It's official: I'm not running for president

So it looks like I won't be running for president of the United States in 2008 after all. It turns out that I'm not even close to being qualified for the nation's top elected position. Results from my exploratory committee confirmed my worse fears. I'm a relatively good person.

My "candidacy" began quietly a few months ago, when I casually told my neighbor down the street, Gary, what changes I would make if I were commander-in-chief. Gary liked my ideas so much, he immediately signed on as my chief of staff and began "choosing" my running mate, finally deciding that Hank, the neighbor who constantly rakes the rocks in his front yard clad in only his shorts, gave the ticket a winning combination.

Things started moving fast after that, and soon Gary had named my entire Cabinet, which included Mabel, a sweet, elderly woman with two dachshunds who makes the tastiest lemon pies I've ever tasted, as my Defense secretary, and Roy, a neighbor who enjoys washing his many vehicles every day, to head up Labor.

I was forced to slow things down. I told Gary we had to start with an exploratory committee to see if the atmosphere was right for a candidacy completely founded on inebriated rantings about the war in Iraq. He agreed and volunteered to head up the committee.

It soon became apparent that Gary would be the only member of my exploratory committee, but he eagerly accepted the honor and went to work. Weeks went by before Gary turned up at my doorstep one morning clutching a manila folder with a few papers inside. I could hardly contain my excitement ... until Gary sat down, asked for a beer, then shook his head back and forth as he plucked a paper out of the folder.

"You're not going to like hearing this, Mark," is how Gary began. He took a big swig from his beer, shook his head again, then handed me the paper. "It's probably better if you read it," he said. I was still in a bit of a daze watching Gary drink a beer at 9:30 in the morning, but I took the paper ... and was soon downing my own brewskie as I took in my exploratory group's findings.

From what I could tell, most of the group's research was garnered from watching reports from CNN and Fox News about President Bush. The group had done its homework well; the findings were like a slap in the face. At the bottom of the paper, Gary had circled the group's final conclusion: Don't run. As I opened another beer, I asked Gary what it all meant. According to the data, I was not at all qualified to be president.

"You're not at all qualified to be president," Gary confirmed. "From what I know of you, you possess not one of the many qualities needed to hold such a high office." I was dumbfounded. And a bit buzzed from the beer.

"But why?" was all I could mutter, "Why!?" Gary shook his head and began going through his report.

"First off, you need to be a Democrat or a Republican. You're neither." Well, it was true. I've always voted for whom I felt was the best candidate, regardless of party.

"Second, you've never held an elected office." I had to stop Gary there, as he knew damn well that I had been voted class treasurer at my high school, twice in fact.

"Finally, you're too nice. You care about people. You, unfortunately, want to do what's right. That just doesn't work today." Gary had me there. I'm forever been burdened with a conscience. I don't like to see people suffer, and I don't like to see good people get the short end of the stick.

"Presidents are ruthless," Gary continued. "They cater to a few at the expense of many. Most have an ulterior motive that people in their own party don't even know about. They make appointments not based on experience or character but on friendships and loyalty. They say one thing and do another. They cloak themselves in secrecy, then get miffed when people discover the truth.

"I just don't think you have what it takes to be president," Gary concluded.

Maybe the beer was clouding my thoughts, but I knew Gary was right. It takes a special person to be president nowadays. And I realized that I wasn't that person.

My dream had died almost as quickly as it had started.

"Plus," Gary continued, "Hank refuses to run as your vice president cuz he says you haven't returned the hoe you borrowed last summer."

I couldn't help but wonder as I watched Gary leave, as he stumbled over Hank's hoe in the front yard, what it would have been like to be president of the United States.