WHAT DO YOU want to be when you grow up?" I asked little Clem Maple.
He eyed me suspiciously, as 11-year-olds tend to do, and replied, "President of the United States."
"That's wonderful," I said. "What makes you think that you could be president?"
"I can beat up every kid in my class."
"That isn't exactly a qualification."
"My daddy says it is. He claims that if you can't beat up everybody in your class, you don't have what it takes to run in an election."
"I guess there is something to that. But there's more to being president than fighting dirty. You must be able to answer the tough questions that the press will throw at you. For example, have you ever smoked pot?"
"Not even once when you were waiting to go out on the field for Little League baseball?"
"No, I never did."
"What about women? Are there any in your life that might pop up at the time you are running for election? Level with me because Americans hate political surprises."
"I don't know any women. I know a girl named Anne-Marie Dunn in my class, but I only kissed her once because she has braces on her teeth, and she cut my lip."
"In order to be president of the United States, you will have to raise a great deal of money. Are you prepared to do this?"
"I don't know."
"Well, think about it. You must make deals with many organizations in exchange for their political action contributions. There's nothing wrong with it because all politicians are nice to the person who gives them money."
"How do I do that?"
"Invite the big givers to the White House, call them by their first names and make sure that no legislation is passed to offend them."
"Is that what a president does?"
"On his good days. On his bad days he vetoes bills that he thinks could save the grizzly bear. By the way, if you are elected president, are you prepared to blame Congress for everything that's gone wrong in the country?"
"I don't know."
"Well, you had better decide. No president can defend his own record without blaming Congress for theirs. Clem, you shouldn't dream of being president unless you have a game plan. Did you ever try to get out of serving in the Vietnam War?"
"What's the Vietnam War?"
"Never mind. Are you for a balanced budget?"
"I am not sure."
"Well, you can't run for the White House without promising the people a balanced budget and a prayer in every school."
"I don't know if I want to be president of the United States anymore."
"What do you want to be?"
"A star hockey player. Then all you have to do is hit people with a stick."
Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.