The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

October 19, 2012

Who would want that job?

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer

Friday, October 19, 2012 — A few years back, I was able to have a conversation with a very prominent United States senator.

His name was, at the time, being waived around as a possible candidate for president.

This was a senator who very much understood the events of the world and the nation and had seen the presidency up close.

He is no longer in office, by his own choosing, and he probably wouldn’t mind me identifying him.

Suffice it to say, he was very close to the top and those of you who know where I am from can probably place the name.

But, he believed it was off the record, and it was, and that’s the way it will stay.

After I finished the formal part of our talk, I turned the recorder off, put it in my pocket, and asked one more question.

“Why in the world would anyone want to be president?”

What struck me most about his answer was the extremely long, quiet pause before he began to answer.

I had assumed it was a question he had been thinking about for some time and would have a ready answer.

He didn’t.

While the quote isn’t exact, his answer after that silence was something like this:

“You know, I really don’t know,” he said.

“A person gives up so much. Their family gives up so much of their privacy and their lives, not even the nice plane and the house could possibly make up for that.

“The way the world is now you walk around with a target on your back and, although the Secret Service is great, just your very presence can endanger innocent people.

“And, a person who wants to be president really, really has to have a strong belief in their self that they have the solutions to the problems they are aware of and the backbone to deal with the ones they are not.”

Pretty good answer, I thought and still do.

I guess I’ve read too much presidential history, but it’s hard for me to be too critical of any president anymore.

I may disagree with them. I may not even like them. But, what they sacrifice to be in that office, and the weight of the decisions they are sometimes forced to make, begrudge me to have at least some respect for each of them.

There have been two dream questions I have always wanted to ask a president or even a former president.

The first question would be about that first day on the job.

I can’t help but believe that any new president sets behind that big desk in the Oval Office for the first time, opens the desk drawer, and finds what I call the “Oh, Crap!” folder.

It’s a folder I imagine contains all the items, facts and figures the new president didn’t know about before he took the oath of office.

These days the major nominees are given security briefings, but even then, they are still not privy to everything.

Just what second thoughts goes through one’s head reading such material?

Which leads me to the second question I’ve always wanted to ask.

It’s one that would be answered yes or no and would have to be off the record: “Are there things you know because you are or were president you wish you didn’t know?

Now, I’m not thinking about UFOs or conspiratorial things.

But, to know every conceiveable threat and problem to the country, or the world for that matter, would grey anyone’s head.

Just think about that for a moment and let that sink in.

Any person who actively seeks that that knowledge and that burden is either crazy or incredible.

Sitting around the barber shop or the dinner table criticizing is the easy part and, thank goodness, the American way.

That is why it is so important to find the right person to fill the highest office in the land. There’s a reason it’s also called “leader of the free world.”

What a marvelous benefit Americans have to choose a person to bear such a position, and to have persons who would actually bear such a position, allowing the rest of us to debate and fuss over what we think they should or should not have done.

This is not to say every president is perfect.

They can be petty and they can be idiots and both have occupied the office.

But, somehow, the right person has always been there at the right times.

Lincoln during the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Truman dealing with Japan. Reagan during a time of American doubt.

It’s interesting to think about what might have happened if the ones who ran against those particular presidents had won the office instead.

So, all this is just something to think about as we go choose who will be president for the next four years.

We would be well served not to hate the one we are not voting for, but respect them for asking for the job in the first place.

From all I know about it, it sure isn’t one I’d want.