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Going Once, Going Twice ... Sold to That Fat-Cat Candidate

August 04, 2003|Barry Gottlieb

I used to think anyone could be president. This concept was put in my brain by my parents, who told me that, this being the United States of America, anyone can grow up to lead the country. Even me.

What they neglected to tell me was that if I wanted the job, I'd have to buy it. And it doesn't come cheap.

This is borne out by George Bush, who's been trying to reach his goal of having $200 million to spend on the 2004 election.

To put that in perspective, it's enough to buy two Donald Rumsfeld Pez dispensers for every man, woman and child in France, which would definitely teach them not to mess with us again. It would also buy 55.7 million Big Mac combo meals or Bill Gates' garage. OK, half of it.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 12, 2003 Home Edition California Part B Page 15 Editorial Pages Desk 0 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Presidents -- In an Aug. 4 commentary, humorist Barry Gottlieb meant to imply that there have been 43 U.S. presidents, not 43 presidential elections.

Political purchases aren't confined to the presidency. In California, Rep. Darrell Issa just shelled out $1.5 million of his own money to collect the signatures that brought about the upcoming gubernatorial recall election. Amazingly, Issa is vying for the job. Talk about trying to buy a political position.

Since politics is turning into a bidding war, why not actually let them bid on it? That's right, we should post the presidency on EBay and let the candidate with the deepest pockets get the job. You can already bid on toys, collectibles, cars, plane tickets, clothing and broken Elvis ashtrays. Pretty much anything you can think of and a lot you'd rather not think about.

The process would start when Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist posted an auction advertisement: "Become President of the United States. This exclusive position has been offered only 43 times in 227 years and will allow you to join an elite group that includes George Washington, John F. Kennedy and Millard Fillmore. Generous salary, free housing, world travel and a good retirement program after as few as four years. Bonus title of commander in chief included at no extra cost."

It would be simple, clean and have many advantages over the current method. For one, EBay auctions run for a maximum of 10 days, thus shortening the length of the campaign by, oh, two years.

The election would not only be shorter and sweeter, it would be beneficial to the economy because the money collected from the winning bid could go directly into the Treasury to offset the federal deficit. Meaning the winning candidate would have done something good for the country even before being inaugurated. Possibly the last good thing he or she would do, but at least it would be a strong start.

The only problem is, this takes us, the people, out of the process. Not that we're actually in it now, but it's nice having a more realistic delusion than thinking we have a shot if J. Lo and Ben break up. That's why it might be a better idea to auction off the presidency vote by vote.

In the last election, Bush spent $186 million and received about 50 million votes, meaning it cost him $3.72 per vote. Why not give the money to us, the American voters? Instead of wasting it on silly things like bumper stickers, political consultants and traveling around the country pretending they care about us, just pay us directly.

That's why I'm putting my vote up for auction. It's time to make the E in EBay stand for election: "For sale: one vote. Original owner. Excellent condition. Only used once every four years."

Let the candidates bid. Or big corporations for that matter. It's all the same to me. This will cut out the middleman and, as anyone who has ever pretended to understand economics or has seen a Circuit City ad knows, that means we all save.

Now all I need to do is sit back and wait a year or so until the last days of the campaign, when the bidding will really heat up.

Meanwhile, I still need to make a living. Maybe it's time to post an ad for that Elvis ashtray I've had sitting in a safe deposit box for the last five years.

Barry Gottlieb is a humor writer based in San Francisco.

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