Quayling ou abêtissement est une référence à l’ancien vice-président des Etats-Unis Dan Quayle. Michael Szporter
Dans la série de jeux-vidéo Civilization, son nom est utilisé pour désigner le grade le plus bas que puisse atteindre le joueur en fin de partie. Wikipedia
Notre pays est engagé de façon irréversible sur une voie où il y aura de plus en plus de démocratie; mais cela pourrait changer. Dan Quayle
L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
[Obama] est le premier afro-américain qui s’exprime bien, est brillant, propre sur lui et beau garçon. Joe Biden
[on ne peut pas] entrer dans un 7-Eleven ou un Dunkin Donuts (des petits magasins populaires) à moins d’avoir un léger accent indien. Joe Biden
Croyez-moi. Il ne se passera pas six mois avant que le monde ne mette à l’épreuve Barack Obama, comme il l’avait fait avec Kennedy (…). Écoutez, nous allons avoir une crise internationale, une crise fabriquée, pour voir de quel bois se chauffe ce gars-là (…). Je vous garantis que cela va arriver. Joe Biden (à des donateurs de Seattle, 19.10.08)
Mais que peuvent bien avoir en commun tous ces noms?
Pour ceux qui auraient raté (la charité chrétienne légendaire de nos médias français oblige – pourtant à l’affut en leur temps des moindres bourdes de Bush ou de Sarah Palin) l’énième gaffe du vice-président américain Joe Biden …
Qui ne peut reconnaitre le succès de la guerre en Irak sans l’attribuer à l’administration de son patron avec lequel, on s’en souvient peut-être, le vétéran des questions internationales et de sécurité (mais aussi plagiaire occasionnel – jusqu’à un discours du travailliste britannique Neil Kinnock!) censé servir de caution aux 3 jeunes années du sénateur du Michigan en était devenu, après l’avoir initialement soutenue, l’un de ses plus farouches opposants …
Retour, dans la longue série avant Gore et Biden des vice-présidents gaffeurs, sur l’un de ceux qui marquera le plus la fonction et même le vocabulaire politique américain avec une expression directement tirée de son nom (dans le sens, sauf exception, d’abêtissement).
A savoir l’ex-sénateur et colistier puis de 1989 à 1993 vice-président de Bush père Dan Quayle.
Pour découvrir qu’au-delà de ses certes nombreuses et mémorables bourdes et pourtant une courageuse défense de la famille (les médias lui feront payer très cher sa critique parfaitement justifiée – comme le confirmera plus tard l’actrice elle-même – , sur fond d’émeutes de Los Angeles, d’un personnage de la série télévisée Murphy Brown, une hautement populaire yuppy célibataire élevant seule son enfant) …
Le malheureux est surtout connu pour avoir fautivement corrigé l’erreur supposée d’un élève dans un concours d’orthographe d’une école primaire du New Jersey pendant la campagne en juin 1992 contre Clinton-Bush mais aussi Ross Perot (demandant l’ajout d’un e inexistant à « potato » – à partir du pluriel en « es ») où il s’était en fait… contenté de lire, malgré ses propres doutes, une fiche fautive fournie par ladite école!
I am not part of the problem. I am a Republican. Dan Quayle
I have made good judgements in the Past. I have made good judgements in the Future. Dan Quayle
Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.
The future will be better tomorrow. Dan Quayle
We don’t want to go back to tomorrow, we want to go forward. Dan Quayle
[It’s] time for the human race to enter the solar system. Dan Quayle
The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history. I mean in this century’s history. But we all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century. Dan Quayle (9/15/88)
Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children. Dan Quayle, 9/18/90
We’re going to have the best-educated American people in the world. Dan Quayle, 9/21/88
For NASA, space is still a high priority. Dan Quayle, 9/5/90
1992: Gaffe with an ‘e’ at the end
Just the other night on television, Jay Leno was poking fun at some gaffe by George W. Bush, whose picture morphed into a photograph of Dan Quayle on the screen behind the comic.
