The big crowd oozes slowly into Arizona State University's Gammage Auditorium. It's early morning, and in a few minutes Vice President Dan Quayle will speak.
An appearance by Quayle on a politically active campus would spark dozens of protests. There are few dissidents at ASU. It is a student body made up of varying shades of conformists.
A group of ten students bearing placards lines the concrete walk leading to the auditorium's student entrance.
What Is Quayle's Handicap? Himself," one sign suggests.
Make Me Vice President. That's a Real Idiot's Job," declares another.
When You Start the Next War, Will You Go, Too?" asks a sign carried by a young woman.
The students want to confront Quayle. The speech is billed as the highlight of his Arizona visit. On the day before, Quayle played a much-publicized round of golf in the afternoon and appeared at a Republican fund-raising dinner in the evening. This morning, we are treated to some keen detective work by the United States Secret Service. The agents spot the students and don't like the looks of their signs. Secret Service agents rarely like anything.
Sensing the possibility of embarrassment, they reroute Quayle into Gammage through a door on the opposite side of the building.
Spared the spectacle of the insults printed on the signs, Quayle is in buoyant spirits. The vacuous grin that has become his trademark is present as he walks onstage in the big hall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. He wears a blue suit with a white shirt and a red tie.
The student band seated in the pit below the stage plays loudly.
This is the coziest of political tableaux. Waiting onstage for Quayle is the university's president, Lattie Coor, and retired Senator Barry Goldwater.
Coor was appointed president last year by lame-duck former Governor Rose Mofford. Coor's credentials to assume command of the 40,000-student campus consisted solely of the fact that he was the oldest son of one of Mofford's old friends.
For Mofford, such a move was not a surprise. She made it a practice during her brief period as governor to do favors for old friends.
Goldwater slouches in a chair onstage. He holds a cane in his right hand. He wears sand-colored comfort shoes. Now in his 80s, Goldwater is revered by the Paradise Valley and Phoenix Country Club sets. To them, he is the genius behind the Republican conservative movement.
Recently, Goldwater startled friends and other acquaintances by announcing that, at 80 years plus, he was planning to marry again.
Goldwater has undergone several surgical procedures in recent years. He has had a heart by-pass. Both hips as well as a shoulder have been replaced.
Best thing about Dan Quayle," Goldwater growls during his brief opening remarks. He went to school in Scottsdale and his grandfather was a very successful newspaper publisher." Goldwater was referring to Eugene Pulliam, the late publisher of the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette. Both newspapers had made elaborate arrangements to assure that this event was staffed by teams of reporters and photographers.
Throughout the morning, staffers from the two newspapers scurried about, wearing serious faces, taking copious notes and looking as efficient as possible. They behaved with such seriousness you had the impression they felt their every move was being rated by the vice president.
Quayle steps to the microphone. He doesn't have to wait long for the polite applause to die down.
Barry referenced my growing up here in the Valley," Quayle says. Well, I remember how my dad used to bring me out here on Saturday nights to see the ASU football games." Quayle pauses slightly. Then, in a loud voice, he delivers what he apparently considers to be a key line: I've been a Sun Devil fan for a long time and I still am!" Quayle looks over his shoulder toward Goldwater.
Now, he repeats the classic lines from Goldwater's acceptance speech at the Republican convention on July 16, 1964.
I would remind you that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice," Quayle says, quoting that most famous of Goldwaterisms. Let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." Applause rolls over the auditorium. The young Republicans recognize Goldwater's words immediately.
They applaud. Somehow, they consider that these words constitute a brilliant political declaration.
But, of course, they are living in a dream world. There never was any prime time for Goldwater except in the minds of right-wing Arizonans.
In the period of his highest visibility, Goldwater was never more than a national joke and a political embarrassment.
These things have been conveniently forgotten. Even during his presidential campaign, Goldwater was considered by many within his own party to be irresponsible and even slightly stupid.