So Dan Quayle thinks it’s hard to raise kids without a strong male role model? Gee — I thought Marilyn had been doing it for years. If you think I’m exaggerating, check out Quayle Season.
This pleasing 25-minute biography/blooper tape, written and narrated by political comic Lewis Black, skewers our 44th vice president with his own most infamous gaffes. Quayle looks positively hapless on video, befuddled and even a little scared, his glazed eyes staring at the camera like Ban roll-on applicators. In one episode, the veep shakes an endive at his audience, pronouncing its name eight times in a row. It’s like watching a politician in a Skinner box: He has stumbled upon something truly primal — a word that pleases his listeners — and he continues to go to the well in an effort to gain approval.
On the Holocaust, he says: ”It was an obscene period in our nation’s history. We all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century, but, but in this century’s history.”
This program falters only slightly when its slick production values interfere with Quayle’s vérité silliness, though some of the gimmickry works. For instance, after Quayle delivers a groggy pontification on the 50th state (”Hawaii has always been a very pivotal role in the Pacific. It is in the Pacific. It’s part of the United States that’s an island that is right here”), the producers graphically illustrate his analysis with a little map. The decision to use a cartoon was particularly apropros.
After all, this man went through the Peter Principle like Sherman went through the South. As far as I can tell, he shouldn’t be second in command of the Hekawi tribe on F Troop, let alone the most powerful nation on the planet. I’m sure he’s a decent enough chap, probably loves his wife and kids and all that. But throughout this video, Quayle comes off like Dan Tanna’s assistant Binzer on the old TV series Vega$: You let him answer the phones, but he does not, under any circumstances, get to drive the T-Bird.
Quayle Season provides a charming little array of embarrassments. It’s an amusing trifle, though it’s not the definitive Quayle opus. The producers were obviously restricted in their choice of bloopers, since some of Quayle’s most infuriating statements simply aren’t funny enough to be included in this kind of tape (the exception being his defense of his environmental record during a 1988 debate; the audience laughs in his face). You know, Danny might even get a kick out of this video, if only he knew how to work the VCR. A-