Six years out of office with two failed presidential bids now behind him, ex Vice President Quayle still ranks as America’s favorite dumb politician because of what happened in Trenton on June 15, 1992.
That’s the day, you probably recall, a Trenton sixth grader had to teach the Vice President of the United States that potato is not spelled with an e on the end.
In his 1994 memoir, Quayle devotes a whole chapter to the events in a classroom at Trenton’s Munoz Rivera School — and the impact of them on his career.
« It was a defining moment of the worst kind imaginable,’’ Quayle wrote in the autobiography. « Politicians live and die by the symbolic sound bite.’’
Quayle ruefully reported on a Washington Post article that suggested the Trenton flub got such wide media play because « it seemed like a perfect illustration of what people thought about me anyway.’’
Less than five months after the incident, Quayle and President Bush were voted out of office, replaced by Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Ever since, the ex VP has been a straight-faced political joke.
To understand why, it’s important to know something about the way politics and the media work in America. « Image is all’’ in politics, Quayle said, and the media not only project images, but also brings out any flaw in the picture.
Quayle’s image had been fodder for America comedians since the beginning, in 1988, when GOP presidential nominee George Bush tapped the 42-year-old Senator from Indiana as his VP.
When Quayle got on the victory podium with Bush for the first time at the GOP convention that summer someone remarked that he « looked like a guy who had just won a game show.’’
Quayle knew his boyish looks might hurt him and worked hard to present a studious image during the campaign. Despite a few blunders by Quayle, the Bush ticket prevailed in the election of 1988.
Days later, seeking to stifle the buzz in political circles that he was intellectually challenged, Quayle sat down with a group of top American political reporters for a televised two-hour discussion.
The newsmen, and many viewers, were left with the impression that, for all the jokes about him, the new vice president was a well-informed, politically savvy young man.
Through most of his term — traveling the world to represent the president, meeting heads of state, giving speeches to all types of groups — Quayle managed to avoid any serious gaffes. At least that’s how he put it in his bio, Standing Firm.
June 15, 1992, started with Quayle flying out of Washington at 8:15 a.m. for a speech in New York that would be « about everything that was wrong with that city.’’
Quayle told the Manhattan Institute in a speech at the Waldorf-Astoria that New York was a mess because the liberal political policies of the past 40 years had failed.
In the book, Quayle said he knew little about his next stop, in Trenton, other than it was to help spotlight the city’s Weed and Seed program, which still provides anti-drug education to grade schoolers while they also are being watched by adults until their parents get home from work.
When he got the Munoz Rivera School, Quayle spoke with some women involved in the program, saw a drill team perform and looked in on some self-esteem classes before his aides started hustling him off to another classroom for a staged spelling bee.
« What are we supposed to do?’’ I asked Keith Nahigian, the advance man who had prepared this little photo op,’’ Quayle wrote.
« Just sit there and read these words off some flash cards, and the kids will go up and spell them at the blackboard,’’ the handler told the VP.
« Has anyone checked the card?’’ another aide asked.
« Oh, yeah,’’ responded Nahigian. « We looked at them and they’re just very simple words. No big deal.’’
Enter William Figueroa, 12, a sixth-grader from the Mott School in the South Ward who had been bused to Munoz Rivera to take part in the vice presidential event.
Figueroa knew how to spell potato, and he wrote it in a legible script on the blackboard when Quayle announced his word for the spelling bee.
Quayle looked at the blackboard, then at his contest card, and gently and quietly told the boy, « You’re close, but you left a little something off. The e on the end.
« So William, against his better judgment and trying to be polite, added an e’’ and won applause for it from those assembled in the classroom, including Mayor Doug Palmer, Quayle wrote.
The misspelling wasn’t mentioned until the end of the press conference afterward, when one reporter asked Quayle, « How do you spell potato?’’
« I gave him a puzzled look, and then the press started laughing. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized anything was wrong,’’ Quayle wrote.
« None of the staff people had told me. Caught off guard, I just rattled on a little to fill the air — something about how I wasn’t going to get into spelling matters — but I knew something was really amiss.’’
