SOON THE CANDIDATES will start coming to lunch. They will show up with two aides, never more, and then we will all gather around an enormous table here at the newspaper and ask questions of them. These are very solemn, very formal affairs that are duplicated at other newspapers and they represent rites of passages for all presidential candidates. I keep waiting for a laugh.
I keep waiting for one of them to say something funny. I keep waiting for the moment when one of the editors leans forward and asks why the candidate wants to be president, for the guy to light up a smile and say something about "broads" - or something like that. I want one of them to say he has no new vision for America and that he is not better than the rest of us and that he is in this thing called politics for the fun of it. He likes the life and he likes the people and he thinks it would be wonderful fun to fly around the world on Air Force One and have a lieutenant general or someone bring you coffee. I'll work for that man.
I was thinking of this the other day when reading about Walter S. Orlinsky, the city council president in Baltimore. Orlinsky is a funny man, a real wit, and he has chosen to run his gubernatorial campaign as something of a fallen women. In a race full of virgins, he's the guy who will tell you that he's been around. He's no angel, but no devil, either, but he's not ashamed to say that he no longer blushes easily. That's his campaign tactic and we'll see if it works or not, but this much I have to tell you about Orlinsky.He likes his work. Peel him a grape. He's having fun.
That could be enough to damn him. There seems to be nothing worse to the American people than a politician who's having fun, who admits to having an ego, to getting a kick out of crowds, who loves to be adored, who enjoys power and the use of it and who thinks it is wonderful how a mere plurality has turned him from a paunchy pol to a lady killer. All this is wrong, I know.
It is wrong to have fun. At the very least, it is taxable. We have this from the best of authority, from President Carter, no less. It is our President who tells us that one reason it is wrong to deduct the cost of a business meal is that you enjoy the meal. If you enjoy something, he seems to be saying, it should be taxed. Think of the possibilities!
It is also wrong to be rich, especially to become sudden rich. We have always known that. You always have to apologize for it. This is the American thing to do. Take Gail Sheehy, the author of the run-away best seller "Pasages." This made her rich. This did not, we knew all along, make her happy. She is asked by writer Andrew Tobias if becoming rich caused her any problems. This is what he wrote: "'Yeees!' she cried plaintively. 'It makes me sweat a lot more, it makes me embarrassed and guilty - I mean, truly, it's terrible.'" Later someone tells her it will be like a dull ache. She knows now wha the means. She has the ache. I am moved to tears. I suggest the aspirin of poverty. Give me this ache.
Look at Jimmy Carter. Is this man having fun? Did he enjoy the campaign? Did he run for the presidency because he thought political life would be fun? No, he ran because it was there - a goal, a duty. He has sold the Sequoia. He has banished the limousines. He has hired Cousin Cheap. He has eliminated the imperial presidency. Gold help us. Send us an Irish politician with a twinkle in his eye, an joke on his tongue and a hint of mischief about him. Send us someone who knows how to laugh, a man who smokes cigars - a truly happy warrior.
Forgiven me, but I miss the old-time politics. I miss John Kennedy and his smile and F.D.R. and his cigarette holder. I miss politiicians who seem to enjoy what they are doing, who do not approach politics as if it were the ministry. Don't save my soul. Lower taxes and make me laugh.
I shouldn't pick on Jimmy Carter. Did you ever meet George McGovern? One night in 1972 after McGovern had taken his presidential campgin to Onio for the hundredth time or so, a group of reporters sang him a version of the song "Ohio" - "Why oh why oh why oh, do we always come to Ohio?" They sang it all and when they finished McGovernor said, "It's because it's got 25 electoral votes and . . ." God help us. And I haven't even mentioned Ed Muskie.
If I were a politician, I would want to be president. It's the top of the line. It's the ultimate success. I don't hink I would want it to the point of craziness, but I would want it. I would want to go down in history and affect human events and fly around the world in Air Force One. I would like to live in the White House and send my son to school in a limo and have some ceremonial regiment from Fort Myer bring me coffee in the morning. I would like that. I would like also to do good, to make life better for my fellow man, to bring peace to the world and a chicken to every pot but I would like the other things, too. Show me a politician who will admit that.
So soon now they will be coming to lunch. They will have their one drink and they will sit down for lunch and then someone will suck in a deep breath and ask them why they want to be president. Everyone will take out their pens and wait and while they are waiting I will enjoy my little fantasy. It will never happen, but I have a dream. I dream that the candidate will sit back, light up a cigar and say, "the broads. I want to be president for the broads."
Hail to the Chief.