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Who is John Galt? I imagine that is much too tricky a question for any millennial in the world.  But at one time – when Americans were reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged – that was the question of the latter 20th Century.  Still, we are not short of missing people in our new 21st Century world either.

For example, I am sure there would also be a lot of mystified looks in any history classroom today with this question – Who is John Edwards?

JOHN EDWARDS: To cut to the quick, John Edwards is a one-time senator from South Carolina who – in 2004 – was chosen by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to run with him as the Democratic Party vice presidential nominee. At the time, Edwards’s main accomplishment had been amassing a small personal fortune as a tort attorney in North Carolina.  His qualifications for the Democratic Party vice presidency were three-fold – he was telegenic, he was from the crucial Southern voting bloc and he was ostensibly liberal in all things politic.

All that exposure he got as a vice presidential candidate in 2004, however, didn’t last very long.

It stayed about four more years, until he tried unsuccessfully in 2008 to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by trying to sneak in between them and proclaiming himself as the adult (i.e., the white man) in the race.

None of this adultness lasted any serious time.  Not only did the philandering Edwards lose the nomination, but in a few years he was cited on six felony charges amassing a possible 30 years in prison of using his campaign money to cover up an affair he was having while his wife was dying of cancer.  He was declared not guilty of only one count, while the other counts were confounded in a mistral.  Today at 63 Edwards is an obscure tort lawyer in North Carolina again.

Let’s go to more missing people who once looked or were at least positioned to be future presidents, such as former Vice President Dan Quayle.

DAN QUAYLE: In January of 1981, Quayle was an underwhelming Senator from Indiana who was unremarkable in everything except that in his age he was America’s youngest senator at only 33. Almost immediately the incoming vice president George H.W. Bush paid almost special fatherly attention to the young Senator he presided over in the Senate.  Then when Bush won the Republican presidential nomination the vice president surprised everyone and made practically no one  happy by making Quayle his vice presidential running mate.

Immediately people were looking for things that were wrong with Quayle.  During the 1988 campaign, he was hammered for signing up with the National Guard during the Vietnam War instead of signing up – for example -- with the Navy Seals or the U.S. Marines. And yet today, in the face of the total military avoidance of our last couple of presidents, Quayle in his old sergeant stripes is beginning to look in relative terms like a new kind of military hero.

After losing prospects for a second term of office in the White House with his fatherly friend George H.W Bush in 1992, Quayle re-emerged into public view by running against Bush’s son George W. Bush for president in 2000.  However, he was largely dismissed and was forced to quit because he had once misspelled “potato” in a visit to a school spelling bee.  America was horrified to learn that Quayle wanted to spell “potato” with an extra “e.”

Some 16 years later, America became much tolerant with a presidential candidate who did something a lot worse, saying into a TV audio/video tape that he liked to grope beautiful young women in their vaginas, using a predator vulgarism to be specific.  But that man was then elected president.

Read more here: A Sharp View: What happened to all those supposedly future presidents?