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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Dan Quayle

  • Former U.S. Vice President 
  • Project for the New American Century: Founding Member
  • Hudson Institute: Honorary Trustee Emeritus

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Former vice president and presidential candidate James Danforth “Dan” Quayle, best known for his verbal gaffes and adherence to conservative family values while in office, chairs the global investments division of Cereberus Capital Management.[1] Quayle is also a trustee emeritus at the Hudson Institute, one of several neoconservative groups he has supported over the years.

Quayle entered politics in the early 1970s, serving in the Indiana Attorney General’s office and later for Governor Edgar Whitcomb. According to his official biography, his “political career began when he was elected to the United States Congress in 1976 at age 29. He was elected to the United States Senate at age 33. On January 20, 1989 he took the oath of office as the 44th Vice President of the United States at age 41.”[2]

His bio continues, “In his constitutional role as Vice President, Dan Quayle served as president of the United States Senate. On February 9, 1989, President Bush named Dan Quayle head of the Council on Competitiveness, which worked to ensure US international competitiveness in the 21st century. He made official visits to 47 countries, was chairman of the National Space Council, and served as President Bush's point man on Capitol Hill.”[3]

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) says that during his political career Quayle “enjoyed particularly cozy relationships with corporations, both within and outside of Indiana. … After four years in the House of Representatives, Quayle used his alliances with business to help him upset Senator Birch Bayh.”[4]

As head of the President’s Council on Competitiveness, he worked to scale back business regulations. According to CPI, “in 1992, Quayle’s group recommended eliminating many of the recoupment fees levied on defense contractors. The fees, which were more or less a tax on arms exports, were designed to recoup the research and development costs of new weapons systems borne by taxpayers. On June 19, 1992, President Bush adopted Quayle’s recommendation, saving the defense industry nearly $75 million a year.”[5]

Leading neoconservative figure William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, served as VP Quayle’s chief of staff, earning the moniker “Dan Quayle’s Brain.” Kristol appears to have had a strong influence on Quayle. According to journalist Jacob Weisberg, Kristol “saw an opportunity to promote conservative ideas in working for someone who he was convinced wanted to be an ‘activist’ vice president.”[6]

Quayle’s proclamation at Yeshiva University in 1989 that he would work to undo the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution had “Kristol’s fingerprints all over it,” according to Jacob Weisberg.[7] “Speaking at Yeshiva on Human Rights Day, focusing on ‘Zionism is racism,’ arguing that anti-Zionism is a cloak for anti-Semitism, and quoting Jeane Kirkpatrick on the U.N.'s loss of moral authority are all hallmarks of the neoconservative milieu in which Kristol is steeped.” Weisberg added.[8]

Quayle has supported a number of neoconservative advocacy groups. After leaving office, Quayle joined the board of the neoconservative Hudson Institute, where he now is an honorary trustee emeritus. He servedfor a time on the boardof Freedom Houseand, in 1997, was one of the 25 founding signatories to the now-defunct Project for the New American Century, founded by Kristol and Robert Kagan. PNAC forged an influential coalition of rightist political actors in support of its calls for an aggressive “war on terror” aimed largely at the Middle East, including the invasion of Iraq.

In 2001, shortly after the election of President George W. Bush, Quayle was appointed to the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory board then chaired by Richard Perle.[9] Observers were critical of many of the appointees at that time because of their extensive ties to the defense industry, suggesting a clear conflict of interest.[10] Perle eventually stepped down as chair after his various industry ties were widely discussed in the media. Other members serving with Quayle at the time included Newt Gingrich, Ken Adelman, James Woolsey, Eliot Cohen, Richard Allen, and Martin Anderson. Many of these men had risen to prominence in the Reagan administration after initially joining forces in the late 1970s on the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), a hardline anticommunist pressure group.

