Sarah Palin = Dan Quayle.

The history behind current events.
Nov. 17 2009 3:41 PM

Sarah Palin = Dan Quayle

There's no way she will be president.

(Continued from Page 1)

At any rate, Palin is self-evidently not of the caliber of a Muskie (who stepped into the role of secretary of state in 1979) or a Dole. According to an ABC News poll, only 38 percent of Americans consider her to be qualified to serve as president, and 60 percent consider her unqualified. (A CNN poll puts the qualified figure at 28 percent.) While many in the media made the mistake of underestimating her in the immediate aftermath of her selection as John McCain's running mate—she proved to have good political instincts and talent as a political performer—they are now overestimating her.

Indeed, the losing vice presidential candidate Palin most resembles is none other than Dan Quayle. Handsome, young, popular with the right-wing base, self-styled champion of family values, scourge of the "liberal media" and embodiment of Heartland America, Quayle likewise confounded observers in 1988 when Bush Sr. tapped him as his No. 2. (Only after Americans' prolonged exposure to George W. Bush did it become clear what Poppy Bush saw in Quayle.) Moreover, both Palin and Quayle, perhaps not coincidentally, enjoyed critical support from the journalist-operative Bill Kristol, whom Jacob Weisberg dubbed "Quayle's Brain" when he served as the vice president's chief of staff, and who helped push Palin onto the McCain team's radar screen. Quayle, too, we should recall, hit the best-seller list with his 1994 memoir, Standing Firm. And like Quayle, Palin seems destined—if she even seeks the presidency in 2012—to bow out early on, perhaps after the 2011 Iowa straw poll.

Advertisement

Losing in a vice presidential run can hamper aspirants for the top office in several ways. In the first place, running mates are usually chosen in calculations that are at least partly expedient—shoring up the lead candidates' weaknesses or otherwise enhancing their images. Those same calculations probably won't be relevant four years later. Up-and-coming politicians thrust into the spotlight also get subjected to intense media scrutiny that can expose unseen flaws. At the same time, as Kennedy appreciated, they might get saddled unfairly with the blame for losing. Worst of all, their vice presidential bids use up all the excitement associated with their novelty—a vital source of political capital in our day.

All of which suggests to me that if we are really concerned with whom the Republicans will nominate in 2012, we are focusing on the wrong vice presidential nominee. Unlike Palin, Dick Cheney speaks with confidence and knowledge about national and international affairs, even as he also commands a loyal following among the Republican base. And while his appeal doesn't extend much beyond that base, it has been rising since he left office. Cheney himself, of course, has forsworn any presidential aspirations. But his daughter Liz—who has emerged in the last year as a leading conservative talking head, defender of the Bush-Cheney record, and "red state rock star"—has done no such thing. It was, after all, the scion of another former vice president who put an end to Quayle's career.

Sarah Palin, watch your back.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

The Only Good Thing That Happened at Today’s Soul-Crushing U.N. Climate Talks

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.