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by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

This past Sunday morning, Philadelphia Inquirer editor, Kevin Ferris, once again went talk radio all over the Philadelphia Inquirer opinion pages, able to spin Gen. Wesley Clark's response to a question concerning John McCain's readiness as president into a hyperbolic hit piece surmising that Clark "denigrated the uniform" and that Barack Obama will "use the uniform as needed, disgracing those who suffered or died wearing it."

Wow. Might as well pen in Ferris as Bill O'Reilly's vacation sub.

What Ferris chose to leave out was the context of Clark's response where Face The Nation host, Bob Schieffer noted that Obama had not "ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down." Clark said, "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

Not did he include Clark's preface to his response, including, "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces, as a prisoner of war."

Wow #2. Disgrace, thy name be honor. Or visa versa.

As General Clark found out last week, while it's okay to tear apart John Kerry's wartime experience, it's not nice to refer to John McCain's military record unless you genuflect with doing it. My guess is, that when the Founding Fathers put together the Constitution, they has no idea that there would be wars or they would have made serving in one a presidential prerequisite. But since they didn't, let's take a peak into the document and find out whether one needs the McCain experience to be eligible to lead us out of the eight-year mess created by the last military (sic) veteran.

The Constitution is a wacky, kinda living, kinda not, document that explains just what we Americans can get away with. It also frames the conditions within which one can run for the position where one American can get away with the most -- President of the United States of America. And Clark's comments were not a denigration of the uniform, but a reflection of the document that our troops have fought and died to protect for over 200 years.

Specifically, the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1, reads:

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.

In addition there is the Term Limit Amendment XXII, Section 1:

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

Far from trying to select a Pope, the Constitution makes everything else printed on its pages neither a qualification nor disqualification for becoming President. But even with the Constitution's specifics, there has been some controversy as to what does or not qualify one to be President. Being a POW or DUI has never kept anyone from becoming President or Vice President. Nor does it necessarily a good President or Vice. A driver's licence doesn't make you eligible to enter the Indy 500, but not having one could keep you out. Complicated, huh? Sure, but pointing it out itself can be a tightrope walk so tenuous that political correctness might dissuade anyone not in a long black robe from walking that line -- or plank.

So, saving those with more on the line than I, here is some additional information that may or may not help you make a decision as to the propriety of a candidate you may be considering to vote for as President of the United States this November.


Having friends or colleagues of questionable deportment -- whether supporting pastors or supporting presidents -- neither disqualifies nor disqualifies one from becoming president nor does it mean that you couldn't have received something morally confirming from that same relationship.


Dumping your wife for a younger, prettier, richer model or holding on to your first wife even when she weighs her proudness for this country based on your presidential possibilities, neither disqualifies you from becoming president nor makes your marital judgement any different than 99.99 percent of those who make very private decisions in very personal parts of their lives.


Being President twice, may qualify you in terms of experience but disqualifies you due to the same experience. It's not a demeaning observation to point out that a President has completed two terms. It is only the consequence of certain segments of the Constitution, the same Constitution you've been sworn to uphold, except that you can no longer swear to it, that is being cited.


Being an adorable one-year-old neither qualifies you to serve as president, by a scant thirty-four years, nor gives you the necessary reach to press the button, unless your Vice President lifts you up to it. Nor does saying the baby isn't qualified, doesn't make the kid ugly.


A great cut of medium rare filet mignon, though tender and succulent, neither would be qualified to make life or death decisions concerning a nation, nor tastes any less luscious.

The decision making process is a tasty one, with so many things to consider, so, short of an amendment to the Constitution, perhaps we consider forging our decisions on how our candidates deal with the real issues of running a country, not on whether they'd be a great Pope.

Steve Young is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" ( and blogs at

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Albion Monitor   July 5, 2008   (

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