Origin of Dan Rather's "He couldn't sell watermelons..." (Think Texas)

CNBC’s Chris Matthews tried to interrupt Dan Rather today immediately after “watermelon,” but the phrase wasn’t originated by Dan Rather on the spot.

From Ace of Spades HQ:

More: Left Coast Rebel has the transcript:

“When you talk about a triumph though, part of the undertow in the coming election is going to be President Obama’s leadership and the Republicans are making a case, a lot of independents will buy this argument, listen he just hasn’t been…look at the health care bill, it was his number one priority, it took him forever to get it through and he had to compromise it to death and a version of …listen, he’s a nice person, he’s very articulate, this was going to be used against him. But He couldn’t sell watermelons if you gave him if you gave him a State Trooper to flag down traffic…”
Is that an expression? “Couldn’t sell X if you gave him a state trooper to flag down traffic.”?

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 02:20 PM

Another job for the penniless etymologist of thousands of Americanisms. I solved “Oscar” last night and no love. Tough crowd here.

I just added this to my website:

Democratic Underground
Fly by night
Fri Jan-21-05 06:13 PM
The point of my earlier post was two-fold:

1) We shouldn’t concede that Bush won “fair and square” because the overwhelming evidence is that he did not. So anyone who says that Bush got the majority of the country to back him is misguided and surrenders the political high ground needlessly.

2) Spending our time criticizing others (particularly in regionalist, classist and other condescending ways) only invites rebuttal comments that we are upper-crust, elite intellectual snobs who couldn’t sell watermelons if we had the Highway Patrol blocking traffic and directing people into our melon patch (one of my favorite Jim Hightower sayings).

Jim Hightower has given us a number of colorful phrases, with my favorite being “There’s nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”

I’ll see if I can get a direct statement from Hightower about his use of the phrase.