As a boy growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., I had two lifelong dreams.
The first was to write for Sports Illustrated.
The second was to become president.
In my heart, I truly believed both would come to pass. I didn’t quite know how, or when, or whyâ€”I just knew that, one day, I would write for SI, and one day I would be president. Why, whenever I talk to Gary Miller, my childhood chum/neighbor, he continues to ask, “You still plan on being president?” I always say, “Yes.”
Today, however, at age 37, I am officially announcing that I am no longer a candidate for the presidency. The dream is dead.
I’ve been thinking much about this of late, ever sinceâ€”in 2006â€”I ran for a vacant city council seat here in New Rochelle, N.Y. The person I was competing against, a good guy named Barry Fertel, boasted everything I lacked: He was experienced, polished and a longtime resident of the city. His one viceâ€”and the thing I tried to harp onâ€”was his disposition. He could beâ€”what’s the word?â€”cranky. Anyhow, I ran my ass offâ€”went door to door, did lunches, shook hands, sent out mailers. I knew my odds weren’t very good, but I was committed to putting up the fight. In my heart, I truly believed I’d be the better office holder.
So what happens? Two days before the election, I receive a call from a high-ranking local Democratic official, asking me to back out for the good of the party. “You’re not going to win,” he said. “So why not show unity?” I was flooredâ€”and furious. What was wrong with letting people actually vote? What harm could there be in bringing different issues to the forefront? Hence, I ignored his advice, ran the full raceâ€”and won!*
The point is, politics is bullshit. As a kid, my political hero was Jimmy Carter. An admittedly horrific president, Carter struck me as a truly decent man who made it big. He cared about people, and his words were backed by authenticity. Since the peanut farmer, however, weâ€”Republicans, Democrats and independentsâ€”have been overwhelmed by a gaggle of men and women who are obsessed with self-promotion beyond all else; who are owned by corporations; who seem significantly more concerned with reservations at Per Se and high-class hookers than they are actual legislation bettering the people.
When I was young, the appeal of politics was the ability to inspire; to actually move people. When I was in junior high and high school, I ran for student government five timesâ€”and never won. I wanted to get people involved. That’s what it was all about. Who, in 2009, can we say that about? Who?
Today, I’ve been thinking of all this while watching the coverage of Ted Kennedy’s passing. I loved Ted Kennedy, in that his beliefs seemed to be, 99.9% of the time, my beliefs. He was a champion for the causes I believe in. What strikes me, however, is how everyoneâ€”from the most liberal Democrat to the most strident Republicanâ€”is tripping over themselves to praise Kennedy; to have their faces shown on NBC or Fox or ABC. Yes, they’re surely sad that a legend has passed. But, more than anything, it’s a friggin’ photo-op; a chance to show the constituents back home that, “Hey, I’m a national player.” Just wait a few days for the funeral, when every American politician will inch as close to Obama and Clinton and Bush and Bush and Carter as humanly possible. Not because they admire the presidentsâ€”but because that’s where the cameras focus.
* Actually, Barry kicked my ass from here to Memphis. And he’s done a fine job.
PS: Here’s a great song. Unrelatedâ€”just wanna share.