September 18, 2003

by Joe Sobran

     The 2004 presidential race is heating up, and I 
welcome the challenge. General Wesley Clark has just 
thrown his hat into the ring as a Democrat, so it looks 
as if the choices facing the American people are as 
follows: President Bush, ten Democrats, and myself. I 
expect the Democrats to cancel each other out, leaving a 
two-man showdown: Bush versus Sobran.

     But until the sifting is completed, we will have to 
endure several versions of an American political ritual: 
each candidate will deliver his own autobiographical 
speech on his Humble Origins.

     In most countries, rulers lay claim to proud 
pedigrees. In the history plays of Shakespeare, rival 
claimants to the throne cite their bloodlines as proof of 
their right. Or, if necessary, they kill off their 
intermediate relatives.

     We Americans have a very different tradition. In 
this country, the ambitious brag about their lowly 
antecedents: "My daddy was a sharecropper. I know what it 
is to be hungry."

     It's a riot, hearing all these rich, well-connected 
guys in expensive suits recalling how tough they've had 
it. Al Gore was, by his own account, a horny-handed farm 
boy, never mind that his father was a U.S. senator who 
sent him to prep school and Harvard. Bob Hope once 
quipped that Richard Nixon's boosters were so sure he was 
going to win in 1960 that back in his hometown they were 
already building the log cabin he was born in.

     The first President Bush was also a senator's son 
with an Ivy League education, but he compensated for 
these disadvantages by affecting to like bacon rinds and 
country music, even if he butchered the names of the 
bands. His son, our current president, can hardly deny 
his own patrimony, but he plays it down by assuming the 
demeanor of a Texas cowboy of plebeian tastes and shaky 

     That's the American way: even if you've got five 
middle names, a roman numeral, and a family tree going 
back to Charlemagne, you try to come off as a son of the 
soil. Jes' folks.

     Enough already. I'm not playing that game. I was 
raised in modest comfort, and the only hunger I've known 
was when I misbehaved and my parents sent me to bed 
without supper. We didn't have color TV, but we did have 
a station wagon. I've been broke -- often -- but never 

     What sets me off from the other candidates is that 
the money I've wasted has always been my own. Unlike my 
opponents, I've never sought credit for "compassion" by 
giving away other people's money.

     If elected, I can promise you this: I'll be richer 
than I've ever been in my life. Presidents make a lot 
more money than writers. In all candor, that's one reason 
I want the job. Also, I'll get to ride around in a 

     Not that that's why I've thrown my sombrero into the 
ring. My first motive was, and remains, to serve my 
country. But once I'd made that decision, it did cross my 
mind that the president enjoys lots of perks. I'd be 
lying if I told you they meant nothing to me.

     But only some of them. I don't covet Air Force One, 
White House chefs, or fawning aides. I'd still hate "Hail 
to the Chief" even if it were played in my honor, and I'd 
be embarrassed to be called "Mr. President." I dislike 
pomp. I'd wear blue jeans in the Oval Office.

     I would enjoy addressing the nation on television. I 
could not only speak my mind but share some of my 
favorite jokes. If there's one presidential prerogative 
I'd probably abuse, it would be inviting movie stars to 
the White House. I've always wanted to meet Jack 

     So these are some of my strictly personal motives 
for seeking high office. I don't suggest they are reasons 
for you to vote for me.

     Except in this sense: I think this country could use 
a president who lacks the suffocating self-importance 
(disguised as humility) and mad ambition (disguised as 
High Purpose) that we've come to associate with the 
presidency. It's time for a president who has better 
things to do than go around eliminating poverty, ending 
injustice, and saving the world.


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