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September 30, 2004
The inside of the campaign button is speckled with rust, but its red-white-and-blue message is clear: HHH in '68. That was back when we still knew how to use the apostrophe.

A green and blue one with white letters says "Carter-Mondale-Weiss." Ted Weiss was a brilliant and good New York legislator, one of our very best. He died young. Carter and Mondale lost to Reagan, of course, but Ted won. So that was 1980.

I've promised myself that I will clean out one drawer each day until they're all straight. It's slow going, the business of drawer-cleaning: you must muse over each old card: I will keep the last Christmas card we got from Beverly, the postcard Bill Duane sent me from the monastery, and all the cards from my children and grandchildren. You must agonize over tossing things you never use: two almost-full bottles of Toprol, a drug that slows the heart, useless to me now. You can't return drugs to a pharmacy or even donate them to a doctor to give out for nothing. You have to throw them away.

A yellow Muskie button. A man couldn't cry in public in 1968. but Muskie did. Paid for it, too. He was a good man, I always felt. Now, in this more sensitive age, candidates probably work with acting coaches on how to look like they're blinking back tears.

Two pairs of my dad's suspenders. I must find out if my brother wears suspenders or if he thinks he ever might wear suspenders in the future. Q does not wear suspenders. A flower-power daisy sticker with "Gene McCarthy" in its blue center, never used. You had to be "clean for Gene" in that campaign: cut your hair and wear shoes. That was asking a lot in those days. I wore a yellow and white striped dress and tied my hair back with a yellow ribbon, and I looked like Nancy Drew.

A button bearing a photograph of a youthful Jimmy Carter. Mondale/ Ferraro in red, white and blue. An over-designed McGovern button. Three plain tin foldover lapel tags that say "Ike/Dick." Good Lord.

Only one candidate can win. Some of those who attempt have wanted to be president all their lives. Others were more taken aback by their own ascendancy, but they wanted it and wanted it bad once they were in the race. But only one can win.

Interestingly, it is important to many voters that their candidate be likable. A regular guy. Someone just like me. But if I thought we needed a president just like me, I'd run myself. We need one better than me. Smarter than me. Braver than me, for the office requires a courage no other job requires. I don't need a buddy in the White House; I have my own friends. I need a wise and experienced leader with sound judgment and moral courage.

One more button and I'm finished with the drawer of the day. A crisp white collar and neat blue necktie against brown skin. A calm mouth and smiling eyes beneath a thatch of curly grey hair. It reads "Welcome to New York, Nelson Mandela."
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