2012's Cowards

Article excerpt

Byline: Howard Kurtz

The Republican Party flirts should stop complaining about how tough it is to run for president and get in the game.

It is, more politicians are saying, an exercise in craziness that appeals only to the unbalanced. As Mitch Daniels, the latest to recoil at the prospect of running for president, put it: "What sane person would like to?"

Increasingly, we are told, White House aspirants are horrified by the grueling pace, the relentless attacks, the withering scrutiny, the notion of dragging their families into a slimy swamp that will taint them forever. My response: stop the whining.

First, the presidency is a pretty cool job. You get a nice mansion with backyard, a bowling alley, a chef, your own helicopter, and an impressive pile of nuclear weapons. No one forced these folks to stir up presidential speculation. The agonizing is getting old.

Second, as nutty and nightmarish as the process may be, it's not an irrational way to pick a president. The pressures of running, defining a message, mastering the issues, and fending off attacks is a rough proxy for managing the burdens of the Oval Office. If a candidate can't galvanize supporters during a campaign, how can he or she rally the country during a Wall Street meltdown or a war? "In a classic mythological sense," says former Joe Biden aide Ron Klain, "it tests the candidate in every respect--physically, mentally, emotionally. It weeds people out."

Donald Trump loudly proclaimed he was serious this time, right until the day he had to re-up with Celebrity Apprentice--for a payday worth up to $60 million. "It was very hard because I was doing so well in terms of the polls," Trump tells me. "Do you give up a top show on television with a tremendous amount of money for the privilege of running for a year and a half?" Well, some people might.

Trump insists he wasn't deterred by the negative coverage: "I expected a lot of scrutiny. My whole life I've been getting scrutiny." Besides, says Trump, he always has the "option" of running "at a later date"--an obvious reference to mounting an independent bid next year. …