Paul Greenberg

It was inevitable that Little Rock's national airport would be renamed the Clinton National Airport. The sound principle of not naming public facilities for prominent personages until they're safely dead now tends to be honored mainly in the breach.

Here in Arkansas, there's no telling how many Mike Huckabee recreation areas and rest stops now dot the state's once pristine landscape in honor of our former governor, who's about to provide Rush Limbaugh some competition on talk radio.

It's almost a law in these parts by now: The state's many natural attractions are going to be named for retiring members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission until we run out of either lakes or commissioners, whichever happens first.

Our bureaucrats love to name landmarks, whether natural or man-made, for politicians. It's even better, and certainly cheaper, to rename existing streets and structures. That way, we don't have to build them from scratch.

Let it be noted that Little Rock is not alone. Another great American president is memorialized by the Jimmy Carter Regional Airport at Americus, Ga. However dismal his actual record, impeached or un-, a president can usually count on the homers to name a municipal facility for him. Local pride demands it, not to mention the tourist trade.

There are airports named for former presidents all over the country. And an official Richard M. Nixon presidential-library-and-museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., that features his presidential limo and helicopter plus his actual birthplace and grave. Not to mention a genuine authentic replica of the Lincoln sitting room in the White House. There's nothing that the good old, red-white-and-blue American can-do spirit can't vulgarize. As the late great H.L. Mencken told us, there's no underestimating the taste of the great American public.

Presidents change, and so does historical fashion. Every president, no matter how much once reviled, can still come back into style. Harry Truman may have been the least popular president ever when he left office, but he's staged a great posthumous comeback in the presidential ratings. And despite the scandals that marred his administration, Gen. Grant has moved up dramatically in the presidential sweepstakes; persistence always was his strong point. Why, even Warren G. Harding's fiscal and diplomatic policies are starting to look good when compared to the current president's.

Every occupant of the Oval Office can be a comeback kid in fickle Clio's ever-changing preferences. For the muse of history, like any other lady, reserves the right to change her mind.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.