May 19, 2011

Just for the record

To be very clear, Dan Quayle didn’t really think Murphy Brown was an actual person.

But the media cling to their myths, so that was the impression they made every effort to give when reporting on Quayle’s speech to the Commonwealth Club in L.A. on May 19,1992.

You remember Dan Quayle, right – 41’s veep?  The guy who – in their first and only debate – brought  courteous and dignified  Lloyd Bensen to the point of spitting nails? (“I knew Jack Kennedy and Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy!”)

That Dan Quayle.  And he never suggested that Murphy Brown was a real person – he said plainly – more or less – that things had come to a pretty pass when a television program featured a character who has a child out of wedlock and plans to raise it, to be a single mother. He was talking about the L.A. riots, blaming them on America’s moral decay as exemplified by Murphy Brown’s situation, which mocked “the importance of the father” and so on.

But the story that Dan Quayle thought Murphy was a real person became the meme, no matter how often contradicted.

What’s ironic is that the speech was quite coherent, a real departure from the usual Quayle style.  This, after all, was the man who mentioned the motto of the United Negro College Fund (“A mind is a terrible thing to waste’) by saying, “You take the UNCF model that what a waste it is to lose one’s mind or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”

Who once said  “I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future.” Who couldn’t spell potato. So the media clung to the image of dazed and confused.

Time then, to give him a pass on the Murphy Brown thing.  And to let him know that there are no canals on Mars, as he apparently believes, so there isn’t anything filled  with water. “If there  is water, that means there is oxygen.  If oxygen, that means we can breathe.”

* * *

Many happy returns to Nora Ephron and Peter Townsend.  It is also the anniversary of the birth of Johns Hopkins in 1795. Hopkins was yet another wonderful Quaker who gave much to this country when it was young.  So much, in fact, that he will have a blog of his own tomorrow. I’m finding out a lot about the contributions of the Quakers in building the U.S. – it seems like there’s only ever been one that went astray.



  1. omg i’d completely forgotten about quayle and his potatoe. LOL 😀


    Comment by nina c — May 19, 2011 @ 1:22 am | Reply

  2. The Whittier Quakers have wandered a long way from Swarthmoor Hall and George Fox and Margaret Fell.


    Comment by Jane — May 19, 2011 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  3. Happy birthday Nora we love you.


    Comment by avery — May 19, 2011 @ 8:59 am | Reply

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