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May the best man

Posted Monday, January 9, 2012, at 10:19 AM

"No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States." (US Constitution, Article II, Section 1)

The results, if you can call them that, are in from the Iowa caucuses. Please forgive apparent ignorance on the subject, but it appears that in a non-binding, unofficial Party referendum one candidate "won" with 25 percent of the vote. Outside Iowa 25 percent is not often confused with a majority, and an eight-vote differential is comparable to "Landslide Lyndon's" Texas politics victory so many years past. A political, or polling, victory is apparently still a victory in politics and polling.

During the 1960 Democratic Convention supporters of Governor Adlai Stevenson were trying to wrestle the apparent nomination away from the junior Senator of Massachusetts. Stevenson had been nominated twice before, losing both times to Eisenhower ("the man who won the War!"). Still, old Adlai had his supporters, including my father who telegrammed the Missouri delegation in support of the Illinois Governor. Yes, children, Conventions decided things back then; and that's how folks communicated in 1960, by hand-delivered telegrams.

Two things stood out in my mind about that telegram. First, it was my dad's first political involvement. And second, something he said about Stevenson and others seeking the office of President has seemed to hold true these 52 years: "The best qualified man is rarely elected President of the United States."

My father's opinion has been much on my mind as we launch into a new cascade of ceaseless campaigning. How often have we elected the best-qualified man to the job?

Have no dog in the current fight (and this is definitely not any kind of an endorsement) but I vaguely suspect the best-qualified Republican candidate, experientially and intellectually, might be Jon Huntsman. Being qualified doesn't seem to help in being mentioned in polls, or the infinitely more important raising of money.

Sometimes the best man is smart enough to just not want the gig. In the immortal words of General William Tecumseh Sherman, "If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve." Been around long enough to observe that sometimes the best man is wise enough to stay where he can actually accomplish something.

There is always that infamous moment in time. How often has the right man been the wrong age, or the moment in time not his moment? Colin Powell decided not to run because the country was not ready, in 2008 it was.

Often the best man available at the moment simply does not excite enough of the electorate to win. By my father's standards Stevenson was much better qualified than Ike. But the Governor had no chance against the man who called the play on D-Day.

Sometimes the best man really is the guy we got -- times and fashions sweeping him out after one term. In terms of pure experience the most qualified man elected President in my lifetime was George H. W. Bush the elder. Even his vast popularity after the first Gulf conflict could not get him re-elected when an economy over which he had little control turned against him.

Iowa is mercifully behind us, only 49 more battles to endure. May the best man (or woman) be found and be willing to serve!

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Dear Dave,

I just want you to know that I have a coming piece of similar character. In it I have a quote from Mark Twain about presidential politics. Now you have stolen my thunder!

What to do?

Politicians count on short memories. The election season is long. Perhaps I can mothball it and run it later in the year.

We shall see.

Nevertheless, another excellent piece!


-- Posted by Charles Hear on Mon, Jan 9, 2012, at 3:40 PM

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