Rep. Ben Quayle was elected in 2010 by Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, which is in the Sonoran Desert in the Valley of the Sun around Phoenix. One of his popular campaign ads stated, “Barack Obama is the worst president in history,” a theme he has brought to Washington through tough, comprehensive criticism of current White House policies. Elected to Congress at 33 years old, big things are expected of this freshman legislator given that his father Dan Quayle was sent to the House of Representatives at 29, the Senate at 33 and was sworn in as vice president of the United States at 41. Before running for office two years ago, Ben Quayle practiced law in New York, California and Arizona and founded the investment firm Tynwald Capital with his brother Tucker. You can find out more about the congressman’s views at: quayle.house.gov.
Decker: You witnessed up close and personal how vicious politics can be when your dad was vice president and the liberal media attacked him so unfairly. What made you decide to wade into these turbulent waters and run for public office yourself?
Quayle: When I decided to run it wasn’t an easy decision. I was leading a successful small business, was about to get married and was very satisfied with my life. But I was disgusted with the direction our country was taking under President Obama and the Democrat majority in Congress. I decided that I either had to try and do something to help change the direction of our country, or I had to stop yelling at the television. So, I decided to run for Congress and help lead our country to a more prosperous future.
Decker: What issues inspire you most as a legislator?
Quayle: The core American value of the individual going as far as his or her talents and work will take them is under attack. Gradually, America has moved away from an emphasis on personal responsibility and hard work to a government-centric philosophy where class warfare and populist demagoguery are used to turn Americans against each other and make everyone dependent on government. I’m in Congress to fight back. I believe in the free-enterprise system and I believe in the individual. I’m determined to cut red tape, cut taxes and reform entitlement programs. In doing so, we will empower individuals and entrepreneurs and restore the foundations of the American dream.
Decker: You saw Washington from an interesting vantage point living in the capital as the son of the man a heartbeat away from the presidency. What memories do you have as a kid in those years, and how does that experience illuminate your work in Congress?
Quayle: Although there are a lot of great memories from those years, the one experience that has a direct impact on my work in Congress was the Bush tax increase. Everyone remembers that President George H.W. Bush campaigned in 1988 with the slogan, “Read my lips … no new taxes.” Well, in an effort to work with a Democrat-controlled Congress, President Bush agreed to a “balanced” approach of spending cuts and tax increases. The problem was that the tax increases occurred immediately and the spending cuts never materialized. This sounds very familiar to today’s arguments from President Obama about needing a “balanced” approach to our fiscal problems. Once again, this is a trap. My experience watching the fallout from those tax increases has allowed me to lead our conference away from this approach and focus on spending cuts and other reforms as the only legitimate solutions to our fiscal problems.
Decker: Your famous family name does put a target on your back. What advice did you get from your parents when you decided to enter the political fray? There’s still a lot of fondness out there for Marilyn and Dan Quayle; what are they up to these days?
Quayle: Both of my parents always told me to stand up for what I believe in regardless of what the chattering class is saying. Also, I should never compromise my core convictions, because, at the end of the day, I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror and believe that I did what was best for my country, my state and my district. My parents are doing well and living in Paradise Valley, Ariz. My dad still works full-time and my mom enjoys spoiling her four grandchildren.
Decker: The national debt is gobbling up our gross domestic product, taxes are rising, gas prices are sky high, unemployment is stuck at painful levels and President Obama is squandering the traditional U.S. leadership role in global affairs. By almost every indicator, America is in crisis. From your vantage point as a national leader, is it too late to turn this situation around, and what can be done to resuscitate American Exceptionalism?
Quayle: America is still the most dynamic country the world has ever known. We are still the nerve center of innovation, entrepreneurship and exploration. We still have the best system of government, the best military and the strongest values. A great deal of damage has been done to our country, but we have everything we need to repair it and more. We’re at a crossroads, but I believe that if we make the right decisions, we will give our children the bright future we had.