Mark Twain's "Running For President"

            In "Running for President," Mark Twain writes sardonically of the American political process which consists largely of investigating political candidates for the purpose of finding weaknesses or scandals in their past in order to defeat them in an election. In doing so, he takes the approach of reductum ad absurdum, i.e. taking the argument to absurd lengths, and verbally sketches a brilliant political cartoon whose imagery reduces the reader to wry chuckles of recognition. .

             Twain starts his essay with the announcement: "I have pretty much made up my mind to run for president." (80 Readings p.225) He then proceeds to argue that he is the best candidate because he has and will disclose all his weaknesses so that no derogatory revelations can come to light. One by one, the skeletons in his closet are paraded before the reader in their most exaggerated form. He first admits to attempted murder and inhumanity, writing that he has forced his old, rheumatic grandfather at gunpoint, to climb up a tree and stay there throughout a long winter's night. Moreover, he claims that he would do it again if he had another grandfather, proof that he is not pleading any false remorse. Twain then speaks of his cowardice, telling of how he ran away at the battle of Gettysburg because he was scared. He says that "I wanted my country saved, but I preferred to have somebody else save it." Again, there is no fake expression of remorse. Instead he says, "I entertain that preference yet." Twain continues and confesses to his avarice, admitting that his philosophy towards money is to "take any kind I can get." Further, he confesses to greed coupled with insensitivity, for when his aunt dies, he buries her under his vines so she can fertilize them. He argues that this does not disqualify him from office because "[no] other citizen was ever considered unworthy of this office because he enriched his grapevines with his dead relatives.

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