The Man Who Should Have Been Leader of the Free World

In these days of irrational, even insane political machinations, it’s not hard for the memory to slip backward to a candidate who could make sense of all this and again lead the country to greatness, or at least back to being a legend in its collective mind. He’s the candidate who stated quite clearly, “I must choose my words carefully in order to avoid any negative interpretation. Among politicians, this is a tactic known as lying.”

He decried the idea of a professional politician and established an open and honest position: “If nominated I will not run, and if elected I will not serve.” He proclaimed himself neither left-wing nor right-wing, but “middle-of-the-wing,” while observing, “If either the right wing or the left wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles.” He saw the country’s ills as being traced to a single source: “All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.”

He was the founder of the Straight Talking American Government Party (STAG), and his straightforward, to-the-point campaign slogan was, “I’ve upped my standards. Now, up yours.” He was Pat Paulsen, and even though he’s no longer with us except in spirit, that spirit might be a better choice to head this country, maybe with Bill Clinton as vice-president.

For members of Gen B, Paulsen is probably best remembered as the dead-pan, double-speak editorialist of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the irreverent show that debuted in 1967 and set new standards for television—either high or low, depending on your point of view. His catchphrase, which became part of the American vernacular, was, “Picky, picky, picky.” Which seems to be the general attitude of current politicians and candidates when caught in a fib, again a credit to Paulsen’s continuing influence on contemporary politics.

When it was first suggested to Paulsen in 1968 that he make a run for president, he reportedly thought long and hard before declaring, “Why not? I can’t dance–besides, the job has a good pension plan and I’ll get a lot of money when I retire.” Shortly thereafter, he announced the founding of the STAG Party and his candidacy, calling himself “just a common, ordinary, simple savior of America’s destiny.” Summing up his chances, he said, “If elected, I will win.”

It’s not hard to imagine now where this country would be if the majority of the American electorate in 1968 had just listened carefully to this man. After all, this is the candidate who clearly stated:

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself–and of course the boogieman.”

“No taxes. Let’s just tip the government 15%”

“Marijuana should be licensed and kept out of the hands of teenagers. It’s too good for them.”

“Why should we tell kidnappers, murderers, and embezzlers their rights? If they don’t know their rights, they shouldn’t be in the business.”

“Every child has a right to go to high school and end up with a third grade education.”

“Sex doesn’t have to be taught. It’s something most of us are born with.”

Pat Paulsen, who should have been the leader of the free world, we remember and salute you, and wish you were still here to steer us clear of the rocks.


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