You know, the Onion has a point. They have a satirical article about Obama not wanting to run for President again:
Arguing he’d have to be certifiably insane or some kind of sadistic freak to extend his presidency, Obama asked why anyone with half a brain would willingly open himself up to constant vilification by media strategists, or place himself in a situation that involves so much work for such little reward. He also asked the audience how “messed up and sick” he’d have to be to devote nearly a decade of his life to an unending cycle of political gamesmanship that stifles progress at every turn.
The Onion is coming at this from a very liberal viewpoint of asking why the country is so sick we can’t get on board the Obama Awesomeness Agenda. In fact, a lot of the “the system is broken” criticism from the Left has that taste to it: that the system must be broken because we can’t create universal healthcare or double education spending (again). It would never occur to them that the opposition to many of Obama’s policies is the system working.
But the article does circle the question we always ask: who the hell would want to run for President? Who would want to have their past dug through, their every statement and gesture analyzed? Who would want to be the subject of a thousand ridiculous rumors and “facts”? Who would want to have reasonable positions portrayed as — take your pick — socialism, fascism, racism, elitisms, Christianism? Who would want to spend all their time raising money, scratching backs and telling the American people everything they want to hear but nothing that they need to hear?
The answer, of course is: politicians. I was at an event where someone asked P.J. O’Rourke this question and he responded that politicians enjoy the game. They love cold-calling people for donations. They love scoring cheap points on the Sunday morning shows and unfairly mocking their opponents’ positions. It’s a game, if you have the right semi-sociopathic mentality.
That’s why the few politicians who don’t seem to enjoy that game, who do seem interested in ideas and debate strike such a chord among the general public. Reagan was this way, to some extent, although he also played the game about as well as it has ever been played. Ron Paul is this way. John Huntsman maybe. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. A few others. But they seem to be getting rarer and rarer.