Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2011 30 Shevat, 5771
Anyone Can Be the GOP Nominee?
By Roger Simon
True, the job of president is pretty nifty and the perks magnificent — a fleet of your own planes, which means you never have to go through airport security and take off your shoes ever again. But it is also a dreadfully draining job, in which our presidents visibly age before our eyes and where the pressures are nearly unbearable.
Still, the people who pursue it — for now, only Republicans, since Barack Obama seems reasonably safe from a serious Democratic primary challenge — will be a gaggle, a mob, a throng, a gang and a horde.
This could be a sign of a healthy democracy, a nation that has so many people of such enormous intellect and talent that it is only logical for them to pursue the nation's top job.
Or they could be just a bunch of weasels who like publicity.
And remember that a lot of people who run for president are out of a job — they are no longer governors or members of Congress. And instead of living in the spotlight, they now live in the shadows, where people come up to them in airports and say, "Didn't you used to be somebody?"
True, to the novice, the process of running for president seems daunting. There are so many rules! So many primaries! So many deadlines! The newbie considering a run is dazed and confused. Where do I go? What do I do? Which are better: Marriott points or Starwood points?
But they need not worry. Running for president has become a business where professional staffs shrink-wrap the candidates and put them high on a shelf where they will get bruised as little as possible. And will interfere in their own campaigns even less.
There are people who will do everything for you: They will get you registered for primaries, map out your speaking schedules, write your speeches and script your ad libs. They will make you funny or serious, as the occasion requires. All you have to do is stand upright for a reasonable amount of time each day, and even that is negotiable.
Everything else — your policies, your strategies, your deepest and most heartfelt guiding principles — will be handled for you.
Does this cost money? Sure, it does! Oodles and oodles of money. But here is the beauty of it: The money isn't yours! The money comes from the schnooks who contribute to your campaign! As Jerry Brown, one of the smartest and most insightful men ever to run for office, once said, a political campaign is a giant machine designed to raise money so the machine can grow bigger and raise even more money. Everything is secondary to that.
Do you sometimes hear of a campaign ending up in the red? Sure, you do. But if the candidate is smart, it is the campaign that is in debt, not the candidate.
True, some candidates spend millions and millions of their own dollars on their campaigns. Former eBay executive Meg Whitman spent $141.6 million of her own money — a U.S. record — to run and lose for governor of California, a state with a $25.4 billion budget deficit. So maybe she was just practicing.
There are a number of wealthy candidates willing to spend millions of their own dollars on their own campaigns. And there is a special term for such people: nuts.
Or so I have always thought. But I could be wrong. After all, how many yachts can you buy? How many jets? How many private islands? How many cashews from the hotel mini-bar?
Why not spend tens of millions on the possibility of becoming president? Especially if you run as a fiscal conservative.
Here are three things to ask yourself before you decide to run for president:
1. Will you be any worse off? Do you have to give up a daytime job (governor, senator, representative, reality show participant) to run? If not, why not go for it? After all, the presidency comes with rent-free housing and three squares a day. (Just like prison, when you think about it.)
2. Will the publicity hurt or help you? You will be in the spotlight, but under the microscope. The upside is fantastic: magazine profiles, appearances on the Sunday shows and enormous exposure from the debates. You will be able to go to the head of the line at any Red Lobster no matter where you live.
But what about your past? What about the scandals, real or imagined, that you thought were long forgotten, like Willie Horton, or the Swift Boats or the time you dropped an aspirin in your date's Coke when she wasn't looking? So maybe you better think twice.
3. Do you need a truly loyal and personally dedicated staff? Nah, you can buy one.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate