Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Son for President

When you're young, your ambitions are limited only by your imagination.  My kids have had dreams of becoming teachers, scientists, or stay-at-home parents; veterinarians or artists or doctors. I encourage and nurture every dream that my kids have.  After all, that's what mothers do, right?  That is, until my son recently announced that he might want to run for president. Of the United States. That's when I banned all newspapers, news websites, news apps, and all television from our house until the election is over in November. Yes, it's a long time, but luckily, our kids have video games to occupy them until then.

At one time, I might have thought that the classic childhood aspiration to be president was noble, and cute.  Now I think if someone wants to be the leader of the free world, there must be something wrong with him. Who in his right mind would want to put himself and his family through a presidential campaign?  There were many times I questioned whether John McCain would even live through his 2008 campaign, and, with all due respect, this is a man who survived over five years as a POW in Vietnam. Of course, McCain did make it through the election, but not only is he not running in 2012, he won't even endorse a candidate. Clearly, he's staying as far away as possible from what was surely a traumatic experience for him.

I really can't blame my son for wanting to run for president. The images he's seen of the Republican primaries make campaigning seem glamorous and fun.  Everywhere a candidate goes, there are crowds of people cheering for him and holding up signs bearing his name. Winning a state's caucus is reason for a celebration of Mardi-Gras proportions. So what if  the caucus in reality means nothing, and that a minuscule number of voters actually take part?  The Pioneer Press headline "This is Santorum Country" that ran the day after the Minnesota caucuses didn't convey the fact that just over 1 percent of the voting-age population participated. But who cares? Santorum WON! And to an 8-year-old, it all looks like a big party.

And then there's the cool stuff you get when you're a big-shot candidate.  For a Boy Scout who's excited about the archery belt loop he recently earned, a huge campaign bus with his name on it is the very definition of Nirvana. Especially when the bus probably has a bathroom on it. And what if he becomes president?  The White House!  Air Force One! His own personal cook to serve him his Honey-Nut Cheerios!  Who wouldn't want all that?

You might think it cruel that I'm trying to discourage my son from following one of his dreams.  But truly, I have only his best interests in mind.  I've paraphrased some of the conversations he and I have had over the past month so that you can use them as a starting point if you want to discourage any of your loved ones who are considering a run for public office. Good luck!

The ugly truth comes out
And I'm not talking about the fifth Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Remember Herman Cain?  Yes, the "Cain Train," that's right. His campaign showed some promise, but now it appears that "9-9-9" no longer refers to his tax plan, but rather to the number of women accusing him of sexual harassment. Son, if you run for office, it's only a matter of time before people find out that you're too lazy to tie your shoes and you once made your sister cry by punching her stuffed cat.  And remember the time you clogged the toilet in Gaviidae Common? That's going to come out, you know.  Plus, they might start attacking your family too.  Do you want it known that your mother eats ice cream out of the container when no one's around?  Wait, forget I said that.

Every word you say is scrutinized
You have to choose your words with painstaking care when you're running for office. Believe it or not, if you bumble one phrase, it could seriously hurt your political aspirations. Senator John Kerry was rumored to be considering a second presidential campaign, but during a speech in 2006 this sentence derailed him: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well.  If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."  Yes, it sounds sort of like he was insulting the military.  But he says it was a botched joke aimed at then-President Bush, which seems reasonable; why would Senator Kerry, a Vietnam veteran with possible aspirations for a presidential bid, publicly insult the troops fighting for our country overseas? At any rate, it's best to just speak clearly and carefully and honestly, like you do with me. You know, like when you say, "That was a terrible shot, Mom", or "I'm getting carsick from your driving."

You have to know everything about everything
When running for office, you have to know everything about every relevant topic, which is hard sometimes because people get worn out during a long campaign. Yes, like when we practice your spelling words when you're tired.  Take Judi Dutcher, Mike Hatch's running mate in the 2006 Minnesota gubernatorial race. Close to election day, Ms. Dutcher was questioned by a reporter about E85 (which is ethanol, a type of gas, and fairly big business in our state).  She had no idea what the reporter was talking about, and that didn't look very good for someone who is running for lieutenant governor. In fact, it may have been the beginning of the end for her and Mr. Hatch, because he got mad at a reporter who asked him about Ms. Dutcher's lack of knowledge about E85. Here's a helpful hint for you: it's not a good idea to call a reporter a bad name in the final days before your election.

You need a lot of money. And a recognizable name doesn't hurt
So you're thinking that before you run for President, you might run for governor of Minnesota?  Like Gov. Dayton?  Well, that's not a bad idea. Gov. Dayton took the express route to governor by skipping the Democratic caucus altogether. And yet, even without the DFL endorsement, he still won the primary and then the general election (which actually is not unusual. So what's the caucus for, you ask?  That's a fine question). Unfortunately, you have neither the money nor the highly recognized family name that Gov. Dayton has. Unless you marry a Carlson or a Pohlad or a Mondale, you're going to have to go about it the old-fashioned way. Wait, maybe Gov. Dayton went about it the old-fashioned way, with family money. You'll have to go about it the new way, which is...well, whatever. You just need a lot of money.

Your enemies have to become your friends
During primary season, the people running against you will say really mean things about you. They'll make fun of you. They might even tell lies about you. But, if you win your party's nomination for president, the people who said those awful things about you will suddenly be like your best friends! They'll talk about how great you are, and how you'd make a great president. They'll ask people to send you money. Why? Well, remember, because it's expensive to--what's that?  Yes, you're right.  Jesus did tell us to love our enemies.  But, politics is kind of complica...

Actually, maybe you should run for president, after all.

For Sue.