Bob's the Guy for My Vote
Fully aware that the next presidential sweepstakes is still more than two and a half years away - too soon for some tastes, light years away for others - I just want to get this off my chest before some other newspaper hack steals my great idea.
Next time around, I'm voting for Bob.
In complete candor, I'm not sure which Bob I'll be voting for, but I'm absolutely convinced there is a Bob out there worthy of my support, presidentially speaking, even if I have to write his name on the ballot.
You see, I've long had this theory that what this country really needs is somebody named Bob for president.
That's because, as a rule, Bobs are simply great people. The Bobs I've known are all genial and polite and not terribly flashy souls, smart without being too smart, natural ambassadors of good will, salt-of-the-earth guys, reliable as a good wristwatch. If you know a Bob, brother, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Oh, sure. There's the odd bad apple among any given barrel of Bobs. But generally speaking, Bobs are among the most normal and likeable people on earth. That's because whatever you see with a Bob is generally exactly what you get. Any way you look at a Bob, as the very name implies, front to back or vice versa, he's pretty much the same, a model of consistency and balance: B-O-B.
Truth is, I'll bet you know a great Bob or two, too. Take this quick Bob quiz: Write down every Bob you can think of. How many of them have ever been to jail or stopped a crucial congressional vote on extending unemployment benefits to 20 million out-of-work people? Not many, I'll bet!
Here's my own list of great Bobs.
Bob Hope, the entertainer.
Bob Jones, the golfing great.
Bob Dylan, the legendary songwriter.
Bob Keeshun, a.k.a Captain Kangaroo.
Bob Costas, TV sports interviewer.
Bob Denver, the original "Gilligan."
Bob DeNiro, tough guy, acting legend.
Bob Elliot, famous radio comedian.
Bob Newhart, '70s comedy icon.
Bob Cousy, basketball great.
Bob Gibson, St. Louie flamethrower.
Jim-Bob Walton, dorky but nice younger brother on "The Waltons."
So Much Common Sense
See what I mean? I could go on all day naming great Bobs, Bobs from every walk of life, Bobs you wish you knew. Any one of these Bobs would probably make a fine president.
This "Bob" theory of mine came back in timely fashion the other day while I was having lunch in the bar with my friend Bob Johnston out at Belle Meade.
On a nearby TV was a special CNN report about how our federal government is hopelessly "broken," a dysfunctional family in which Democrats and Republicans are acting like a bunch of rich spoiled brats.
Before he retired a few years ago, my friend Bob was the headmaster of several of the finest private schools in the Southeast. So he's an old hand at dealing with rich spoiled brats, future obstructionist senators, idiotic speakers of the House and so forth.
Before that, he was a history teacher who believed passionately in taking his impressionable charges to battlefields and historic places so they could breathe the air of living history and appreciate how dramatic events of long ago helped shape modern American life.
As CNN's talking heads were fretting about our "broken government" over his shoulder, Bob and I fell into a conversation about a controversial recommendation some nitwit in our state education system recently put forth to skip teaching American history before 1880. The rationale seems to be that young people these days have so much on their fragile minds that anything that happened, say, over a hundred years ago just won't compute.
"But it just doesn't make any sense not to teach history," Bob Johnston reflected quietly - because Bobs tend to always reflect in such a manner. "Understanding where we came from and how we dealt with the major issues of former times - including the Revolutionary and Civil wars and their aftermath, for heaven's sake - is crucial to understanding how we choose live today."
"Bingo," I said enthusiastically to Bob, prompting people at adjacent tables to glance over at us with mild alarm. (Jims, as a rule of thumb, can sometimes get carried away.) And right then the thought came to me: Why isn't this guy president of the United States? He makes so much common sense!
The Name's the Thing
Bob Johnston has, after all, all the usual Bob attributes: He's smart, quiet-spoken, experienced in handling rich brats, a thoughtful listener with a terrific sense of humor, likes fishing and baseball, was a devoted husband and father, dotes on his grandchildren and doesn't watch much reality TV shows. He even sprung for lunch. In other words, ideal presidential material.
I could just picture Bob Johnston politely giving a squabbling Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner the bum's rush to the Oval Office door, then going back to his sunny desk to nibble a few Girl Scout cookies and read a little more Doris Kearns Goodwin on the trials of Honest Abe Lincoln.
As difficult as it may be to believe, we've never actually had a Bob for president - not even a formal Robert.
In the long and honorable history of this great republic, to briefly review, we've had five Jameses, four Johns, three Georges, three Williams, two Andrews, two Franklins, and one each of the following Martin, Zachary, Millard, Abraham, Ulysses, Rutherford, Chester, Grover, Benjamin, Theodore, Woodrow, Warren, Calvin, Herbert, Harry, Dwight, Richard, Gerald, Jimmy, Ronald, Bill and Barack. Presidentially speaking, you really have to wonder - why would someone name their kid "Rutherford"?
Anyway, I say it's high time for a Bob - maybe even a Robert, as long as he prefers to go by "Bob" to friends and future biographers.
For years I prided myself on picking candidates based entirely on the things they said, the solutions they proposed, the policies they assured would bring us all together. The people I wound up voting for always talked about putting aside partisan differences and getting something accomplished "for the good of the people." They assured us they wanted to be uniters, not dividers. They would clean up the mess, end the gridlock, stop the bickering, do the people's work!
But they never did. And once again, we are a nation gridlocked and broken. So I've decided that picking my next president purely on the basis of his name will probably work at least as well as any method has in the past.
Guy for the Job
In a nutshell, Bob will be my man - assuming Bob Johnston agrees to let himself be drafted by the national Bob Grassroots Movement (BGM). If he politely declines (which is always a possibility - Bobs are naturally modest), I'll just simply go find another Bob I can get behind.
Granted, it may not be that easy. There aren't many Bobs around these days to choose from. On the list of the 100 most popular American baby names, the name "Bob" doesn't even show up. Yet 50 years ago, Bob was in the top 10 of preferred American names. Today, names like "Tyler" and "Blake" are the name people seem to want. That should tell you something about the state of America. We desperately need balance and simplicity. We need to get back to B-O-B!
If I happen to discover there are no Bobs willing or able to run for the presidency, well, I may simply have to go to the next good name on my list. That will either be Henry or Walter. Henry and Walter aren't flashy types, either. You won't see them fooling around with White House interns or secretly taping Oval Office visitors, most of whom will be Cub Scout packs and visiting garden clubbers.
If the moment proves right for our first Madame President, hey, I could easily go for a Betty or Gladys. Bettys rarely miss the details - and don't even think of giving Gladys any lip!
For the record, when I phoned Bob Johnston out at Belle Meade to thank him for the swell lunch and enlivening conversation - and to break the news that he's my man for 2012 - he just laughed out loud and said, "What about Robert E. Lee? I think he would have made an outstanding president."
Isn't that just like a Bob! But at least he didn't say no.
"You'll need a catchy slogan," I advised him, already gearing up for the BGM.
He thought for a moment. Well," he said modestly, "how about 'We'll just Bob along'"?
"Perfect," I said. "I'll get started on the bumper sticker."
Best-selling author Jim Dodson, editor of PineStraw magazine and Sunday essayist with The Pilot, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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