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Fueling speculation on veeply ambitions, veteran investigative journalist Jack Anderson reported last week that soon-to-be-former Vice President Dan Quayle is considering an offer to become publisher of the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette.
The Quayle-as-R&G-publisher mill began to grind just after the election, when New Times cartoonist Bob Boze Bell produced a two-page spread on the topic. (Example: "The Five Things Dan Quayle Will Do to the Arizona Republic When He Takes Over as Publisher: No. 4. Hold Richard Nilsen down and shave his goddamned beard.")
Former R&G publisher Pat Murphy tossed in his 2 cents on November 30, when the Los Angeles Times printed his op-ed piece, "Mr. Quayle Goes to Phoenix." In the column, Murphy made a case for Quayle's return to the newspaper biz, and delighted in the irony of the Family Values vice president taking charge of newsroom employees he so damningly lumped in with the morally diseased "cultural elite."
Now comes Anderson, a longtime Washington, D.C., media fixture, who co-writes a syndicated newspaper column--The Washington Merry-go-round"--with reporter Michael Binstein. "Quayle may be riding into the sunset today, but he has no plans to make a permanent departure," reported Anderson's newsletter, which is distributed to some 3,500 subscribers around the country. "At least that's what he's telling intimates. My sources say the vice president has almost made up his mind to forsake his home state of Indiana for the sunnier climate of Phoenix, Arizona. "Not only is Phoenix more attractive in winter, it's also where one of his family's four newspapers is located, the Arizona Republic. My sources say Quayle is considering an offer to take over as publisher of the paper as soon as the inauguration is over." In addition to fulfilling what could become an incredibly prophetic Bob Boze Bell cartoon, Anderson's juicy item--and the speculation in general--makes a lot of sense, at least from a distance. Quayle's grandfather, Eugene C. Pulliam, founded Central Newspapers, Inc., the R&G's parent company. Though Pulliam was a second-tier newspaper tyrant, he ran his miniempire (which also included a pair of newspapers in Indianapolis) with a conservative ideology of iron, and was unafraid of ordering editorials onto his front pages. Dan Quayle, whose parents remain top honchos in the newspaper company, is a chip off grandpa Gene's block. Quayle could move to Phoenix, take a figurehead job with the city's big morning daily (maybe even writing a column!), and cool his heels until the next presidential election rolls around. This scenario is made all the more provocative by the Golf Factor. It has been well-documented that Quayle is a fanatical golfer. Quayle, whose parents once resided on the grounds of the Paradise Valley Country Club, first fell for the game while growing up a Valley Boy. He returned to the Phoenix area for several golf outings while vice president. His Secret Service code name is "Scorecard." Where else would such a fairway-minded retiree settle? Jan Moller, a reporter for Muckrakers, Inc., Anderson's dirt-digging combine in Washington, D.C., says the Golf Factor did not enter into the reporting for the newsletter. In fact, the item speculates that Quayle's true motivation for heading west is the precarious posture of a certain senator and former Charles Keating benefactor. "Arizona, Quayle figures, would be the ideal place to launch his political comeback," the newsletter says. "Quayle's first move would probably be to run against Arizona's Democratic incumbent, Dennis DeConcini, who will be up for reelection in 1994. "Chances are good," Anderson's newsletter concludes, "that Quayle would win the election," then launch his bid for president in 1996. Reporter Moller, who actually wrote the item based on reporting by both Anderson and Binstein, says that his bosses checked the scoop with sources in Washington and Phoenix. The item was run in the newsletter and not the syndicated column, Moller says, because none of the sources would go on the record with the news. But the sources are "pretty much as reliable as you can get, as far as sources go," Moller says. Quayle's press secretary and an R&G spokesman disagree. And though official denials are obligatory in such cases--Quayle will stay on the national payroll until Bill Clinton's January 20 inauguration, after all--the official denials emanating from the White House and R&G's downtown bunker seem pretty definitive. "I think that it's strictly a planted story," says Bill Shover, spokesman for the Republic and Gazette. "There's been no discussion of that at all." Besides, says Shover, R&G publisher Louis "Chip" Weil is "doing a marvelous job."
When read the Anderson item over the telephone, David Beckwith, Quayle's press spokesman, laughed. "This is a hilarious item, totally fiction," says Beckwith. "He has never had any conversation with anybody about becoming the publisher of the Phoenix paper. "He intends to move back to Indiana some time next year, after his kids are out of school here," Beckwith adds, noting that the Pulliam-owned Indianapolis Star reported last week that Quayle is "in serious negotiations" with the Indy-based Hudson Institute, a conservative "think tank." "Listen, he likes Arizona, he considers it one of his two home states," says Beckwith. "Sure, every time we went to Arizona, he remarked about what a great place it was. I'm sure he would enjoy living in Arizona, but that's quite a leap from there to a specific job with a specific company." And Beckwith says that DeConcini needn't include Quayle in the small army of Republicans eyeballing his Senate seat. "Dan Quayle has no interest in running for Senate in Arizona, Indiana or anywhere else," says Beckwith. "What else can I say?" Here's what else: "Neither Jack Anderson nor one of his representatives ever called us to check on this hot rumor.