WASHINGTON — When the Guinness Book of World Records announces its award for most promises extracted from a sitting vice president on a half-hour local television show, don't even bother to tune in. The prize will go to Rep. Christopher Cox for his amazing performance Tuesday in the House television studio.
Moments into taping his twice-weekly public affairs show, Cox (R-Newport Beach) hit up his guest, Vice President Dan Quayle, for a commitment to return to Cox's district to schmooze with the constituents at Leisure World, which Quayle visited in 1988.
The vice president promptly assented. "You're doing what congressmen are supposed to do," Quayle told the two-term congressman, "and that is to deliver the goods. And this time, it happens to be me."
It was one of the lighter moments of the early July edition of Cox's "Washington Report," which will air during the next two weeks on 10 Orange County cable television outlets. The vice president and the Orange County congressman, who inaugurated the show about two years ago, spent much of their time examining more weighty matters--the federal budget deficit, the Strategic Defense Initiative, enhanced budget recision authority for President Bush, for example.
Quayle allowed that leadership will be the principal issue in the 1992 presidential campaign, that he is more sanguine about the motives of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev than he was 14 months ago, that Clarence Thomas is the most qualified candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court and that peace is always on his mind.
Cox found time to heap considerable praise on the vice president, who also serves as president of the Senate. "Dan Quayle knows more about what's happening in Congress than any living American," Cox told his viewers. Quayle did not blush.
The two interrupted their chat long enough to make room for KABC radio talk show host Michael Jackson in Los Angeles, who hooked into the program for a feed to his Southern California radio audience. Jackson wanted to know if the war with Iraq was worth it. Quayle assured him that it was. "Thank you for letting me time-share," a cheery Jackson told the congressman as he signed off.
In an interview after the taping, Quayle said he pioneered the use of the House television studio in the late 1970s when he used the facility to hold live press conferences with reporters back in his Indiana congressional district. "It's a good way to circumvent the national media," he explained, grinning. "That's what I had in mind."
Quayle also said he has abandoned plans to look for a home in Orange County, a move that was the subject of repeated rumors during the early months of the Bush Administration.
"That rumor should be shot down," Quayle said. "People in southern Indiana, they were (saying), 'If you're thinking about Southern California, what's wrong with southern Indiana.' "
Returning to Leisure World was not the only demand Cox made of Quayle during the show.
Pulling a Boy Scout manual from a table beside him, Cox said it had been sent to him by Thomas Matthew LaParne, a young Scout from Huntington Beach who ran into Cox at a Fourth of July parade.
"He asked me whether or not I could get the vice president . . . to sign his Boy Scout handbook," Cox explained to the somewhat surprised Quayle, "so I'll presume upon you right in the middle of this television show to sign this if you don't mind."
Again, Quayle agreed, pulling a pen from the folds of his impeccably pressed suit. "Chris," he said. "nobody can accuse you of not doing what your constituents want. I can't wait for your next request."
Cox replied that the voters back home are asking for only a few more things: "Make sure we get out of the recession . . . balance the budget . . . don't raise taxes."
On those points, Quayle made no promises.