Whatever else the New Year brings, at least it won't be a presidential election or any of the primaries, caucuses, or conventions leading up to it. Which is more than OK with me. American presidential campaigns have grown excruciatingly overlong, and I look forward to a respite from the obsessive political coverage, the ginned-up gaffes and controversies, the rush to dissect each twitch in public opinion, the avalanche of dishonest advertising and disingenuous "fact-checking."
Of course not everyone agrees, especially in the press corps. "We all have our peculiar tastes," George F. Will once wrote. "Some people like Popsicles. Others like gothic novels. I like politicians." Peculiar is right. I won't say I've never met a politician I liked -- two or three I've even admired -- but on the whole I tend to agree with Tom Dobbs, the character played by Robin Williams in the 2006 movie "Man of the Year." A TV entertainer who runs for president on a lark, Dobbs tells his audience: "Politicians are a lot like diapers; they should be changed frequently, and for the same reason."
I realize that a democratic republic cannot survive without politicians. And I realize that it's a lot easier to criticize everything that's insufferable and grubby in presidential campaigns than to actually campaign for president. At one point this fall, an exasperated Ann Romney had a message for the legions of detractors disparaging her husband's performance. "Stop it," she said. "This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring." Perhaps unknowingly, she was echoing Teddy Roosevelt, who in a famous speech a century earlier had declared that "It is not the critic who counts," but "the man who is actually in the arena … who does actually strive to do the deeds … who spends himself in a worthy cause."