FLINT - I tried to discourage Henry, who is 11, from declaring his candidacy for fifth grade student council representative. "Politics is an ugly game these days," I said. "It's not for the faint of heart."
But he was having none of it. His hat was firmly in the ring.
"OK," I said, "but before you decide for good we should do a background check."
"You know, see if anyone has anything on you or against you. Is there anything embarrassing in your past that we should know about?"
"Uh, I knocked over the juice yesterday."
"Mm, that could be bad. We'll have to figure out how to spin that - you were getting juice for your sick sister, you were tired, your hand slipped, the sun was in your eyes. Don't worry, we'll figure out something. Anything else?"
"And I didn't do all my reading last week. We had to read a newspaper. I don't like newspapers."
"Not to worry. It didn't hurt Sarah Palin. We can work around that. Anything else?"
"Great. Now, of course we'll also have to vet your closest associates to see if they have any skeletons in their closets that the opposition will hold against you. Because they will, you know."
"My god, man, of course they will! This is kill or be killed. Remember what happened to Gary Hart back in '88?"
"Never mind. Just remember, until this campaign is over, women are off-limits, OK?"
"OK, not her. But to be safe, I'll have someone check her out. You never can tell. Now, how are you set for money?"
"Of course, you can't run for office without money. That's Campaign 101."
"I don't have any money. You haven't given me my allowance for a month, remember?"
"OK, so clearly we're going to have to hold fund-raisers, put the squeeze on corporate donors and so on. Do you know anybody with deep pockets?"
"Uh, grandma and grandpa?"
"Good, have your campaign committee call them first thing in the morning. Now, tell me about your platform."
"Your platform - where you stand on the issues. You had to write your teacher a letter saying what you'd promise the kids if you ran, right? So what'd you say?"
"Um, I said that I want to bring back the winter carnival. It was fun."
"No good. In these economic times, you can't position yourself on the side of big government and more spending. The press would eat you alive, not to mention the Tea Party types. You don't want to end up on Sean Hannity, after all."
"Never mind. So what else did you write?"
"Um, I said I'd listen to people's ideas and that I'm responsible, kind and respectful."
Responsible, kind and respectful?
The kid clearly has no future in politics.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.