After the Civil War, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman famously declined all invitations to run for President, stating “If nominated I will not run, and if elected, I will not serve.”
He was in a bad mood when he said that. Maybe he looked at the polls and got discouraged. Certainly he couldn’t have carried Atlanta.
Anyway, I recently found myself in the odd position of declining a chance for high office too. Last week, I wrote a column pleading with readers to cool the hot rhetoric on both sides of the current political divide. The last line stated that I intend to stay in the middle and listen to both sides, in hopes of learning something. That sentiment touched a nerve with some readers who said they would like an “out of the box” president.
I wouldn’t be the first outsider to dip my hat into the ring. We’ve heard the rumors about Oprah, the Rock, Tom Hanks, the Starbucks guy, and even Alec Baldwin, who might have a head start because he already pretends to be president on TV.
One reader sent me a flattering letter which said, “We need the common sense you possess in Washington.” I responded politely, listing the reasons you would not want me supervising military operations for a nation of 325 million people. He replied, and acknowledged my lack of qualifications. To that, he concluded, “Perhaps the qualifications should be changed.”
He later linked to my column on social media, and it got quite a few “likes.” He then shared his wish that I announce my candidacy, which did not happen. A word to the wise: If you want to encourage negative comments, tell the world you are supporting someone for president. Anyone. In today’s Facebook madhouse, you can post a photo of a cute puppy, and some angry person will call it a flea-bitten mutt. Thankfully, my supporter took my photo down just before anyone could accuse me of being rabid.
One kind soul wrote, “He’s a TV newsman? Being president involves more than reading a teleprompter.” I heartily agree. Sadly, I don’t even do that particularly well.
Another opined, “Oh, so he’s a journalist. That means he likes to blow things up just to get a story, when it’s not really a story.” At first, I was proud that she called me a journalist, until I realized my profession ranks behind telemarketers and porch package thieves in the latest polls.
One gentleman saw the endorsement and simply wrote, “Hell, no!” I’m not sure exactly what he knows about me, but I “liked” his comment. I thought that might add some sunshine to his day.
Truth be told, any political aspirations I may have had were wiped out long ago. I have always admired candidates, but never wanted to be one. As a child in my parents’ country store, I watched one unsuspecting hopeful hand a card to the wrong lady. Before he could sputter out his name, she slapped the card back in his hand. “Don’t give me this propaganda,” she said. “If you’re not a crook now, you will be by the time you leave office!” I’m not sure my skin is thick enough to endure a daily dose of that.
Plus, I lack a key ingredient that seems to help candidates win the White House: an adoring spouse. Don’t get me wrong. My wife loves me, and has done so for thirty years. (We’ve been married for thirty-five, but five of those years were rough. Hey, I’m just joking, Honey!)
You see, my wife is honest to a fault. Plus, she sees and recognizes my faults, and is not afraid to share them with the world. Remember how Nancy Reagan used to cast that adoring gaze toward Ronald when he was making a campaign speech? Every word he spoke was pure gold, in her eyes. The same could be said for Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter, and many other First Lady hopefuls.
I’m not sure my wife could hold back the truth. As soon as I would promise to clean up the opioid epidemic, she would stand up and say, “Don’t listen to him! He won’t even pick up his socks!”
Still, for a day or so, my name was floated for the most powerful office in the world, with a variety of reactions. Now that I’ve officially declared my firm non-candidacy, here’s the sad part. I have known of some seemingly qualified presidents who were not invited back when voters were given a choice. Even with my glaring lack of qualifications, I might not have been the worst one ever.
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best stories. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.