Indeed. At about the time of the gaffe, in fact, The Trentonian’s night reporter was arriving at the office and hearing the editor’s plea for a story suitable for page 1.
« What are you talking about? You’ve got the vice president in town today,’’ the reporter said.
« You know Quayle’s not going to say anything newsworthy,’’ the editor responded.
« I’m not talking about his political message. I’m saying watch for Quayle to foul up something,’’ the reporter said.
Soon after, the reporter who had covered Quayle’s Trenton tour showed up in the newsroom and was ask how the event had gone.
He said Quayle delivered the usual political pap, prompting the night reporter to holler out, « Yeah, but what did he foul up? »
« Well,’’ the reporter responded, « Quayle can’t spell potato.’’
The editor had his front-page story, complete with the only media interview with Figueroa, who said the experience made him believe all the talk about the vice president being « an idiot.’’
Soon after the paper hit the streets, the scene in the Trenton classroom was playing on national television, just as Quayle had warned his wife it would be when he got home from Trenton the night before.
Comics loved it, and a staffer from the David Letterman Show called The Trentonian the morning after seeking help locating Figueroa so he could be invited on the show.
The next day, after his father sent him for a haircut and warned him to speak a bit more diplomatically about the vice president of the United State, Figueroa made his national television debut.
The Trenton kid wowed the Letterman audience. He told of the spelling bee, saying, « I knew he was wrong, but since he’s the vice president I went back to the blackboard and put an e on the end and went back to my seat.
« Afterward, I went to the dictionary, and there was potato like I spelled it.’’ Figueroa wouldn’t call Quayle an « idiot’’ again, in deference to his father, William Collazo, and Palmer, who had called the boy’s mother and warned that funds for Weed and Seed could be cut off if the VP got mad enough.
« I know he’s not an idiot,’’ he told the goading Letterman, « but he needs to study more. Do you have to go to college to be vice president?’’
From then on, the potato incident would become a campaign weapon for the Democrats backing Clinton and Gore. Figueroa was flown in to deliver the pledge of allegiance at the Democratic National Convention that summer.
Image-conscious Quayle laughed it off on the outside. But as his book indicates, he was fuming mad about the gaffe and blamed his aides for letting it happen and the press for exploiting it.
He referred to Gore saying in a speech that a leopard had changed it « stripes,’’ and said if he had said that, « there would have been a week of Quayle jokes on the late-night shows and three dozen editorial cartoons set inside zoos.’’
The media’s « obsession with my small verbal blunders went beyond the bounds of fairness,’’ Quayle wrote in his book.
Now, fast forward five years to 1997, when The Trentonian decided to look up William Figueroa to see how he was doing after his hour of fame.
By then, he was a 17-year-old high school dropout who had fathered a child and was working a low-paying job at an auto showroom.
Quayle, Mr. Family Values, couldn’t be reached for comment on what had become of his « potato’’ nemesis.
On Sarah Palin: Why the Quayling is failing
She’s taking a page from Reagan’s book.
May 17th 2009
In a column for Townhall.com, The Quayling of Sarah, David R. Stokes lays out the strategy being used by the Democrats and their Vichy Republican fellow travelers to shoot down former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s national political possibilities:
Any nine-year-old child or MSNBC show host (pardon the redundancy) understands that the idea is to vex and therefore hex Sarah Palin. The goal is to click repeatedly on her image and drag her into a folder marked either “too dumb to lead,” or “demonize by caricature.”
The strategy is nothing new. It has been tried in the past, without success against Ronald Reagan and more effectively against Dan Quayle (whose quixotic battle with “Murphy Brown” was doomed from the outset – he should have taken on real villians instead of television characters). It will fail to stop Sarah Palin. She has chosen to fight not the liberal characters of “Sex in the City” but the very real evil of abortion. And her son Trig, born a Downs baby, is a living testament that she’s not just a weekend warrior.
