century, I didn’t live in this century, but in this century’s history.

Dan Quayle, September 15, 1988

I believe that I’ve made good judgements in the past and I think I’ve made good judgments in the future.

Dan Quayle, September 1991

Hawaii has always been a very pivital role in the Pacific. It is in the Pacific. It’s a part of the United States that is an island that is right here.

Dan Quayle, April 25, 1989

The examples go on in an endless loop. For two decades, he became the primary synonym for malapropism.

But he achieved true fame and a lasting identity one fateful October evening in 1988, when he decayed into a radioactive pool under the stern gaze and velvet voice of Lloyd Bentsen.

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.

Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Lloyd Bentsen, October 5, 1988

We seldom have a second chance to make a first impression. Dan Quayle’s identity was established for all time. He could be picked out of any police lineup by any of millions of witnesses as the village idiot. As far as the public was concerned, if Dan Quayle had been executed for excessive intelligence, he would have died an innocent man.

Life often is unfair. And it continues to dump horribly on poor Dan Quayle.

First impressions are sometimes wrong. The new Vice President labored mightily to transform himself into one of the most prepared individuals ever to stand a heartbeat behind the President. He surrounded himself with luminaries in a sort of ad hoc traveling University of Dan Quayle. His education was not for credit. That is fortunate. He never received credit.

He did graduate with a degree of trust in the executive branch. Occasionally, his advice would overrule that of all other advisors. One incident comes to mind.

President Bush was in flight to a European summit when new Philippine President Corizon Aquino was faced with a right wing military coup. Her forces requested American help. President Bush asked his Vice President for his assessment.

The US was committed to the fledgeling democracy, recovering from the corruption of the Marcos dictatorship. Quayle was urged by most of those in the Situation Room to recommend overwhelming force.

Instead, he convinced President Bush to send a few aircraft to buzz anti-democracy Marcos loyalists. That’s all it took. The coup collapsed.

The issue of competence disqualified Dan Quayle for most citizens. I have come to believe that to be unjust. He was an inept public leader and that does count. But for me something deeper disqualified him.

I think back to the debate in which Lloyd Bentsen obliterated, then scattered the ashes of, the arrogant youngster who saw himself as John F. Kennedy. A few minutes before Dan Quayle melted on camera, he was asked about his family values platform. He valued families, but did he support families when they fell into desperate financial need?

I’d like for you to describe to the audience the last time that you may have visited with one of those families personally and how you explain to that family your votes against the school breakfast program, the school lunch program, and the expansion of the child immunization program.

Tom Brokaw, October 5, 1988

The answer summarized what seems to be a growing attitude within contemporary conservative thought. As Senator, Dan Quayle had stopped to talk with folks at a food bank in Fort Wayne.

Those waiting for a few cans of food to feed their children did not ask questions about Senator Quayle’s detailed voting record. They were too dazzled by the generosity he demonstrated, as he sacrificed valuable minutes from his schedule just for them.

I have met with those people, and I met with them in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at a food bank. You may be surprised, Tom, they didn’t ask me those questions on those votes, because they were glad that I took time out of my schedule to go down and to talk about how we are going to get a food bank going…

Dan Quayle, October 5, 1988

This campaign season does not lack for irony.

The unlucky Dan Quayle, capable in private performance, but incompetent in public image, now defends Donald Trump on whether he is most qualified to become Commander-in-Chief.

His defense is creative.

Mr. Trump may not be qualified in terms of experience, knowledge, or preparedness. But he is an outsider, and an outsider meets today’s standard.

Well, on paper, you’d say, well, she’s more qualified. But you know what? He’s more qualified in the sense that the American people, I think, want an outsider. And they want an outsider this time. She’s not an outsider, so if you’re looking for an outsider, no, she’s not qualified, and he is.

Dan Quayle, May 12, 2016

President Obama answers, speaking in artfully general terms to a commencement class at Rudgers University. He does not mention any candidate by name.

In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.

President Barack Obama, May 15, 2016

A fictional President spoke similarly about a fictional opponent in a television program 14 years ago.

I think we might be talking about a .22 caliber mind in a .357 magnum world.

– Fictional President Jeb Bartlett,
   The West Wing, March 27, 2002

During the Bush years, we did give a weekly prayer of thanks for West Wing.

It is a remarkable turnaround.

Dan Quayle once performed cartwheels trying to demonstrate his presidential qualifications. He fell comically into his historical corner. He then spent years working diligently to become qualified.

Mr. Trump now presents his case. The fact that he is unqualified to occupy the office is precisely what Republicans now tell us is his main qualification.

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5 thoughts on “Lack of Qualification as the New Qualification”

  1. Given the republicans’ lack of ability to govern even themselves, it is no surprise that qualifications for president are not needed.

  2. Anti-intellectualism – indeed, anti-learning and education – has been a thread running through American history for hundreds of years. Except for a brief scientific renaissance during the space race, the US has been a haven for ignorance, and things are turning more and more in that direction. If you’re looking for proof, look at the quality of our politicians, especially the Republicans. It’s the Know-Nothing Party all over again, proudly bearing its banner of stupidity as it marches into a mental void, trying to drag the rest of us with it.

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