September 18, 2003
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
Its a riot, hearing all
these rich, well-connected guys in expensive suits recalling how tough
theyve 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 Nixons
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 senators 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
Thats the American way: even if youve 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. Im not
playing that game. I was raised in modest comfort, and the only hunger
Ive known was when I misbehaved and my parents sent me to bed
without supper. We didnt have color TV, but we did have a station
wagon. Ive been broke often but never poor.
What sets me off from the other
candidates is that the money Ive wasted has always been my own.
Unlike my opponents, Ive never sought credit for
compassion by giving away other peoples money.
If elected, I can promise you
this: Ill be richer than Ive ever been in my life. Presidents
make a lot more money than writers. In all candor, thats one reason
I want the job. Also, Ill get to ride around in a limousine.
Not that thats why
Ive thrown my sombrero into the ring. My first motive was, and
remains, to serve my country. But once Id made that decision, it did
cross my mind that the president enjoys lots of perks. Id be lying
if I told you they meant nothing to me.
But only some of them. I
dont covet Air Force One, White House chefs, or fawning aides.
Id still hate Hail to the Chief even if it were played
in my honor, and Id be embarrassed to be called Mr.
President. I dislike pomp. Id wear blue jeans in the Oval
I would enjoy addressing the
nation on television. I could not only speak my mind but share some of my
favorite jokes. If theres one presidential prerogative Id
probably abuse, it would be inviting movie stars to the White House.
Ive always wanted to meet Jack Nicholson.
So these are some of my strictly
personal motives for seeking high office. I dont 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
weve come to associate with the presidency. Its time for a
president who has better things to do than go around eliminating poverty,
ending injustice, and saving the world.