Digging up the dirt on presidential candidates

The Virginia Gazette

I am announcing today that I am never running for president of the United States.

As Republican Ben Carson is discovering, when you run for the White House the press starts digging into your life back to childhood. While unlike Carson I never tried to stab anyone when I was a teenager, I'm sure the media would find some embarrassing skeletons in my past.

For instance, to show my athletic prowess, I would brag truthfully about being the first shortstop in the history of a new high school in Columbus, Ohio, in 1957. Nosy reporters would soon find that I also was the school's first shortstop to make three errors in one game. I would have made more but the coach took me out.

Who knows what the press would uncover about my days at Ohio State University? My campaign bio would note that I was editor of the campus newspaper, the Lantern. But inside an old school yearbook is a politically ticking time bomb. It is a sequence of color pictures showing an anonymous group drinking beer and dancing down by the riverside on a sunny day. The group, in fact, was the newspaper staff. The then skinny guy dancing with a buxom coed on a pier was the editor of the paper, me. We were doing the twist, which for younger readers was an ancient dance performed by moving your body from side to side while Chubby Checker sang "Let's twist again, like we did last summer."

Then there is the issue of my collegiate military career. I wore the blue uniform of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps. This was because of love of country, devotion to duty and the fact that two years of ROTC was mandatory back then. The ugly truth is that I did not live up to the tradition of my helicopter-transported commencement speaker Air Force Gen. Curtis "Bombs Away" Lemay.

My problem was a lack of mandatory interest and an inability to march to any drummer in drills. I was not alone. One day our student drill-instructor-of-the-day was leading us in formation directly into a wire fence until, panic-stricken, he barked: "Away from the fence, March."

Worse yet, some inquiring reporters might go even further back into my dark past. Sometime in the first grade there probably was a girlfriend who I dropped for an older woman in, say, the second grade. You know she is just waiting for Anderson Cooper to come along and ask about me.

So you can see I have no choice but to forgo any run at the presidency. After all, what if this stuff ever got into print?

James City County resident Ronald G. Shafer is the former Washington political features editor at the Wall Street Journal.

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