John Edwards’ admission of an extramarital affair late last week likely means the end of his elective political career, according to former Vice President Dan Quayle.
“I do think he’s probably finished in elective politics,” Quayle told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer on Monday. “In appointed politics, I don’t know. It depends on what he wants to do, and if he really wants to do something in his party, he can.
“If he wants to come back at some later time, not in an elective position, but to speak out on issues that he believes in and travel the country and the world, I think he’ll probably be able to do it.”
On Friday, Edwards admitted to having had an extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter in 2006, although he denied that he was the father of Hunter's 5-month-old daughter.
The former North Carolina senator and Democratic vice-presidential nominee had run for the 2008 presidential ticket and had vociferously denied the affair, which was first reported by the National Enquirer.
Edwards’ admission came as the Democratic convention looms, confronting presidential nominee Barack Obama with the necessity of choosing a running mate. But Quayle feels the Edwards scandal will have no influence on Obama’s decision.
“A lot of people think this is going to have an impact on who the VP selection is going to be,” Quayle said. “I really dismiss it.”
Instead, Quayle thinks the current and escalating conflict between Russia and the South Ossetian region of Georgia will impact Obama’s choice — far more than it will that of Republican nominee John McCain. “You have to think of people who have foreign policy experience,” he explained.
Although Obama and his campaign manager, David Plouffe, have not revealed any single favorite for Obama’s running mate, many analysts have pointed to people with military or foreign policy credentials such as Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh (a former Hillary Clinton supporter), Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine as top contenders for the post.
But Quayle, President George H.W. Bush’s vice president from 1989 to ’93, had some other ideas — including putting Hillary Clinton “back on the list” of possible candidates in the wake of the uprising in Georgia.
Suggesting other possibilities, he told Lauer: “I think one of the outsiders who would be a very interesting choice — I’m not recommending this — is Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia. You’d have to put [New Mexico governor] Bill Richardson back on the list. And obviously, Senator Biden — if [Obama] wants to have two senators, which I’m not sure [is] what he really wants to have if he’s going to run an ‘outside-Washington’ campaign.”
Referring to the Georgia conflict, Quayle summed up: “I do believe this changes the situation quite a bit — but not for McCain.”
With the Democratic National Convention taking place before the Republican convention later this month, Obama is widely expected to make his choice of running mate first. Lauer asked Quayle if that timing would enable McCain to calibrate his choice based on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of Obama’s pick.
“Yes,” Quayle responded. “I think John McCain probably knows who it’s going to be. It may be between two people. [But] I think Barack Obama has a more difficult selection, particularly with the Russia-Georgia conflict going on.
“It probably will rule out some of the folks that he’s considered who really don’t have any foreign policy experience.”
Changing timesQuayle rose to the vice presidency through a fairly typical progression, serving in Congress from 1976 to ’81 and as a senator from Indiana from 1981 to ’89.
When George H.W. Bush ran for president, he selected Quayle, then 41, to attract younger voters. Ironically, soon after Bush announced his choice, John McCain was quoted as saying, “I can’t believe a guy that handsome wouldn’t have some impact.”
Quayle had some highly publicized bumps in the road. Some felt he lacked the experience to
replace Bush as president if necessary. He also was memorably ridiculed by Democratic candidate Lloyd Bentsen, who told him, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” during the campaign’s televised vice-presidential debate.
Nonetheless, the Bush-Quayle ticket went on to a convincing victory over the Michael Dukakis-Bentsen team, winning 40 states.
Quayle recalled that the scrutiny he received as a vice-presidential prospect was difficult. “It is grueling,” he said. “They take all of your financial returns. They talk to your neighbors. It’s like an FBI investigation. What they want to do is turn you upside down, shake you, and see what comes out.”
But, he added, the ordeal is even more onerous for candidates nowadays.
“The vetting process now has actually gotten more intense than what I went through in 1988 because you have news interests, particularly you guys and cable and the 24-7 [news networks], looking at all of these candidates, probing. So I think it’s far more intense for a much longer period of time.”