Every campaign season, I watch as politicians carry on about whatever issues are hot at the moment, trying to scrape together the last of the key undecided votes and build momentum toward election day. Every time, without fail, what starts as big ideas and dreams deteriorates into meaningless pandering and mudslinging.
But, at the same time, something always gets ignored and it leaves me uncomfortable. In the middle of the issues, strategies, stump speeches and outright lies, what I consider the most important question never gets asked. So, I ask it now.
Mr. Bush, Mr. Kerry, why do you want to be President?
Now, before anyone answers this seemingly simple question, let me clarify it. I'm asking this question in the exact same way a job interviewer would ask an applicant. Why do you want to work at my company? Why do you want this position? Etc. I need to know this so I can decide if I want to "hire" one of them, which is fundamentally what voting does.
You can't answer this question by going back to the issues. Saying that you want to be president to win the war on terror, fix health care or whatever simply doesn't make sense and it's more pandering, which is exactly what I'm trying to avoid. This is a personal question and it needs a personal answer.
Also, you can't answer the question by saying anything like "To serve the American people" or "To serve the country I love." There's countless ways to serve your country without becoming President. If you want to serve your country, you can do charity work for the rest of your life. Soup kitchens and Red Crosses all over the country would love to have you, no mudslinging required.
Third, don't tell me that it's been a dream of yours since you were a child, if anything, tell me why it was a dream. My dream when I was little was to be a paleontologist, I loved dinosaurs and I loved playing in the dirt, it seemed a natural combination. Tell me what made you seek out the Presidency, not when you first felt that way.
Finally, no sob stories about meeting President so and so in person and feeling inspired. Those are great stories, very touching, but they're hardly reasons for going through a year-long campaign. I'm after practical, real life reasons for wanting the job.
You see, the way I look at it, the Presidency is a job almost no one should want. How many jobs do you know of require one year of daily interviewing, background checks are performed constantly by the snoopiest reporters and the other candidates of the job will spend nearly a year picking you apart with both television and print ads with no consideration of your feelings or needs.
Then consider that the job itself, if you can survive the "interview", pays only $100,000 a year for CEO level work, is a 24/7 job with no real vacations, subjects you to constant attacks during your four-year term and has the stress of making life and death decisions, not just for a few people, but a whole nation of three hundred million.
Between the campaigning, the hours, the stress and the constant barrage of attacks I can only see one reason for taking this job and that is the power that comes with being the leader of the world's only superpower.
If I'm to believe that, then only power hungry lunatics would every put themselves through the paces of this grueling job. Thus, I have a tremendous distrust of anyone who makes it their mission to become the President of the United States and, for a candidate to gain my trust, they need to answer that one question to my satisfaction.
Of course, with this election, I really don't have to ask it. The obvious corporate backing on both sides makes it painfully clear that, like it or not, this is an election about power. One powerful man wants more, the other wants to maintain his.
It might be scary to think of the American citizens as mere pawns in a global game of power, but that's what we are. Like it or not, democracy gives us the power to hire and fire those who will lead us. However, it also creates positions that only the most rich and powerful will be able to obtain and only the most power-hungry will have the stomach to shoot for it.
Until we get a President who needs the job to feed his family or to get insurance on his kids, we're never going to be able to trust the motives of a Presidential candidate.
Instead, all we can do is sit back and hope that their motives are not too sinister and that America survives another four years of greed.
Which is amusing because, right now, I honestly feel that greed is the only thing keeping this country going. After all, without it, no one would want to become President.