The March 1975 edition of Harper’s featured an interesting essayistic gallery culled from the American populace to answer the question, “When Did You Stop Wanting to Be President?” The group of respondents included Theodore Sorensen (advisor to President Kennedy), George Romney (former governor of Michigan and father to Mitt), Kevin Phillips (author of The Emerging Republican Majority), and Eugene McCarthy (longtime Congressman from Minnesota).
But there were two writers in the group that merit special attention, in part because one can scarcely imagine them sharing the same editorial space: Ronald Reagan and William S. Burroughs!!!
At that moment Reagan was a year away from a failed attempt to wrest the Republican nomination from sitting president Gerald Ford and five years away from being elected president as a reactionary fuckwit.
Reagan uses his space to spout a lot of aw-shucks baloney about not wanting to be president (“I never started”), to throw out a few potshots at FDR and government in general, and to express confidence that public confidence in the presidency is likely to go up in the future (hasn’t happened).
For his part, Burroughs spins a funny alternate vision of himself as “Commissioner of Sewers” (as the item is sometimes known) of Los Alamos. Turned off by the notion of the president “pawing babies and spouting bullshit,” Burroughs engages in a reverie of being able to use his exalted position as an opportunity to engage in wide-ranging graft and shenanigans, including pressuring the sheriff “for some mary juana he has confiscated and he’d better play ball or I will route a sewer through his front yard.”
Eventually Burroughs (or his fictional stand-in) realizes that he’s “simply the wrong shape” for that kind of position, noting that plenty of his “plump” boyhood friends had gone on to pull down hefty salaries in similar roles.
You can read Burroughs’ original article in the pages of Harper’s (click on “Download PDF”) or you can read a slightly different version of it in the Google Books preview of Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader.
More amusing, though, is to hear Burroughs read it himself, as he does after the jump…