Ben Quayle bashes Obama. But can he spell 'potato'?

Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, released a tough-talking political ad Wednesday. We take you now in the way-back machine to 1992, when the elder Quayle led a spelling bee.

Matt York/AP Photo
Ben Quayle is shown Aug. 11 in Phoneix. Quayle is currently leading 10 Republicans in fundraising and name recognition in the primary race for Arizona's 3rd Congressional District. The son of former Vice President Dan Quayle admitted once he wrote for a racy website that follows nightlife in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Ben Quayle says Barack Obama is the “worst president in history” and that he (Mr. Quayle, that is, not Mr. Obama) wants to “knock the hell” out of Washington. Plus, there are drug cartels in Mexico, and tax cartels in D.C., which apparently are equivalent in some manner.

Quayle is a young Republican lawyer running for Congress in Arizona, and he says all this in a political ad released Wednesday.

Yes, yes, fine, fine, the nation’s capital is a portal of Hades from which a river of evil runs unendingly. But here’s what we want to know: Can Quayle spell “potato”?

We’re asking this because Quayle is the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, who couldn’t. Spell “potato,” that is. At least he couldn’t, or didn’t, at one point, since we’re pretty sure that given multiple attempts he would have gotten it right, and the whole thing was kind of somebody else’s fault anyway.

We take you now in the way-back machine to June 15, 1992. VP Quayle is campaigning for reelection at an elementary-school spelling bee in Trenton, N.J. Student William Figueroa is up, and he spells “potato” correctly. Then Mr. Quayle urges him to keep going and add an “e” at the end, as in “potatoe.”

In a millisecond, Quayle’s reputation as lightweight Breck shampoo politician – sort of John Edwards before his time – is codified. Does it matter today that he was reading from a cue card that itself misspelled the word? No it does not. In political terms.

“It was more than a gaffe,” Quayle wrote later in his memoirs. “It was a ‘defining moment’ of the worst imaginable kind.”

Quayle the Younger seems to be taking the sensible political approach of trying to define himself before his opponents in the Aug. 24 GOP primary bring all this up and try to engage him in an impromptu vegetable spelling bee of some kind. Thus his growling, simple, sledgehammer ad, which might work even better if he did not have blond hair and the build of a young lawyer, as opposed to the build of a young lumberjack.

Without judging whether Obama is the worst chief executive in US history, we have two points to make:

1. We’re betting Obama could spell “potato.” Maybe even “tomato.”

2. We would love to see Ben Quayle try to knock the hell out of Rahm Emanuel.

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