Dan Quayle Speaks at the Heritage Foundation
January 12, 1999, Washington, D.C. -- He hasn´t announced a presidential bid. Nor has he held public office since serving as vice president in the Bush administration seven years ago. But he can still draw a crowd. Even after a last minute time change, an enthusiastic and vocal crowd of nearly 200 people came to hear former vice president Dan Quayle speak on America´s national security imperative and why the U.S. may be loosing its edge internationally.
" We need to return to a credible and moral leadership in the United States, " he tells the audience on a balmy Washington, D.C. winter afternoon at the Heritage Foundation´s Lehrman Auditorium, located several blocks from the U.S. Capitol where President Clinton´s impeachment hearings were held.
" Today there is a leadership crisis. There´s a sinking feeling around the world that the U.S. has lost its will to lead, " he says. And, considering the widely-praised state of foreign affairs that he and former President George Bush left for the Clinton administration in 1992, there´s no excuse for such a significant drop in 1999, Quayle says.
Looking refreshed, sounding confident and quite possibly ready to get back into presidential politics, Quayle says that he doesn´t believe a [presidential] candidate should be taken seriously, " unless he or she takes foreign policy seriously. " He adds it was a mistake that there lacked discussion about foreign policy issues in either the 1992 or 1996 presidential elections.
As vice president, Quayle is widely considered to have been one of the most active in U.S. history, making official visits to 47 countries, and serving as chairman of President Bush´s Council on Competitiveness and the National Space Council. He was also Bush´s point man on Capitol Hill, where he previously served as U.S. Senator, and was a member of the Senate Arms Services Committee.
" What a difference seven years makes, " he says. " There was an opportunity during all this time for the current administration, but it ended up being just that, an opportunity, " Quayle notes. He believes that leadership is about choosing " wisely and being proactive, while instilling confidence in others. "
Clearly, Quayle doesn´t think President Bill Clinton has proven himself a true leader. Especially, when it comes to national security and the U.S. military.
Questioning the popular perception that "the world is quiet," Quayle cites several examples. He mentions that there´s still many troubling questions surrounding the sale military hardware secrets to China (Quayle favors releasing as much of the Cox report to the public as possible). He also challenges the Clinton administration policy towards volatile countries like North Korea, Bosnia, Africa and Russia.
While Quayle says some folks believe that China might become the "Germany of 100 years ago," he wonders where all those "Russian scientists have been working lately?" Iran, maybe, how about China or North Korea, he asks.
" Let´s hope that we handle China better than we did with Germany, " he muses. " It took two world wars to bring Germany into the family of democracy. "
Quayle doesn´t believe the Clinton administration has treated the U.S. military well either. According to Quayle, by 2001, Army divisions will drop from 18 to 9; Navy ships will fall from 546 to 300; and Air Force wings will fall from 38 to 19.
" Our military expenditures are less than 3% of the GDP, " Quayle says. " That´s the lowest level since 1938. " He says that even with modest increases, there is still a huge pay gap between military and civilian pay.
" Our military is over deployed, and under appreciated, " he says.
And what would it take to wage another Desert Storm at current levels of the U.S. military? Shockingly, Quayle reports it would take 90% of the Army, two-thirds of the Air Force and 100% of the Marines. What about other commitments across the globe?
" Our Desert Storm coalition has disappeared, " he says. Can this President actually get support from NATO and the Arab countries to oust Saddam Hussein, Quayle asks. Can we, or anyone else for that matter, trust him?
In today´s world affairs, Quayle sees several challenging issues, including terrorism, weapons proliferation and the drawing down of the military. " Let´s face it, as the only superpower we´re going to be the target of every nutcase out there, " he says.
" Bill Clinton and Al Gore hyperventilate over global warming, " Quayle says. " But what about global proliferation? "
As an advocate of a strong defense, Quayle points out the Aegis as an example of an effective missle defense system. He believes that the ABM Treaty, signed in 1972 with a state that no longer exists, is outdated and shouldn´t be used as a reason against the U.S. installing the Aegis system to protect against missles that may threaten its shores. He adds that for long-term missle defense the U.S. needs to invest in space-based technology.
" If we don´t further develop an effective missle defense system, like Aegis, then other countries will, " he says. " With this administration it´s not a defense policy, but defense politics. We need to do what is in the best interest of America. " He adds that this has become even more important now since other countries recently tested missles that have the potential to reach U.S. shores.
Quayle says that the U.S. has the technological edge but that the current administration has " squandered it. " Political will and determination, he says, is real leadership.
U.S. military procurement has been cut 50% since 1992, and our planes and military equipment are quickly aging, says Quayle. He believes that the U.S. needs to invest in technology today to have it tomorrow, and says the "R&D doesn´t happen overnight."
" There is no substitute for a strong military, " Quayle says. Stressing the need for strong foreign policy leadership, Quayle says that " you can recover from a domestic policy mistake, but with foreign policy mistakes a country will likely suffer a generation or more. "
Addressing the Clinton administration´s alleged devotion to polls, Quayle says that following polls is not leadership. " We have to do what is right, and national security ought to be our highest priority. "
" We´ve had enough of six years of slick salesmanship. No more hollow promises and on-the-job training, " Quayle proclaims, as if he were already running for the highest office in the land. And he sounds pretty convincing.