Twain for Presideny

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A while back I decided to forgo making politics a regular point of conversation. The fact is that I’m too partisan at this point, and would come off that way no matter what intelligent thing I might have to say. Part of the process for me is coming to a decision on a person, and once I do I happily settle into my assured assumptions. I like George Bush and I don’t like John Kerry. I have good reasons for this, but those aren’t really important to most folks. I do tend to look askance at anything which favors Kerry and doubt much that abuses Bush, while accepting much that doubts Kerry and promotes GWB. The present issue with Vietnam falls in line with this (with my added opinion that it’s disingenuous to have one candidate keep talking about thirty years ago, but argue that no one else can, and my additional thought that the media is showing enormous bias here… where were they when Moore’s movie came out, or when Moveon.org was making the news? Why is partisan money and apparent ‘lying’ fine for Democrats but not Republicans? Ah… again I come to why I don’t want to dwell on this).

Dwelling on this right now is not good for my own soul, for it is easy to fall into the trap of partisanship and let the present issues take over one’s mind and soul. So, I let go that inner tendency for political conservatism and seek other avenues of thought. But, I came across this little essay by Mark Twain and thought it quite a fine read for the present time. First published in 1879, “A Presidential Candidate”:

I HAVE PRETTY MUCH MADE UP MY mind to run for President. What the country wants is a candidate who cannot be injured by investigation of his past history, so that the enemies of the party will be unable to rake up anything against him that nobody ever heard of before. If you know the worst about a candidate, to begin with, every attempt to spring things on him will be checkmated. Now I am going to enter the field with an open record. I am going to own up in advance to all the wickedness I have done, and if any Congressional committee is disposed to prowl around my biography in the hope of discovering any dark and deadly deed that I have secreted, why–let it prowl.

In the first place, I admit that I treed a rheumatic grandfather of mine in the winter of 1850. He was old and inexpert in climbing trees, but with the heartless brutality that is characteristic of me I ran him out of the front door in his nightshirt at the point of a shotgun, and caused him to bowl up a maple tree, where he remained all night, while I emptied shot into his legs. I did this because he snored. I will do it again if I ever have another grandfather. I am as inhuman now as I was in 1850. I candidly acknowledge that I ran away at the Battle of Gettysburg. My friends have tried to smooth over this fact by asserting that I did so for the purpose of imitating Washington, who went into the woods at Valley Forge for the purpose of saying his prayers. It was a miserable subterfuge. I struck out in a straight line for the Tropic of Cancer because I was scared. I wanted my country saved, but I preferred to have somebody else save it. I entertain that preference yet. If the bubble reputation can be obtained only at the cannon’s mouth, I am willing to go there for it, provided the cannon is empty. If it is loaded my immortal and inflexible purpose is to get over the fence and go home. My invariable practice in war has been to bring out of every fight two-thirds more men than when I went in. This seems to me to be Napoleonic in its grandeur.

The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine was correct. The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to be buried, and I dedicated her to this high purpose. Does that unfit me for the Presidency? The Constitution of our country does not say so. No other citizen was ever considered unworthy of this office because he enriched his grapevines with his dead relatives. Why should I be selected as the first victim of an absurd prejudice?

I admit also that I am not a friend of the poor man. I regard the poor man, in his present condition, as so much wasted raw material. Cut up and properly canned, he might be made useful to fatten the natives of the cannibal islands and to improve our export trade with that region. I shall recommend legislation upon the subject in my first message. My campaign cry will be: “Desiccate the poor workingman; stuff him into sausages.”

These are about the worst parts of my record. On them I come before the country. If my country don’t want me, I will go back again. But I recommend myself as a safe man–a man who starts from the basis of total depravity and proposes to be fiendish to the last.

A curious note, Rutherford B. Hayes, who was President the year this was published in the New York Times, has the following bullet-point biography:

Did You Know?
• He was nicknamed “His Fraudulency,” because of the alleged “stolen” election of 1876. (Tilden had won the popular vote).
• He ended Reconstruction and withdrew federal troops from the South.
• His honesty was a source of anger for his political allies.

He intended to only serve one term, so wasn’t running for re-election at the time.

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