Douglas MacKinnon
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On April 25, the landscape populated by Republicans hoping to replace President Obama was dramatically reshaped when Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi took himself out of the running. On May 14, the GOP field got even smaller when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced on his Fox News program his "spiritual" decision not to run. One week later, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels took the easy way out by deciding not to run.

What has happened to the "leadership" of the GOP? Personal and heartfelt decisions they may be. Profiles in courage they are not.

As someone who used to work for and with Barbour, I was deeply disappointed with his decision for no other reason than his voice, his experience, and his political instincts would have most certainly enhanced the process.

While I have less respect for Huckabee, his predictable choice not to run comes as a disappointment to many in the Republican Party who feel their lineup of candidates to challenge the president is weak at best.

The just-announced decision by Daniels to exit the presidential campaign arena has shocked, saddened and disappointed voters all across the nation who are longing for some adult leadership and genuinely fear the ideology of Obama and his administration.

Barbour dropped out, he said, because "a candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else. His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required."

Mr. Huckabee said, in part, that "under the best of circumstances, being president is a job that takes one to the limit of his or her human capacity. … My answer is clear and firm: I will not seek the Republican nomination for president this year."

OK, "spiritual" or not, that's an answer. Others in politics say that they knew from Day One that Huckabee would never run because the money and luxury of his current life had already made the decision for him — be it the $2.2 million beachfront home he is building in Florida, the hundreds of thousands of dollars he is making per year from his Fox show and his nationally syndicated radio program, his paid speeches and book deals, or even the money he is (shamelessly, in my opinion) making by hawking amateurish-looking and racially stereotyping animated videos for children about American "history."

As for the "adult in the room," Mitch Daniels, his excuse was: "The counsel and encouragement I received from important citizens like you caused me to think very deeply about becoming a national candidate. In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one, but that, the interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all. ... If you feel that this was a non-courageous or unpatriotic decision, I understand and will not attempt to persuade you otherwise."

Are we supposed to feel sympathy for Barbour, Huckabee or Daniels? Millions of conservatives like me feel the nation and even our planet are being stretched to the very limits of their capacity.

As these politicians take a powder on a presidential run, the Middle East seems to be spiraling out of control, Israel is under sustained and orchestrated attack, our own economy threatens to implode, politicians from both sides of the aisle purposely run from the truth while insulting the intelligence (and endangering the very future) of the American people, and, oh yeah, those who twist the Islamic faith still work day and night to attack us with a weapon of mass destruction.

All of which begs the question: Does anyone have an "obligation" to run? Is it their duty as a citizen? To Daniels' point: Is it somehow "non-courageous or unpatriotic" not to challenge fellow Republicans for the nomination?

As an American, and as someone who has worked in and around a few presidential campaigns, I would forcefully argue that it was wrong for these gentlemen to drop out. Regardless of party or political beliefs, if you truly do have the gifts, instincts, experience and very will to slow, divert or even stop these pending disasters, then I do happen to believe you have an obligation to run.

The nation and the world we all inhabit is infinitely more dangerous, more unstable and more unpredictable than ever before. Given that stark reality, on the left and on the right, we are still surrounded by vapid, partisan hacks who continually put self and party before our nation.

Somewhere behind this phalanx of fools is the handful of Americans who might have the ability to affect our country for the better. Understanding that, we need these candidates of substance to stop whining, stop cashing in and to try to be a statesman.

Is running for president a sacrifice? In some ways. But it's a sacrifice that pales in comparison to that which our nation has asked of our young men and women in uniform — unseen, unknown and unheralded heroes who have gone two, three and even four tours into combat to fight questionable wars for questionable reasons and have paid an unimagined price.

Our president is their commander-in-chief. A job title and a solemn responsibility that has become a hill too high to climb for a growing list of tired politicians who are choosing the spoils of their success — or the easy way out — over that noble effort.

Pity.
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Douglas MacKinnon

Douglas MacKinnon is former White House and Pentagon official who spent three years working in a Joint Command.

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