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Morris J. Amitay


Column for January 24, 2007


Why Not Me?



I just went over the list of all Presidential hopefuls in 2008 both declared and those waiting in the wings.  It’s not “57 varieties” yet, but counting.  Look who we’ve got so far:


Democrats: Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, John Edwards, former senator from North Carolina, Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Al Gore, former vice president; from Tennessee, Gen. Wesley Clark, retired NATO commander; from Arkansas, and Mike Gravel, former Senator of Alaska.


Republicans: Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor of New York, Tommy G. Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin, James S. Gilmore III, former governor of Virginia, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, Representative Ron Paul of Texas, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, Representative Duncan Hunter of California, Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, and Newt Gingrich, former House speaker from Georgia.


After perusing this list it suddenly occurred to me: why not Morris J. Amitay for President?


I am on a first name basis with many of these potential leaders of our nation, and I certainly know a great deal about the rest. 


Let’s look at how I stack up against these guys and one gal.


Age would likely be an issue, but I’m only a month older than GOP front-runner John McCain.  Like McCain, I was proud to wear the uniform – of Cub Scout Pack 656.  As for the need for charisma, I’m definitely better looking than Dennis Kucinich.  Politically, I have broad appeal to just about every segment of the electorate.  For example, take the current “Mr. Excitement” – Barack Obama.  We both attended Columbia as undergrads, and then graduated from the Harvard Law School.  While he was selected by his peers (mostly bookish nerds) to be President of the Law Review, I was News editor of the Harvard Law Record and even started my own alternative to the Law Review – the Low Review.  It was made up of those of us who wanted to help conserve energy by never burning the midnight oil, and who, with little interest in ever practicing law, actually had fun at law school - even going out during the week!  I would also be quick to remind African-American voters that I was on the same dorm floor with the only African-American in the Class of ’61, and recruited him for my intramural basketball team.  In doing so, I not only broke the color barrier, but helped demolish the stereotype about black people and basketball.  (This guy simply could not put the ball in the basket.)  As for Hillary’s political base in the Empire State, I was born and raised in New York (in the equivalent of a log cabin in Manhattan), and never made $100,000 on a $1,000 investment.  Call me the “Un-Hillary”.


In terms of my experience, compared to all those Senators, Congressmen, and (particularly the miniscule state) Governors, there is no contest, as I served many years in both the executive and legislative branches.  I still treasure my time serving in the JFK White House.  Maybe not exactly in the White House, but right next door in what was then called the Old Executive Office Building.  Following law school, the three months I spent in the Bureau of the Budget (which is in the “Executive Office of the President”) obviously gave me a thorough grounding in all aspects of the federal budgetary process.  And while we were not that close, I did catch a glimpse of JFK on at least two occasions that summer.  Then I went back to Cambridge for my Masters degree in Public Administration.  How many other candidates have three degrees, huh?  I took my second course there with then-professor Henry Kissinger, and undoubtedly influenced his own thinking with my rapt attention and extensive note taking in his classes.  How many other candidates can claim they were mentored by “Henry the K”?


As for the hands-on foreign policy experience, which is sorely needed during these perilous times – there were my two “hardship” postings when I was a Foreign Service Officer - in Italy and South Africa.  First appointed to the Foreign Service by my buddy, JFK, it wasn’t exactly easy not gaining too much weight in Italy.  In South Africa, coaching an all-white Afrikaaner basketball team on the side, it was tough not having a single player who could jump – or shoot for that matter.  Domestically, with crime and education high priorities, I can point to my patrolling the mean streets of Fairfax, Virginia as a member of “Neighborhood Watch”, and serving as a former member of the PTA  (Sex Education Committee) in Montgomery County, Maryland. 


My Congressional experience as a legislative aide in both the House of Representatives, working for a Wisconsin Representative (think dairy price supports) and in the Senate for a leading Democrat from Connecticut -  (think trade, defense, energy) – gives me expertise on all the major issues confronting the American people.  As we all know, Congressional staffers invariably know much more than their bosses, and are much smarter, but have much smaller egos. 


With my three score and ten years criss-crossing this great country from the mountains to the prairies, I come to relate to the basic needs of the American people.  I know what the women of America really want – things like granite counter tops in their kitchens, and shiny rocks on their hands, necks, and ears.  I am attuned to the desires of the average hard-working American male for Wednesday Night Football, and the availability of non-caloric beer and nachos.


As the son of immigrant parents, (both legal and illegal), I worked my way through college and law school during the summers as a waiter and busboy at resorts in just about every mountain range in the East except Appalachia.  (Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union please note).  During my time in the Catskills I also had to become proficient in the mambo, rhumba, and merengue (Latino voters - please note.)  Currently, as a member of the DC Bar for almost 45 years, I can appreciate what the public thinks of lawyers in general, so I can proudly state that the only briefs I have ever had any interest in are “Fruit of the Loom”, and that my only court appearances have been to contest piddling traffic offenses.  Instead, I represent clients advocating a strong national defense.  In doing so, I prefer to describe myself as a “corridorist” rather than a “lobbyist”.  


Only recently I have been described in the Washington Post Magazine as “a legend” among my peers.  How many on that long list of presidential hopefuls can claim that?!  And finally, on the crucial issue the media is fixated upon – the ingesting of controlled substances – I have to admit that for my generation they were really hard to get.  Besides, in high school we had all been forced to see “Reefer Madness”.    


To sum up – am I the ideal candidate or what?


So why not Morris (Morrie) J. Amitay for President?  Think of it – a nice (mature) Jewish boy, well educated, with loads of Washington experience, just a few skeletons in the closet – and a burning desire to serve his country.  Who knows?  If enough of you urge me to make the run, we will make history together.  Let the other two dozen wannabees eat our dust!