LOWLY ORIGINS 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 grammar. 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 poor. 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 limousine. 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 Nicholson. 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. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/columns/2003/030918.shtml". Copyright (c) 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, www.griffnews.com. This column may not be published in print or Internet publications without express permission of Griffin Internet Syndicate. You may forward it to interested individuals if you use this entire page, including the following disclaimer: "SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's columns are available by subscription. For details and samples, see http://www.sobran.com/e-mail.shtml, write PR@griffnews.com, or call 800-513-5053."