Quayle’s name has resurfaced on various occasions in recent years as observers have compared his track record—particularly his verbal gaffes—with those of contemporary political figures. In July 2012, for example, a writer for Bloomberg News asked whether the 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s ill-fated trip to London (during which he insulted his guests by suggesting they had not properly prepared for the Olympics) was his “potatoe” moment, a reference to Quayle’s infamous, caught-on-television effort to correct a student’s spelling of the word “potato” by telling him to add an “e” to the end of the word, an event that Quayle would later characterize in his autobiography as “a defining moment of the worst kind imaginable.”[11]

The London visit, wrote Bloomberg’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “recalled candidate slip-ups of years past—from Dan Quayle’s misspelling of potato to Al Gore’s claim of inventing the Internet—questioning whether Romney’s could do lasting damage to his image and electoral prospects.”[12]

Earlier, during the 2008 presidential race, many observers compared John McCain’s VP choice, Sarah Palin, to Quayle. David Greenberg wrote for Slate.com: “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. … 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.”[13]

Tod Lindberg, a rightist scholar based at the Hoover Institution, has also compared Quayle and Palin. In a November 2010 article for the Weekly Standard, Lindberg provided a hypothetical midterm report on a McCain presidency.[14] Regarding Palin, he wrote: “Would she be a second coming of Dan ‘P-o-t-a-t-oe’ Quayle, who never recovered from the initial impressions of him as a lightweight? There were, of course, calls on Bush 41 to dump Quayle from the ticket in 1992—not that doing so would have helped Bush in any obvious way; indeed, it would only have antagonized conservatives further. But Palin is Quayle-squared: She is a political phenomenon, polarizing and galvanic, capable of drawing and exciting a crowd as well as becoming a totemic object of fear and loathing for her opponents. It likely would have fallen to Palin to keep conservative Republicans from eating McCain alive, and if anyone could, she would have pulled it off. A Vice President Palin would be an even more fascinating figure in calculations of the future of the GOP than she is as an outsider phenomenon. We certainly know enough about her to say that she would not willingly retreat from the limelight, as Quayle mostly did after leaving office, only to reemerge in 1999 in a short-lived bid for the GOP presidential election and discover that there were insufficient reservoirs of goodwill toward him on which he could draw to make a comeback. Come what may, Sarah Palin would remain where she thinks a mama grizzly belongs, namely, in your face.”[15]

Quayle has written three books: Standing Firm, a vice-presidential memoir; The American Family: Discovering the Values that Make Us Strong; and Worth Fighting For.[16]

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[1] Cereberus Capital Management, “Senior Executive Leadership,” http://www.cerberuscapital.com/team/senior_executive_leadership; Joseph Weber and Hiroko Tashiro, “They’re Not Telling Quayle Jokes at Cerebus,” Bloomberg Businessweek,” October 3, 2005, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_40/b3953117.htm.

[2] Dan Quayle Biography, http://www.vicepresidentdanquayle.com/biography.html.

[3] Dan Quayle Biography, http://www.vicepresidentdanquayle.com/biography.html.

[4] “The Center for Public Integrity, “The Buying of the President 2000,” http://www.buyingofthepresident.org/index.php/archives/2000/545/.

[5] “The Center for Public Integrity, “The Buying of the President 2000,” http://www.buyingofthepresident.org/index.php/archives/2000/545/.

[6] Jacob Weisberg, “The Veep’s Keeper: Meet Dan Quayle’s Brain,” The New Republic, March 12, 1990, http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/the-veeps-keeper.

[7] Jacob Weisberg, “The Veep’s Keeper: Meet Dan Quayle’s Brain,” The New Republic, March 12, 1990, http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/the-veeps-keeper.

[8] Jacob Weisberg, “The Veep’s Keeper: Meet Dan Quayle’s Brain,” The New Republic, March 12, 1990, http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/the-veeps-keeper.

[9] See Federal Advisory Committee Database, http://fido.gov/facadatabase/default.asp.

[10] Center for Public Integrity,  "Advisors of Influence," 2003.

[11] Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Romney’s Gaffe Joins Quayle’s Potatoe on Gore’s Internet,” Bloomberg News, July 28, 2012.

[12] Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Romney’s Gaffe Joins Quayle’s Potatoe on Gore’s Internet,” Bloomberg News, July 28, 2012.

