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A Rerun?

Every so often to lighten the late-night mood, I find myself tuning in to WNEP-2 to catch reruns of the old Johnny Carson late-night show. While Carson’s monologue and guests are not timely, they remain funny and entertaining. Unlike the current late-night lineup of Carson wannabes whose mission seems to be hurling unfunny insulting jabs at those individuals they dislike, Carson’s off-beat humor is still funny well over thirty years after they first aired.

Reruns of other old TV shows remain popular in many circles and provide a bit of a respite from some of the programming that is trying to pass for entertainment these days.

That said, according to a recent poll, there is one rerun the majority of American voters have no appetite to watch this year: a rerun of the 2020 presidential race between the former president and the one now occupying the White House. 60% of Republican voters polled, and 59% of Democrats want to see their party select standard bearers other than those hurling mud and accusations at each other over the past four years.

There are those voters who will back a particular candidate no matter what the issue may be. However, another recent poll asked people what they considered the most important qualities a presidential candidate should possess. The most cited qualities include:
– Honesty: A president should be truthful and transparent with the public.
– Integrity: A president should be ethical and have strong moral principles.
– Leadership: A president should be able to inspire and motivate people and have the ability to make tough decisions.
– Experience: A president should have experience in government or other leadership roles.
– Communication Skills: A president should be able to communicate effectively with the public and other world leaders.
– Judgement: A president should be able to make sound decisions based on facts and evidence.
– Empathy: A president should be able to understand and relate to the needs of the people they serve.
– Vision: A president should have a clear vision for the future of the country and be able to articulate it to the public.

When applied to the current front-runners, passing scores could be hard to come by.

David Letterman, another of the old-time late-night TV show hosts, was famous for his Top Ten list he would present each evening.
One ranking of United States presidential performances revealed these Top Ten achievers:

10. James Madison (1809-1817) – He had strong moral authority and is well-regarded by historians. He declared war against Great Britain in 1812, which Americans considered a success, leading to a period of soaring nationalism.
9. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) – He rates well for crisis management and handling of international relations. He stood up to the Soviets and defused the Cuban Missile Crisis. He inspired Americans by vowing to put a man on the moon and supported progress on civil rights.
8. Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) – He tops the charts for his pursuit of equal justice for all Americans by securing the enactment of the landmark Civil Rights Act.
7. Harry Truman (1945-1953) – Although unpopular when he left office, he possessed strong foreign policy leadership. His leadership ended World War II and watched the signing of the establishment of the United Nations.
6. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) – He obtained a truce after years of war in Korea, continued the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces, and sent federal troops to enforce a court order desegregating public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.
5. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) – He was instrumental in the founding of our nation and was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. During his presidency, he acquired the Louisiana Territory and slashed the national debt by a third.
4. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) – Just 42 when he took office, he became the youngest president in the nation’s history. His enthusiasm and energy convinced Congress to pass progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy. He lived by the motto, “speak softly and carry a big stick,” and oversaw the expansion of America’s national parks.
3. George Washington (1789-1797) – He ranks highly for his moral authority and overall performance as the country’s first president. He fought hard for the Constitution but was disappointed to see the country becoming more politically divided. He set a precedent by choosing to retire after his second term.
2. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) – He was praised for his crisis leadership. He led the country through one of its most trying periods, the Civil War, and in 1863 signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
1. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) – He assumed the presidency during the worst of the Great Depression but assured the American people: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He also led the U.S. through the perilous years of World War II and was lauded for his devotion to economic justice.

Any top ten listing can be objective, but it is interesting to note that no presidential leaders of this century are included in this listing.

In 1985, county music legend George Jones had a hit record entitled “Whose Gonna Fill Their Shoes.” The song questioned who would step forward to carry on the storied history of country music in this country. Luckily, new performers emerged to continue the popularity of the genera.

The early returns of the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary have begun the march to the November election. Yet, concerned Americans may be asking the same question posed by Jones’ song – is there anyone out there who can step up and provide this country the leadership needed to close the divide now being experienced?

Not all reruns are fun to watch.