As George H. Bush's vice president, Dan Quayle was a heartbeat from the presidency and never far from the headlines. The former senator from Indiana pushed hard for conservative causes and even ripped TV heroine Murphy Brown for lax morality. Now chairman of a Phoenix-based consulting firm, avid golfer Quayle, 55, has more time to work on his game.
What are you up to these days?
I travel, especially to Asia. I'm a senior advisor to a distressed-asset company in New York, handling the Asia portfolio. My job is more about business than political consulting. I've learned there is a huge difference between politics and business. Politicians make quick decisions that are often reversed or changed. Nothing is final. In the business world, people don't often make such quick decisions, but once a deal is struck, it's final.
Did that make your transition difficult?
I had come into contact with many business people through the Senate committees I served on, but I didn't have hands-on experience. Now I do. I enjoy deal-making—the challenge of trying to work things out. The difference is that in business you are dealing with money and in politics you are dealing with power.
You work with an Internet firm, Spotlight Health, to raise awareness of deep vein thrombosis. Do you have DVT?
Yes. I got it from traveling. I was misdiagnosed in 1994. The doctor said I had walking pneumonia and all sorts of other things. Once it was diagnosed as DVT I had very little lung capacity left, but I survived. Here's a fact that will wake everyone up: Over 200,000 people die from DVT every year. It's a major killer. What happens is that blood clots form, often in the legs, and then go to the lungs and sometimes the brain. Some people call it the coach-class disease because flying can exacerbate it, particularly if you're cramped in economy. That's why you should occasionally get up and walk around in an airplane. A good friend of mine lost his wife to DVT. But it is treatable if you get early detection, and there is medicine that can prevent it.
You can still play golf?
A friend and I recently won the Seminole member-guest—both the low net and the low gross. That was fun. I'm now eligible to play in the Society of Seniors, a bunch of very accomplished amateurs fifty-five and older. The problem is finding the time. When I'm home I'll go out and hit balls and play twice a week, but I'm not always home as much as I'd like. I don't take my clubs on business, particularly to Asia, because it takes so long to play.
When you were in office, did you and President Bush play?
We played up in Kennebunkport. He's not interested in the score, he's interested in how long it takes to play eighteen holes. We would try to get a foursome around in two and a half hours. If we could accomplish that, it was a good round.
What about his son, George W.?
I've never played with Forty-Three. I hear he's good, though. Jeb Bush and I have played some—he's the real golfer in the family.
Did you enjoy playing when you were in office?
You know, I always got criticized for it. I suppose that's because I was fortunate enough to be good. I was captain of my college golf team, and I'm a respectable player. Clinton played quite a bit and I always said that was great. Reporters would call me up for a comment and I'd say I thought it was wonderful. Clinton restored the Eisenhower putting green at the White House—that was wonderful, too. But now that I don't have to worry about klieg lights and cameras, it's a relief. I was playing the fifteenth at Cypress Point one time when a photographer jumped out from behind a bush, snapped my picture and ran away. I don't miss that.
You've teed it up with some top pros . . .
The best—Palmer, Nicklaus, Floyd, Norman, Hale Irwin, Fuzzy Zoeller. When I was still vice president, Arnold and I played nine holes at the Annenberg estate in Palm Springs. For the first couple holes I was hitting it well, driving past Arnold. I could see the wheels turning in his head. Pretty soon he just crushed a drive fifteen yards past my ball. He smiled with satisfaction that he could still crank it up a notch.
How's your swing?
I'm a tinkerer, always fussing around with it. Not long ago I made a bad error—decided to focus on technique, to be Ben Hoganesque—and it didn't work. Now I'm getting away from that, going back to basics. I played my best golf in high school and college. I'd like to get back to swinging the club and feeling the shot the way I did then, but it can be difficult. One problem is that there's so much information out there now—the Golf Channel and the magazines, all giving you tips—you can get lost in mechanics. I get all absorbed in them. A lot of golf teachers won't want to hear this, but I just want to get all those swing thoughts out of my head.
We've heard that you admire MTV's Osbourne family. Can that be true?
That came up when I spoke at the National Press Club. Everyone expected me to dump all over the Osbournes. But here you have two adults who are madly in love with each other, dedicated to each other. Clearly the language they use around the house is an issue. But they do have certain restrictions, even though they might be more liberal than I would be. They have a 2 a.m. curfew. We had 12:30. And Ozzy is always saying no to drugs, no to drinking. These are positive messages. And one more thing: If you look at Ozzy Osbourne, can there be a better walking billboard for why not to do drugs?
You had a different take on Murphy Brown.
Murphy Brown was a show that mocked the importance of fathers. It said that fathers aren't necessary, responsible or relevant, and that was a horrible message. I took a lot of grief for saying so, but it's what I believe. Now we have the same situation with Friends, which I don't follow that closely, but my kids do. This woman's having a child out of wedlock. I don't think that should be portrayed on television as a good thing. It's tough on the mother and it's tough on the child—the chance of that child's ending up in poverty is quite high. But maybe TV is improving: At least on Friends we know who the father is and he has a role. So they got it half right.
Bottom line, Mr. Vice President: Who takes more mulligans, Republicans or Democrats?
Democrats. They never play by the rules.
Scorecard - Dan Quayle
Memberships Ballybunion in Ireland, Crooked Stick in Indianapolis, Paradise Valley and Whisper Rock in Arizona
Best Competitive Round 68 at Morgan's Run in San Diego, 1998
Clubs Ping I-3 irons, TaylorMade 360 driver, Ping lil' b putter