Politicians are busy people. They don't always have time to really read books, listen closely to songs, or actually pay attention to films. Which might be why they misinterpret them so often. Ronald Reagan famously thought "Born in the USA," a depressing song about America after the Vietnam War, was a patriotic anthem. Now, we have the case of Guns, Germs and Steel author Jared Diamond saying that Mitt Romney misread his book. Romney's Guns, Germs and Steel misreading reminded commenter D E of the inspiration ex-Vice President Dan Quayle's allegedly took from the 1972 satire The Candidate:
Dan Quayle once said that he had been inspired to go into politics by seeing the Robert Redford film "The Candidate."
Redford was told about that, and said "I think he missed the point of the film."
This story is probably apocryphal, actually. We couldn't find an instance where Quayle actually said this directly, but plenty of articles from the 1988 campaign attribute vague friends or acquaintances of Quayle as saying that the budding politician was captivated by Robert Redford's performance. The Quayle-Redford connection apparently goes further back in his political career, and an Associated Press feature on Quayle shortly after he was selected to be George H.W. Bush's running mate suggests the connection wasn't accidental and dates back at least to his first run for Senate in Indiana:
It was in the 1980 Senate race that much was made of the resemblance between the young congressman and Robert Redford. At one point, the actor sent Quayle a telegram telling him to stop the look-alike references in his promotional literature. Quayle replied that it was the fault of the media, not his literature. After he won, he sent Redford an autographed picture of himself.
Asked about the comparison this week, Quayle sighed. His blue eyes flashed as he brushed his brownish-blond hair aside impatiently.
''I've had that stigma since I first ran for the Senate. It's stuck ever since,'' he says. ''Obviously I'd rather talk about the issues. I think I have a feeling of what Jack Kennedy went through. ... I'd rather talk about what I stand for than what I look like.''
It's easy to see why such a story would spread: there's an undeniably striking resemblance between Redford and Quayle. We don't know if The Candidate inspiration grew out of their testy relationship, but Redford, who took to calling the comparisons "Quayle droppings," bought the claim. In 1988, he told the Chicago Tribune, "Dan Quayle clearly missed the point of the movie."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.