[13] David Greenberg, “Sarah Palin = Dan Quayle: There's no way she will be president,” Slate, November 17, 2009, http://www.slate.com/id/2235941/pagenum/2.

[14] Tod Lindberg, “President McCain at Midterm,” Weekly Standard, November 8, 2010, http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/president-mccain-midterm_513325.html?nopager=1.

[15] Tod Lindberg, “President McCain at Midterm,” Weekly Standard, November 8, 2010, http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/president-mccain-midterm_513325.html?nopager=1.

[16] The Hudson Institute, “Dan Quayle, Honorary Board Member,” http://www.hudson.org/learn/index.cfm?fuseaction=staff_bio&eid=Brd11.

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Dan Quayle Résumé


  • Project for the New American Century: Signatory, founding statement of principles, 1997
  • Hudson Institute:  Honorary Trustee Emeritus; Former Chairman of Competitiveness Center
  • Freedom House: Former Trustee
  • Campaign America: Chairman, 1995-1999
  • Central Newspapers, Inc.: Member of the Board, 1993-1999
  • Thunderbird American Graduate School of International Management: Distinguished Visiting Professor of International Studies, 1997-1998
  • Huntington Herald Press: Associate Publisher


  • U.S. Department of Defense Policy Board: Former Member
  • U.S. White House: Vice President, 1989-1993
  • National Space Council: Chairman,1989-1993
  • President's Competitiveness Council: Chairman, 1989-1993
  • U.S. Senate (R-IN): 1981-1988
  • U.S. House of Representatives (R-IN): 1977-1980
  • Indiana Attorney General Office: Investigator for Consumer Protection Division
  • Indiana Office of the Governor: Administrative Assistant to Governor Edgar Whitcomb
  • Indiana Department of Revenue: Director of Inheritance Tax Division
  • Indiana National Guard: Officer, 1969-1975


  • Quayle and Associates: Founder and President
  • Cerberus Capital Management: Chairman of Global Operations
  • BTC Inc.: Member of the Board of Directors
  • Amtran Inc.: Member of the Board of Directors


  • DePauw University: B.A., 1969 in political science
  • Indiana University: J.D., 1974


Dan Quayle News Feed

Dan Quayle Has Advice for Democrats - NewserDan Quayle Will Show Up On This Episode of 'On Becoming a God in Central Florida' - Showbiz Cheat SheetDan Coats May Be Out Of A Job, But He’s Nowhere Near Out Of Money - ForbesPolitical gaffes, stupidity and the truth about Trump supporters - IrishCentralGROWING OLD UNGRACEFULLY: Tautology is a Tautology - Lost Coast OutpostWhoa. It’s been 30 years since our 1st and last visit to Neptune - EarthSkyBump Trump, Keep The Veep? Welcome To The August Rumor Mill - ForbesWhy Democrats Can't Pick One of Those Many Senators for Veep - The American ProspectWe're buying what Kirsten Dunst is selling in 'On Becoming a God in Central Florida' - Chicago Daily HeraldDan Quayle: If Democrats 'put up some total left winger' Donald Trump will be re-elected - Indianapolis StarBiden's Age Matters, Even if Democrats Want To Ignore It - ReasonCan you tell a Joe Biden 'gaffe' from a Donald Trump 'gaffe'? Don't be so sure - OregonLive30 Years Ago: Voyager 2's Historic Neptune Flyby - Jet Propulsion LaboratoryFormer Vice President Dan Quayle Remembers 'Wonderful' Lobster Lunches with George H.W. Bush - PEOPLE.com‘Everything that we hold dear’: From race to plastic straws, Trump dials up culture wars in divisive play for 2020 votes - The Washington Post'George Bush was absolutely the best': former VP Dan Quayle pays tribute to his late boss - Fox NewsDan Quayle: George Bush came as close to the ideal of the presidential office as anyone in our lifetimes has - Fox NewsTrump's tweets and conspiracies redefine what's presidential - PBS NewsHourThis Week in Wickenburg History | History - Wickenburg SunFormer VP Dan Quayle, Dan Coats, Mitch Daniels and others react to 41st President George H.W. Bush's death - Indianapolis Star

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