The problem with Quayling as a strategy goes beyond the weakness of the tactics used to implement it. It is doomed because the troops being deployed to carry it out are inferior. Against Palin, Quayling was first trotted out by intellectual elitist scribes who appear in the columns of the New York Times, The Nation, Washington Monthly and even Townhall.com and National Review. Unfortunately for the elitists, the largest audience for such fare is composed mostly of other elitist writers. No one takes Kathleen Parker seriously anymore, with the possible exception of her editors. Your average independent swing voter doesn’t hang on every word written by Maureen Dowd, and most of them have never even heard of David Frum. They may remember who William F. Buckley was, but Christopher Buckley’s name doesn’t ring a bell.
The B-Team is now trying to do the job, but – let’s face it – the audience for clowns like Chris Matthews is very small and has already bought the meme. Yet Matthews keeps on trying to sell it via television’s doormat of cable news outlets, MSNBC. Like a demented Billy Mays hawking bogus OxyClean by saying “I get so excited every time I do this,” Matthews gets a thrill running up his leg from ShamWow President Barack Obama. Matthews is not one of the intellectual giants of The Left, yet he rarely misses an opportunity to mock Gov. Palin’s intelligence, as he did when discussing her recently signed deal to pen her memoir:
“Sarah Palin – now don’t laugh – is writing a book. Not just reading a book: writing a book. Actually, in the word of the publisher, she’s collaborating on a book. I love the way that sounds. Does that mean that she answers questions of the writer, and then the writer writes the book? I guess the reason to have someone write a book for you and claim it’s your book is you get to do a nation-wide book tour, and act the part of a, of an author yourself.”
Please don’t anyone tell Matthews that Ted Sorenson wrote JFK’s Profiles in Courage and that Barack Obama likely had a ghost writer also, one whom many suspect is mad bomber Bill Ayers. It might chill that thrill going up Matthews’ leg.
The Quayling strategy won’t work when it is entrusted to such as Matthews, who has become such a cartoonish parody of himself, he is increasing being known as Tweety. Stokes writes:
“The problem is, all this will do is make her more popular with an important constituency – her core base, in fact – that could very well propel her to the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.”
What Stokes is overlooking here is that the governor is in fact reaching out beyond her base.
Though she made news with her support of Miss California Carrie Prejean in the flap over gay marriage, the Palin record in Alaska was to veto a bill that would have disallowed benefits for the same-sex partners of state workers on constitutional grounds.
Yes, she is a vocal proponent of ANWR drilling and stands with the oil companies in support of offshore drilling in Alaska’s coastal waters, but the governor has been a tough bargainer with those same oil companies, and she has called for Alaska to get half its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
Her opponents on the left see Sarah Palin as a right-wing ideologue, but she is actually a mainstream conservative with a strong libertarian streak who has enormous populist appeal. She has taken a page from Ronald Reagan’s play book and has learned how to walk the fine line of principled pragmatism. The first step toward winning your battles is to choose them carefully.
Sarah Palin’s strongest suit may be her uncanny political instincts. Practicing what she preaches about the sanctity of innocent human life has made her the country’s leading advocate for the pro-life position at precisely the moment when America’s attitudes are shifting on abortion and the gruesome procedures used to carry it out.
A recent Gallup Poll shows that a pro-life view is now held by a majority of conservatives and independents, Catholics and Protestants, men and women. There’s no guarantee that the public will continue to recoil from abortion, and the issue is not the key to the White House. But it will certainly get her through the toll gate on the highway that leads to it. Gov. Palin will have to demonstrate that she will be able to clean up the train wreck Obama’s policies have the economy headed for and put it back on the right set of tracks. If Alaska can avoid the suffering the rest of the nation will be forced to endure under Obama’s corporatist regime, it will greatly enhance her credibility. She will also have to show that she has a firm grasp on the issue of national security, and her arguments for a strong national missile defense are a good start.
With her unwavering stand for life and her more pragmatic stance on issues which have cooler buttons, the governor is not only bolstering her base, but she is determined to win over independent swing voters at the same time. She is going about it the right way – Reagan’s way – and her political detractors, by attempting to define her as stupid, just as they tried unsuccessfully to do to Reagan, are headed for an EPIC FAIL.
