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AT LEASTTHERE'SMITT

What is it with Republicans lately?

Nobody wants to run for the presidential nomination. Mike Huckabee said God told him to stay on Fox News. NBC told Donald Trump to stay on Celebrity Apprentice.

Whatever happened to putting your country first? Our forefathers would never have passed up the presidency for anything less than the Charlie Sheen role on Two and a Half Men.

The Republicans are terrified that they'll wind up with Mitt Romney, who has been fundraising like crazy and seems to be planning a campaign based on the slogan: "Money can't buy love, but it can definitely purchase a grudging, defeatist acceptance."

Some party leaders are looking hopefully at Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, who's promised to make up his mind this month. If he runs, one thing you are not going to get from Daniels is the politics of joy.

Daniels is apparently worried that a presidential run might prove embarrassing to his wife, who ditched him and the kids and ran off to California to marry a doctor and then later recanted everything and came back. I think it is pretty safe to say that this topic might come up.

Which brings us to sex. What is it with Republicans lately? Is there something about being a leader of the family-values party that makes you want to go out and commit adultery?

They certainly don't have a lock on the infidelity market, and heaven knows we all remember John Edwards. But, lately, the GOP has shown a genius for putting a peculiar, newsworthy spin on illicit sex. A married congressman hunting for babes is bad. A married congressman hunting for babes by posting a half-naked photo of himself on the Internet is Republican.

A married governor who fathers an illegitimate child is awful. A married governor who fathers an illegitimate child by a staff member of the family home and then fails to mention it to his wife for more than 10 years is Republican.

A married senator who has an affair with an employee is a jerk. A married senator who has an affair with an employee who is the wife of his chief of staff, and whose adultery is the subject of ongoing discussion at his congressional prayer group, is Republican.

We haven't even gotten to Newt Gingrich yet!

As to Daniels, the voters are unlikely to give a fig about the interesting past of his wife, Cheri. But if he wants to protect her from the embarrassment of being asked about it 24/7, perhaps he could just declare her off limits. The news media have generally respected those kinds of rules when it comes to presidential candidates' children, as long as said offspring don't show up on reality shows or as teen-abstinence ambassadors for a shoe store foundation.

Of course, a wife who is off limits would not be able to campaign for her husband. I think that would be terrific. Finally, we could end the tradition that a presidential candidate's spouse is running for something, too. If we want a first family to obsess over, we should just hire a king and queen.

Don't know how the social right would feel about this.

But there's always Mitt Romney.

© 2011 New York Times News Service

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