SOUTH BEND – The former vice president from Indiana comes across looking very good in the long-anticipated book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on the final months of the Trump presidency. I’m not surprised. The former vice president looking so good is Dan Quayle, not Mike Pence.
     
Excerpts from the book “Peril” include revelations about Pence being less resolute than previously portrayed in refusing to overturn election certification and how Quayle helped to stiffen Pence’s backbone, telling him to do the right thing in a phone conversation prior to Jan. 6. I’m not surprised.
     
The authors – Woodward, legendary journalist of Watergate fame, and Costa, a 2008 Notre Dame graduate emerging as a top national journalist – tell of Pence calling Quayle, who presided in the constitutional role of vice president in certification of his own loss on the ticket with George H.W. Bush in 1992.
     
Here’s the account of that pivotal call: Pence was asking repeatedly if there was some way to follow Trump’s demand to throw out election results. “Mike, you have no flexibility on this,” Quayle told him. “None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away.”
     
Pence pleaded that Quayle didn’t know the position he was in, with pressure from Trump. “I do know the position you’re in,” Quayle responded. “I also know what the law is.”
     
When Pence suggested there might be something to Trump’s claim of election fraud in Arizona, Quayle stomped on it, saying, “Mike, I live in Arizona. There’s nothing out here.”
     
I’m not surprised that Pence, concerned with his image of unflinching supporter of Trump, so important for his own presidential quest, was wavering on what to do. I’m not surprised that Quayle, despite an unfair image as a lightweight stung by a spelling bee word, “potato,” was unwavering in his stand for what was constitutional, what was right.
     
Throughout his governmental service – House, Senate and the vice presidency – Quayle was steadfast in conservative philosophy, which at that time included defending the Constitution and the rule of law.
 
Since back when Quayle was the surprise vice presidential nominee picked by the first President Bush, I’ve disputed that lightweight image. Not that I thought Quayle was among the very best senators at the time, but because he certainly was far from the least. I had numerous calls from the national news media seeking stories about Quayle being dumb or incompetent. They seemed disappointed when I had no such stories.
     
Quayle, like Pence, was a loyal vice president. With differences. Quayle was loyal to a very good president who deserved support. Quayle, however, wasn’t just a fawning pawn in the Oval Office. Pence, always the fawning pawn, was loyal to a president so unhinged that, as the “Peril” authors and others have recounted, the nation’s military leaders worried that Trump would start a war to help retain his presidency.
     
Some analysts now portray Quayle as saving democracy and Pence as someone barely deserving escape from Jan. 6 insurrectionists shouting, “Hang Mike Pence!”
     
It’s great to see Quayle get some favorable recognition. The nation would not have faltered if Quayle had been thrust through disaster to the presidency. He certainly would never have caused military leaders to fear he was acting crazy.
     
Though Pence doesn’t emerge as unflinchingly standing up for democracy, he did so when it counted on Jan. 6, accepting certification after violence that was intended to stop it. Pence, if thrust into the presidency, also would have provided steady leadership, never feared as looking at war with China for political purposes.
     
Two former vice presidents from Indiana. One looking very good. The other looking very shaky before standing firm. I’m not surprised. Not about either. 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.