By Kathleen Parker
NEW YORK – This is doubtless heretical, but I’ll say it anyway: I can wait to find out who the Republican presidential candidates will be.
To be clear, I said “can,” not “can’t.”
Let’s go further: I don’t care who they’ll be. At least not yet.
I don’t care because it’s only March 2011. President Obama’s first term is scarcely half over and the next election is 20 months away. Twenty months! Can you bear this conversation 24/7 for 20 more months?
ABC News in November produced a guide to Republican presidential contenders because, according to the network’s website, the 2012 election was just two years away. Just? I’ve been tired of the 2012 elections since 2009.
Today the buzz is that Newt Gingrich won’t be definitive. Politico reports that the former House speaker was supposed to make big news in Atlanta Thursday and all we got was this lousy “oddly named” website: NewtExplore2012.com.
What can it mean? Is he running or isn’t he? Not to be a spoiler, but I’d say he’s running. I just don’t care. Yet.
In other non-breaking news, five or six people wonder whether former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is running. He’s been to Iowa how many times? Fox News recently suspended both Gingrich and Santorum from their official commentating duties until they decide whether they’ll pursue the presidency.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Midwest, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are gathering dust as pundits weigh whether these two have what it takes. They’re both “fixers,” writes National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. But are they also “fighters”?
We can wait to find out.
And then there’s Mike Huckabee, who has his own TV show and is building an enormous house in Florida that he never could have dreamed he could afford someday. Will he find his way to the presidential podium or will he stick to the golden pulpit? Waiting.
Mitt, will or won’t you? By all that is right and good on this bounteous Earth, Romney should be the Republican candidate. Except that he’s still a Mormon and Lord knows he can’t change his mind about that. Worse, he created a health care program that included insurance mandates. Will he apologize? Will he run?
We know the answer, but we’ll keep talking about it anyway.
Have I left anyone out? According to my ABC guidebook, there are at least 13 who might run, including Ron Paul, who won the straw poll at the recent conservative confab, CPAC, but won’t say whether he’ll be a candidate. And of course, the biggest flirt of all, Sarah Palin, who stands out beyond the obvious by virtue of her two-syllable first name.
You may have noticed that all the aforementioned possible candidates have one-syllable names: Newt, Mitt, Rick, Tim, Mitch, Ron. They’re like the recently popular one-word blockbuster book titles, the better to distinguish themselves from the vowel-rich and multi-syllabic Barack Obama. These are the hardy boys of the Leaner, Meaner GOP. No-frills and thrifty, they don’t even mess around with excess syllables.
Palin, of course, is running – or not – but she’s smart enough to know that she’s most interesting when she’s keeping her fans in suspense. To wit, her response to Barbara Walters last November:
“I’m looking at the lay of the land now, and trying to figure that out – if it’s a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family.”
As with romance, it’s the mystery that keeps suitors coming back. Even so, this endless drama, this turning over of every scrap, exhausting the insignificant, is enough to make one long for constancy.
This isn’t mere non-news fatigue. Rather, it is the growing sense that nothing matters when everything does. We all understand the grinding demands of the 24/7 news beast, to which we are both slave and master. But even monsters need a nap.
It is perhaps testament to these tumultuous times that we are riveted by every flicker and utterance. Political polarization has so defined us that we are always deployed in campaign mode, never in repose. Politics is, among other things, spectacle, but there’s something dreary about the incessancy. Familiarity doesn’t only inspire contempt; it deadens the senses.
Eventually, assuming we’re still cognizant, candidates will declare themselves. We’ll rehash their pasts, squirm through debates, and watch glaze-eyed as the pageant plays out. But I for one can wait. Not knowing how it ends may be all that’s left to enjoy.
Kathleen Parker’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. She e writes for The Washington Post Writers Group.