Prestegard for president!

A tweet from Jim Pethokoukis Tuesday:

Got an interesting hint today that there might be a surprise candidate in the GOP field. As Drudge says, developing …

I would be a surprise candidate in the GOP field, wouldn’t I? I’m sure there’s a place in the GOP field for a libertarian/conservative journalist whose sole run for office was a school board loss, and whose other political experience was four years on the City of Ripon Plan Commission.

I have done this sort of thing before, back in 2008, when I “ran” for governor. At the time, I couldn’t actually run because, independent of all the other obstacles, running for office was contrary to the code of ethics of my employer. That problem having resolved itself, I am free to join Messrs. Huckabee, Romney, Paul, Johnson, et al. (Or, for that matter, join whoever plans to run in the Libertarian Party; for that matter, I might try to win the GOP and Libertarian nominations, which seems appropriate for someone who gets two 100 scores on the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.)

There have to be, I imagine, a fair number of perks involved with being president — Air Force One at your beck and call (to, for instance, make surprise visits to the troops), getting to go to Super Bowls and other big events, the ability to host cool events (say, Chicago concerts, dog shows and your children’s Scouting campouts) on the White House lawn, instant credibility every time you open your mouth, etc. We could switch our church for four or eight years to the National Cathedral, conveniently the same religion as ours. (How many families have had this Sunday morning commandment from parent to child(ren): “The motorcade is leaving for church! Get going!”) Being the first president to have facial hair since William Howard Taft would be something on which the media could obsess. (“Katie, do you prefer the winter beard or the non-winter goatee look?”)

It would be refreshing as well for the voters to have the choice of a tell-it-like-it-is candidate. There would be no discussion of where the incumbent was born, because there is enough to criticize about President Obama without catering to the tin-foil-hat set. Most politicians are quote machines anyway, but one goal of mine would be to have someone write a book called Did the President Really Say That?

Getting elected would be relatively simple. Any Republican presidential candidate need only repeat what Ronald Reagan asked in 1980: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? And for those who feel the need to say more, add: Are we better off now than we were four years ago?

I’m sure you’ll be shocked — shocked! — to learn that I plan to be a fiscal conservative, perhaps even more so than anyone else in the GOP field. I would pledge to the voters that the federal budget would be balanced by the end of my first term, or else voters could feel free to not vote for me for a second term. Would that result in severe budget cuts and gnashing and wailing from the left? Duh. Might that result in government shutdowns in a duel with a recalcitrant Congress? That would be more fun than watching the Bears and Vikings both lose.

The thing to do would be to take all of the budget-balancing-through-cuts ideas — everything from the Paul Ryan plan rolling back spending to 2008 levels to eliminating the Education and Energy departments to killing farm price supports to selling off federal assets — and enact all of them. Wasteful spending is all over the federal government, even in areas Republicans won’t touch, like defense. And wasteful defense spending does not make our country safer.

Many years ago, I proposed simultaneous tax, Social Security and health care reform by allowing complete tax-free deductability (which would need to occur in paychecks instead of at the end of the tax year) for savings and investments and health, life and disability insurance. Social Security is not only a Ponzi scheme that would be illegal in the private sector, but a giant ripoff for anyone my age and younger. Either Social Security needs to be replaced, or it will simply collapse of its giant oncoming deficits. And taxes — all taxes — should take no more than 25 percent of anyone’s income.

I would support complete free trade, because free trade is best for consumers. I would (that is, I would work with Congress to enact legislation that would) also eliminate consumer-choice-limiting regulations such as vehicle fuel economy laws (which have served to kill station wagons). I would also support the development of all available forms of domestic energy, including those the present administration thinks are too icky to develop. I would leave many more decisions to lower levels of government that are currently enforced through the federal hammer of eliminating federal aid, such as setting drinking ages. (If you’re old enough to die for your country, you are old enough to drink.)

The reason I went from a 90 years ago to a 100 on the World’s Smallest Political Quiz personal axis is that I have finally decided that the Drug War isn’t working. Good money is being wasted on enforcing marijuana laws and the completely stupid pseudoephedrine laws. (That last sentence was written by my bad sinuses.) I would not go so far to decriminalize the definitely-bad-for-you drugs such as cocaine or heroin, but I have not seen much evidence to convince me that marijuana is either bad or good for you.

I also think neither the federal government nor the White House belongs in as many social debates as both are in now. (You can rest assured that whether I run or not, I will not be voting for Mike Huckabee.) Don’t like what’s on TV? Don’t watch. I would suggest that social conservatives seek to accomplish by personal example what they’d like to accomplish through legislation. (For one thing, if the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto is correct with his Roe v. Wade theory, those who support abortion rights will be outnumbered by those who do not.)

What about foreign policy (something I didn’t discuss much in Marketplace of Ideas since it was usually irrelevant to the issues affecting the readers of Marketplace)? The official policy of the United States government would be to promote personal, political and economic freedom around the world. (I am very pro-immigration, but one way to reduce illegal immigration is for countries on the other side of the border to improve their own selves.) It is interesting to note that the extent to which candidate Obama complained that non-Americans didn’t like the U.S. didn’t affect President Obama’s foreign policy much. (Note as well that we are now in one more war than we were in under Obama’s predecessor.)

To sum up my campaign, I would be about improvement, not change — making things better, not merely different, since change is inevitable, but positive change is not. As an Eagle Scout (as was Gerald Ford), my credo would be to leave things in better condition than I found them.

I’m sure you’ll agree that I have as much chance of being elected president as, well, writing for the May issue of Marketplace.


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