So, I asked for the entire series of The West Wing on DVD, and haven't received it. Thanks to the web, however, I have been watching the show...78 minutes at a time, with an hour break. G-d bless the Internet.
Before I leap into genuine politics, let me just say that the dialogue in the show can be staggeringly fast. I know it's not real politics, but their banter revolves around real issues, and some of what they say is so rapid-fire that it's hard to stay with it, especially when the characters are talking over one another. (One of the reasons I want the DVD is for subtitles. Yes, I'm crazy enough to watch entire episodes just to read them.) Personally, I find it an amazing achievement of acting, writing, and directing combined.
On with the politics...A character that is never seen during one episode in season three is asked why he wants to President, and his answer is reported to be relatively short, stumbling, and using the word "people" four or five times. The staff is overjoyed at such buffoonery, but then starts wondering what Bartlet's answer would be. When asked, he says in a resigned manner, "I don't know."
That's not entirely true, of course. At the end of the second season, Jeb Bartlet has an imaginary conversation with a recently deceased secretary, and he lists the reasons why he wants a second term. It's the usual rhetoric, citing statistics on poverty, guns, and education (if I remember correctly).
With the question posed so plainly on the show, I started asking myself, "Why do you want to be President?" Let's face facts. It's a virtually thankless job, in which people spend every other day condemning the Commander in Chief. As the population grows, and technology advances, the job becomes infinitely more complicated. I don't speak "lawyer," and those laws I've looked up on the net for whatever reason tend to give me a headache, specifically when they seem to be written in the most complicated manner possible. "No person shall rent or lease his property to another in violation of a valid restrictive covenant against the sale of such property to persons who have a child or children living with them nor shall a person rent or lease his property to persons who have a child or children living with them when his property lies within a subdivision which subdivision is presently designed, advertised and used as an exclusive adult subdivision. A person who knowingly rents or leases his property in violation of the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a petty offense." That's an actual quote of Chapter 3, Article 1, Section 33-303, Sub-section B of the Arizona State Legislature; Discrimination by landlord or lessor against tenant with children prohibited; classification; exceptions. It could have said, "No one under 55 can reside in a senior community." Now imagine having to sit behind reams of paper that are proposed Federal laws that require the President's signature. It's nowhere near as fascinating a read as The Count of Monte Cristo.
The first answer that comes to my mind when I ask myself the grand question is this: "I have been a participant - more like a victim - of the system, in which I have little or no say when it comes to having my needs met. I'm given a choice of State-funded HMOs, all of which provide the lowest standard of care, along with MediCare, which only provides 80% coverage of my needs, and even those are limited. The system has stood in the way of me finding gainful employment from home and becoming self-reliant again. Such a system shouldn't exist in this manner; it should be aiding me in any way possible to see that I'm able to escape the clutches of poverty if I find myself able to do so. As such, the only way I can fix my situation is to become a part of that system and work to correct the mistakes in its design." (That's an extended answer of what really goes through my head, and that's, "I'm tired of being a victim of the system.")
My next answer is infinitely less selfish. "I'm not the only one. I am one among millions who goes to the mailbox at the middle of the month and prays some kind soul has sent money so I can survive until the next government payday. The longer the month, the greater the stress is on all of us. There is a terrible amount of wasteful spending going on within the government ranks, as well as what appears to be an abuse of power. The government should be responding to the will of the people, not its personal desires. I like helping people. By taking the Presidential route, I can help people en mass."
As I sit here, writing about this, I can't help but look at some of the recent events in our government, specifically the auto industry. They're in trouble. They need help. The auto executives rushed to Washington to ask for help. Mind you, they rushed there via private jets. They were asked by a member of Congress if any of them were willing to sell their private jets and return home on a commercial flight, and NONE of the executives volunteered to do such a thing. In fact, they looked at the Congressman as though he was trying to pull a prank on Candid Camera. Thus, the executives' combined plea is, "Please give our companies money, but don't ask us to surrender any of our luxuries."
Burn, I say! Let their companies go down in flames! It's called commerce, and failed business practices don't deserve saving.
But then there are the thousands of employees, working their collective butts off to earn their $32 an hour. (The figure of $78 that was tossed around for a while failed to take numerous factors into account.) These men and women are working long, hard hours to earn that seemingly exceptional wage. To let the auto companies immolate themselves would be an injustice to the people who are not executives.
So...A bailout? No, I wouldn't give them that. Personally, I would give them a government loan that must be paid back in a relatively short time. The terms of the loan would stipulate the executives taking a severe pay cut, as low as $1 a year, to save their company's - not to mention the government's - spending.
I read a story in a novel, in which the main character recalls the tale of a king. The king wanted more time in which to not only handle affairs of state, but to enjoy the pleasures of his luxurious life. So he called upon his court magician and demanded that time be extended. The magician replied that such a thing was beyond his power. Outraged, the king threatened to fire the magician from his post, for miracles were supposed to be the magician's job.
Thinking quickly, the magician said, "A ritual has just come to mind, your majesty. Tomorrow morning, you must throw off your kingly robes and join the workers in your fields. You must till the land with them for the entire day, and return to me when you have completed that part."
The next morning, the king woke early, disguised himself, and went out to the farms outlying his kingdom at sunrise. Barebacked, under the heat of the sun, he toiled for what seemed many hours. When he asked when the mid-day break would come, he discovered that it was still some time before then, and that he'd only been working for two hours.
By day's end, the king returned to the castle, aching and exhausted. He summoned the court magician and reported that it had been the longest day of his life, and that he was now much more appreciative of the time he already had.
One can't help but think that if these "kings" - the executives, the politicians, and the social elite in general - spent more time in the "fields," they'd appreciate everything that they have a little more.
"Why do I want to be President?" I've been amongst the lowest of the low, to the point where I was homeless, if only for a brief period. To be able to know that I was at that point at one time, and to rise to the most powerful position in America, and be able to help the masses on a greater scale...It would prove the American Dream isn't pure fantasy anymore. It would prove anything is possible.