So what I come up with, after plowing through Dan Quayle's statements of the last two days and the last four years, is a choice -- Quayle's Choice for Single Women Who Get Pregnant: Don't Have An Abortion or Don't Have The Baby.
It's that simple.
Except that there's probably a third choice in Quayle's stream -- or is it puddle? -- of consciousness: Get Married.
So let's make that Quayle's Choice For Single Women Who Get Pregnant: Don't Have An Abortion or Don't Have A Baby or Don't Let The Father Get Away.
Of course, once an unwed mother gets married, she probably shouldn't get divorced, even if the marriage is miserable, because that would make her an unwed mother again.
So let's amend Quayle's Choice one more time: Don't Have An Abortion or Don't Have A Baby or Don't Let The Father Get Away and Don't Get Divorced.
Does that about cover it? Have I left anything out? Do I understand our vice president correctly?
The man opposes abortion. And, based on his Murphy Brown comments, he opposes unmarried women having babies. Both things, he believes, contribute to the erosion of American family values. And that contributes to the breakdown of social and civil order. And that eventually contributes to the dire problems that afflict American society, especially its cities.
And, as we all know, since the Los Angeles riots, Dan Quayle and George Bush really care about American cities. Urban policy -- it's hot.
So what we come up with is Quayle's Choice, which, of course, is baffling.
Still, we must credit the vice president with bringing the issue -- unwed mothers -- to the forefront of the American agenda. It also brought Candice Bergen's picture to the front pages of prestigious newspapers. And it made Marlin Fitzwater admit to a lifelong crush on Candice Bergen, which probably made Candice Bergen have morning sickness all over again.
Of course, Candice Bergen didn't really have morning sickness as Murphy Brown on the popular CBS sitcom. You see -- and I don't know if the vice president has picked up on this yet -- Murphy Brown is fictional. I know that What's TV and What's Real often get blurred, and the nation's image-makers know how to exploit that phenomenon. (Eight years ago, when Nancy Kulp, who played Miss Jane Hathaway on "The Beverly Hillbillies," ran as a Democrat for Congress in California, Republicans brought in Buddy Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett, to campaign for her opponent.)
But let's get it straight about Murphy Brown, OK? She's a fictional woman who had a fictional pregnancy that resulted
in a fictional baby. And, as for being an example of the problem Dan Quayle wants to bring to the American agenda, she might as well be fictional, too.
Murphy Brown is rich, white, established, professional. She can afford nannies and a fancy nursery and private schools for her kid.
She made a decision to have her baby and not have an abortion, but probably could have done so, and paid for it herself.
Murphy Brown is not at all like the teen-age girls and young women who, being poor, are generally prohibited from having government-financed abortions.
Murphy does not live with her parents. She does not receive welfare payments that would be cut should she decide to live with her child's father or have a second child out of wedlock.
She won't find herself leaving her kid with poorly paid baby sitters who are unqualified to care for her child while she works at a job that pays little more than the minimum wage. Despite popular belief, there are a lot of women in that category -- single women and heads of households who chose to work rather than go on welfare. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5.8 million single working mothers in the United States in 1991. Two million of them had incomes of only $10,000 to $20,000. The fathers of their children contribute little or nothing to the household budget. So they can't afford to raise their families in the happy suburbs Dan Quayle is used to. They can't afford health care or decent day care.
Dan Quayle is saying that the nation would be better off if these women did not have babies in the first place.
In saying so, he reflects a kind of Reaganesque fantasy thinking. He says Hollywood is out of touch, but Quayle isn't exactly captain of the space shuttle Reality. Teen-age pregnancy and the phenomenon of unwed mothers have been out there as issues for a long time, and I can't think of a single time during the Reagan-Bush era it was addressed forcefully. But that's par for the course at the White House. The Rodney King beating, the L.A. riots, Murphy's pregnancy -- good thing they were on TV, or we might never have heard Bush or Quayle mention them.