The 28-Year Campaign Starts Today

04/08/2008 04:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Right now, in a modest suburban bungalow located on a quiet
tree-lined street, an 11-year old boy we'll call "Jamie" is saying a final
farewell to his carefree, fun-filled childhood. Once the school year ends,
Jamie is planning to embark on a long, carefully mapped journey into
adulthood that will, his family hopes, culminate in nationwide popularity
and a resounding election victory in the presidential campaign of 2036.

A reliable source tipped me off about the aspiring
commander-in-chief, and his parents agreed to be interviewed only on
condition that all real names and their hometown be kept strictly

"This isn't the time for publicity," said his father, a former
lobbyist and political consultant. "And I certainly don't want anyone to
think I'm taking over my son's entire existence. The reality we face is
that campaign timelines are getting longer in every election, and in the
decades to come the candidates who succeed will be the ones who get the
earliest start. For us, 2008 is definitely the appropriate starting line."

How, I wondered, would this initial phase of Jamie's run-up to the
presidency be conducted?

"Keeping a low profile and avoiding controversy will be our top
priority for the next several years," his mother replied. "My background as
a freelance film producer will be enormously helpful. Starting this summer,
we'll be using digital mini-cams to document everything that happens in his
daily life."

"That way," his father interjected, "we'll have lots of archival
footage to use in preparing biographical materials for the media later on,
or refuting any allegations of personal misconduct that opponents may sling
at him. I'm also going to personally tutor him in history and geography, so
he can make speeches to diverse audiences anywhere in the country without
sounding like he just fell off the 20-Mule Team Borax wagon."

Had anyone, I asked, figured out a long range budget?

"Good point," his father acknowledged. "If campaign expenses
continue to accelerate at their current pace, I've estimated the total cost
of winning the 2036 presidential race will be somewhere between ten or
twenty billion dollars. That means serious fund raising will probably start
right after he graduates from middle school."

"Sometime in his late 20s we'll do a complete progress review," Mom
interjected. "At that point, he needs to be perceived as a rising star.
Have a respected book on the best-seller list, start a foundation, things
like that."

"Momentum is crucial," Dad added quickly. "We'll need to be ready
for campaigning full time immediately after the results of the 2032
elections are announced. No hesitation, no self-doubt, total concentration
on the goal."

At this point it seemed logical to let the candidate himself join
the conversation. "So tell me, young man," I said, "do all these big plans
sound good to you?"

Jamie stared up at the ceiling, stoked his chin for a moment, and
replied, "I honestly don't believe this is an appropriate time for me to
comment on that issue."

His father nodded and said, "I think we have a winner."