"Daddy, when I grow up can I be president of the United States?"
"Of course, son, anyone can be president of the United States. Just look at the people who are running this year."
"What would I have to do if I wanted to be president?"
"First, you would have to announce to the country that you wanted to run for the presidency, because the country needs leadership, honesty, and direction, which it as been lacking for decades. You must tell the people that you feel you are the best man to guide the nation's destiny in the perilous times ahead."
"Is that all?"
"No, you also have to raise $10 million to run in the primaries."
"How do I do that?"
"You promise people anything they want to hear just so you can get the money."
"Isn't that dishonest?"
"No, that's politics. You can't be an honest president if you don't lie to get the money to be elected. Don't look at me that way. I'm telling you how it is."
"Why do I need all that money to be elected president?"
"Because you have to hire a campaign manager and have an organization to let the voters know you're the only one who can do the job."
"What does the campaign manager do?"
"He tells you where to go, and what to say."
"How does he know what I should say?"
"He has a pollster on his staff who tells him what the people want to hear. If you're talking to old people you don't want to discuss the draft. If you're talking to business groups you don't want to talk about old people. If you're talking to doctors you don't want to talk about health problems.
"The campaign manager is also supposed to arrange fund-raising parties to make sure the money keeps rolling in."
"What does the staff do?"
"They work for you until the money runs out. Then you fire them."
"How do the people know I am the best person to be president of the United States?"
"Through television and the press. If you are a serious candidate you will have television correspondents and newspaper people traveling with you. At first, they will only write nice things about you. But then they'll start getting bored and write only nasty things about you. If you can survive this they might decide to give you an even shake."
"What kind of nasty things will they write?"
"They will try to find skeletons in your closet. You have to live a very clean life if you want to be president, or you could be in serious trouble for the rest of your days even if you lost your bid for the office."
"Okay, then, what do I have to do?"
"You have to go into different states and win primaries or delegates from caucuses, who will vote for you at your party's convention. The early states are the most important because that is when the media decide if you have the momentum or not to get to the convention. If they say you don't have what it takes to win, people will read about it and stop sending you any money. Without money you couldn't stay in the race if you wanted to, or even if you were the best man."
"What happens at the convention?"
"The delegates from the party meet in a large American city to decide if you can be the candidate. They have bands and signs and balloons and cheerleaders and they march up and down the aisles shouting for the person they like."
"That sounds like fun."
"It is, but you won't be there. You'll be up in your suite with your campaign manager horsetrading for votes with political hacks and bosses, who want something in exchange for making you president. If for some unforeseeable reason you do get the nomination, then the presidential campaign begins."
"You mean I can still lose after going through all that?"
"You better believe it. Half the people who run do."
"You know Dad, after what you've told me, I don't think I want to be president of the United States."
"Thank God. You have made your mother and me very happy."