Flunking Quayle
by Ted Rueter

The presidential election isn't over. The Electoral College will meet on December 19 to elect the next president and vice president. While the nation has clearly expressed its preference for George Bush for the presidency, it has profound misgivings about Dan Quayle. It is the responsibility of the 538 members of the Electoral College to dump Quayle.

The Electoral College has every right to take this action. The original intent of the Founding Fathers was for the Electoral College to make an independent, enlightened selection of the president and vice president. Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 68 that the choice of the president and vice president "should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under the circumstances favorable to deliberation."

The Constitution, the courts, precedents, and Congress affirm an independent role for the Electoral College. The 12th amendment, modifying Article II, specifies that the electors "shall name in their ballots the person voted for as president and in distinct ballots the person voted for as vice president...." Courts in Kansas in 1986 and Ohio in 1948 have ruled that electorate may not be compelled to support any candidate named by a political party. "Faithless electors" exercised independent judgment in 1960, 1968, 1972, and 1976. In 1969, Congress specifically upheld the right of a North Carolina Nixon elector to vote for George Wallace. An Electoral College rejection of Quayle would be consistent with the constitutional principle of checks and balances.

Quayle is intellectually and emotionally unsuitable for the vice presidency or the presidency. Quayle has a questionable academic record, a questionable military record, questionable maturity, and questionable understanding of the issues. He is widely viewed as a Senate lightweight. He has stated that Gorbachev "is no different from Brezhnev," and that "perestroika is nothing more than refined Stalinism." He quoted Bobby Knight and Tom Clancy to justify deployment of SDI; quoted Grandma Pullman on his philosophy of life; lied about FDR flunking his bar exam; and three times failed to say what he would do upon ascending the presidency, aside from saying a prayer, holding a meeting, and reciting the first names of Bush's advisers.

For the Electoral College to drop Quayle would be to affirm the public
will, not subvert it. An October CBS poll showed that 49 percent of the public doubted Quayle's understanding of the issues that would face a president and that 63 percent would be "worried" if Quayle became president.

Nearly 20 years ago, President Nixon nominated G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court. Republican Senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska attempted to turn Carswell's widely perceived mediocrity into an asset. "Even if he is mediocre," Hruska said, "there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they,
and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters, and stuff like that there."

Fortunately, the Senate decided otherwise. Let us hope that the Electoral College says the same thing about the vice presidency. Republican and Democratic electors alike should be faithful to the spirit of the Constitution and the will and interests of the nation. They should unit to flunk Quayle out of the Electoral College.

Published in The Boston Globe, November 25, 1988

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