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There are lots of things that don't qualify a person to be president. There are more things that don't qualify a person to be president than there are things that do.
It might have better qualified him — or completely disqualified him in the view of some — if he had said that he had not only seen a UFO but had been sucked aboard one. It would've given his account special piquancy, and powerful legs, if he had claimed that while aboard the UFO the occupants had asked him to take them to his leader, and that he had no way of knowing, being merely human, that one day he would be, his very own self, a candidate to become the leader that those otherworldly creatures wanted to be taken to.
Here's another example. It didn't qualify Ronald Reagan to be president that he couldn't beat a monkey for top billing in a movie in which he and the monkey co-starred. The monkey even got its name in the title and Ronald Reagan didn't. At that juncture, at least according to the monkey's agent, the score would've been Monkey 2, Ronald Reagan 0.
But while the Bonzo ass-kicking must've seemed at the time to have dashed any formative Reagan presidential hopes, it was the human half of the movie team who had the last laugh. It was to the monkey, in fact, while it was saying “yabba dabba dabba dabba dabba dabba dabba,” or some such jabber, that Reagan first said, “There you go again,” starting himself on the road to his big comeback.
Closer to the point of Gen. Clark's remarks, military leadership is no real presidential qualification. What Americans want in a presidential candidate is not heroic military service but military service performed for the winning side. Robert E. Lee was obviously much better qualified to be president than U.S. Grant was, but his side lost, and voters never want to elevate a loser. Doing so is too much like validating the loser's losing cause.
Old Hickory's political viability also required him to maintain his winning record through Indian wars and a number of duels. Losing any of those duels — or even tying one — being shown up as a poltroon, or as one who with impunity could be called a poltroon, would have doomed his presidential aspirations and given unconscionable encouragement to the effete Whigs. And if there was anything the country needed in that era, it was not to embolden Whigs.
And there's this: How far would Theodore Roosevelt have got if he'd tooted retreat down San Juan Hill? Or Washington, if halfway across the Delaware, he'd turned back, having calculated the odds and made the sensible call?
And you will remember from Mae West that goodness has nothing to do with it.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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