June 15th, 1992 was officially the worst day of former Vice President Dan Quayle's life. In a single day, he destroyed whatever he had managed to build of a political career. I don't think I can tell of the events of the day better than the following excerpt from this article:
In [his] book, Quayle said he knew little about his next stop, in Trenton, other than it was to help spotlight the city’s Weed and Seed program, which still provides anti-drug education to grade schoolers while they also are being watched by adults until their parents get home from work.
When he got the Munoz Rivera School, Quayle spoke with some women involved in the program, saw a drill team perform and looked in on some self-esteem classes before his aides started hustling him off to another classroom for a staged spelling bee.
"What are we supposed to do?’’ I asked Keith Nahigian, the advance man who had prepared this little photo op,’’ Quayle wrote.
"Just sit there and read these words off some flash cards, and the kids will go up and spell them at the blackboard,’’ the handler told the VP.
"Has anyone checked the card?’’ another aide asked.
"Oh, yeah,’’ responded Nahigian. "We looked at them and they’re just very simple words. No big deal.’’
Enter William Figueroa, 12, a sixth-grader from the Mott School in the South Ward who had been bused to Munoz Rivera to take part in the vice presidential event.
Figueroa knew how to spell potato, and he wrote it in a legible script on the blackboard when Quayle announced his word for the spelling bee.
Quayle looked at the blackboard, then at his contest card, and gently and quietly told the boy, "You’re close, but you left a little something off. The e on the end.
"So William, against his better judgment and trying to be polite, added an e’’ and won applause for it from those assembled in the classroom, including Mayor Doug Palmer, Quayle wrote.
The misspelling wasn’t mentioned until the end of the press conference afterward, when one reporter asked Quayle, "How do you spell potato?’’
"I gave him a puzzled look, and then the press started laughing. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized anything was wrong,’’ Quayle wrote.
"None of the staff people had told me. Caught off guard, I just rattled on a little to fill the air — something about how I wasn’t going to get into spelling matters — but I knew something was really amiss.’’
Imagine. IMAGINE. Something so seemly small exposed this man in such a big way. This story is sad on many levels:
Level #1: The VP of the United States could not spell the word potato.
Level #2: I am pretty sure I learned the "no E at the end of the word potato" rule because of this incident (even though I was only recently reminded of it).
Level #3: According to the rest of that article, the boy who did know how to spell "potato" ended up as a high school dropout and fathered a child by age 17.
Level #4: Dan Quayle took the rap for everyone really. Although he should have known better, the word was misspelled on a card the school had provided him. It doesn't really seem all that fair. Someone prone to explain stories like this by way of conspiracy may wonder if someone misspelled the word on the card on purpose to see if they could cause the blunder.
Level #5: If it were not for spell check, this blog post may suffer from several more misspelled words (because I know there are some that fall through the cracks). Then again, one could argue it is in fact spell check itself that leads to students not learning how to spell properly in the first place. Some simple words I will bashfully admit to consistently spelling incorrectly include: sandwHich and refriDgerator.
Level #6: Dan Quayle cannot use the spell-check-leads-to-students-not-learning-to-spell-properly excuse.
You know what goes better with a potato than the letter "E"? Mustard.
I know it sounds strange, but my trusty friend over at the Smitten Kitchen food blog said it would be great, and it is. When I made these potatoes, Zach actually commented on them before I asked him how they were. They are easy, flavorful and go well with steak and red wine.
Dan Quayle Roasted Mustard Potatoes
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen - serves 4)
1/2 C whole grain Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
3/4 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs small potatoes, quartered or halved (depending on the size) into about 3/4 inch wedges (use any variety you like or mix a few different types)
Fresh ground black pepper
Preheat to 425°F. Spray cooking spray onto a large baking sheet. Whisk mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and salt in a large bowl until blended. Add potatoes; black pepper and toss until the potatoes are completely coated. Spread potatoes in single layer on the baking sheet.
Roast potatoes 20 minutes. Remove from oven to flip them. Roast them for another 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are crusty on the outside and soft on the inside (about 40 to 45 minutes in all).