I agree with Gen. Wesley Clark that piloting a plane and being shot down in that plane don't qualify a person to be president.

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.

For example, it didn't qualify Jimmy Carter to be president that he was the first major-party presidential nominee to have seen a UFO, or at least the first to have admitted having seen one.

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.

In that case, time being warped the way it often allegedly is aboard UFOs, the aliens might have been asking him, without themselves be-ing aware that they were, to take them to his future self. And if he'd agreed to do so, they would've had to take time away from their priority task, which of course would've been performing the medical experiments on Whitley Strieber. Not very likely.

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.

The monkey might've laughed at poor Reagan, or pitied him, or offered him a banana. Or thrown poop at him, or made some other monkey gesture beyond human fathoming, but if so the event went unrecorded, unless Edmund Morris put it in his loony Reagan biography, which, come to think of it, he probably did.

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.

Soon he would have George Will writing speeches for him, after the delivery of which George Will would go on the TV news programs to rave about what swell speeches they were.  That's the rest of the Reagan story.

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.

If Andrew Jackson had lost to the bloody British at New Orleans, if his clever cannoneers hadn't grabbed those alligators and impro-vised them into field artillery, he would never have been president, even though the war was already over and it didn't matter a bit who claimed to have won the Battle of New Orleans.

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.

If Eisenhower had lost World War II, his career would have gone the way of MacArthur's, who lost the big showdown with Capt. Harry Truman. MacArthur was a loser in other ways, too, as any Bataan March survivor   would've told you, for all his congressional fawners.

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?  

You have to be 35 years old to qualify for president. You have to have been born in the country and lived here at least 14 years. You have to have served fewer than two full presidential terms already.  It was once required that you not be an inferior being such as a woman or a 2/5ths being such as a slave, but those old restrictions have been relaxed. You can be short like Madison or fat like Taft. A crook like Nixon. A mess of trash like Harding. You can be an idiot, as George W. Bush has shown.  

And you will remember from Mae West that goodness has nothing to do with it.



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