The Quayling of Al Gore
Oct. 14, 1999
If to « bork » means to tar someone as a political extremist, and to get a « lewinsky » means, well, you know, then to « quayle » someone means to make some personal limitation seem so overwhelmingly ridiculous that the victim becomes a permanent national laughingstock. The question of whether Dan Quayle was, in fact, significantly denser than a lot of other politicians (I’d argue he was only somewhat denser) became irrelevant in the face of an entertaining cliché. Try as he might, Quayle couldn’t get anyone to take him seriously as a presidential candidate, because all that the national press corps and the national joke-writing corps wanted from him was material that confirmed his dumbbell stereotype.
The same thing appears to be happening to Quayle’s successor as vice president. In Al Gore’s case, the drubbing is for a slightly more vague constellation of qualities such as dullness, starchiness, aloofness, pomposity, condescension, privilege, and political klutziness. There’s an element of truth to these criticisms. But by becoming a shtick, the observation of these qualities threatens to obliterate not only Gore’s corresponding virtues but also any hope of his becoming president. Every minor misstep that Gore makes becomes grist for the Gore-abuse mill. And whatever Gore does to try to correct these flaws, whether it’s playing along by mocking himself or trying to demonstrate his authenticity and ordinary-guy-ness, only digs the hole deeper. When Gore hires a bunch of inside-the-Beltway political hacks and pretends there’s no contest for the nomination, he’s a risible Washington stiff. When he upends his campaign, yanks off his necktie, and engages his opponent, he’s a risible Washington stiff trying to be what he’s not. (For an argument that Gore’s makeover may be taking, see William Saletan’s « Frame Game. »)
Here are a few examples of what Gore is up against, culled from The Hotline over the last few days.
Jeff Greenfield of CNN: « There is that problem that Gore has always had as a candidate, and so that when he doesn’t wear a tie–and this may be unfair, but I don’t think so–you have the sense that somebody, some clothing-engineer-consultant, said, ‘Al, you know, use–we need the softer tones,’ and then they take a focus group: ‘You like the shirt buttoned or not?’ » (Imus, 10/14)
Howard Fineman of Newsweek: « He’s sort of turning himself into a combination of Walter Mondale and Dick Gephardt, the lunch-bucket, street-corner Democrat–the guy who grew up on Wisconsin Avenue. » (Hardball, 10/13)
R.W. Apple of the New York Times: « Now, he says, he is trying to ‘let it all hang out.’ The very phrase sounds unnatural coming from a man whose shoes are always polished, whose hair is always combed, whose shirts and suits are always crisply pressed. All? He doesn’t even let his shirt-tail hang out. » (New York Times, 10/11)
Jay Leno of the Tonight Show: « The folks in Nashville are thrilled that Al Gore has moved his campaign headquarters back there. … Because with him there, that automatically qualifies them for disaster-relief funds. … Now, did you see Gore yesterday? He asked people to join his new, this is what he called it, his new, ‘rip-tootin’ campaign. … If you believe he is going to win with that slogan, you’re either ripped or you’ve been tootin’. » (10/7)
On the campaign trail, this mockery translates into a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t dynamic. Take Gore’s endorsement yesterday by the AFL-CIO. Had Gore failed to secure this prize, the story would have been played as « more woe for the troubled Gore campaign » (or possibly, « last straw for troubled Gore campaign »). Gaining the endorsement, however, merely made Gore into Walter Mondale II, a Democratic establishmentarian whose ability to lock up the party’s official interest groups won’t translate into rank-and-file enthusiasm. Here’s how Peter Jennings played the AFL-CIO endorsement on ABC last night: « In Los Angeles, good news–mostly–for Vice President Gore, depending on how the political media spin it, in part. » Memo to Peter Jennings: You are the political media.
But there’s a silver lining for Gore: If the public really demands candidates with a flair for schmoozing, smooth talk, and ersatz empathy, then « Clinton fatigue » must be something of a myth.
Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group and author of The Bush Tragedy. Follow him at http://twitter.com/jacobwe.