As of last Wednesday afternoon, there were 22 declared candidates for president of the United States.
I learned this by consulting a website at 2012.presidential-candidates.org.
Now, 22 is the number of declared candidates. This includes such household names as Michele 'Crazy as a Loon' Bauchmann, Newt 'The Nut' Gringrich, Rick 'There's No Such Thing as Crazy in Texas' Perry, Mitt 'The Most Handsome Republican Ever' Romney and Barack 'I Never Promised I'd Always Be a Liberal' Obama.
I, of course, added the irreverent nicknames.
The candidate list also includes a whole bunch of people you never actually heard of.
They include Herman Cain ('cancer survivor, YouTube sensation and former mathematician with the U.S. Navy'), Jimmy McMillan ('the former mayoral, gubernatorial and senatorial candidate for the Rent is Too Damn High Party') and my personal favorite, Thad McCotter ('the lead guitarist for the New Flying Squirrels').
Those descriptions, by the way, are not mine, but were taken directly from the website itself.
Also on this website you'll learn that there is one 'withdrawn' candidate (Tim Pawlenty) as well as 13 'potential' candidates - and that list includes some familiar names, too, including Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani.
Finally, under the 'declined candidates' category, there are 15 more names, any number of whom might very well be lured into the race under the right circumstances - perhaps with behind-the-scenes maneuvering at the convention or something. Those names include Mike Bloomberg, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, David Petraeus, etc.
What's amazing to me, though, is, why would any of these characters - including Barack Obama - even want to be president?
Only a certifiably insane person would want the job.
Now, by contrast, the 13 people lined up for a shot at the 1st Congressional District seat vacated by David Wu (reportedly plenty wacky in his own right) - eight Democrats and five Republicans - might very well be described as not insane. That, job, after all, entails pretty good pay for being just one of 435 other yokels. In other words, one measly member of Congress can't be blamed for all of our problems.
But the president can - and probably will.
Personally, I am convinced that most of our current problems are due to the fact that George Bush was an idiot, and he let a bunch of other idiots run the country into the ground.
I know, I know. A whole lot of people now fervently believe that it's Barack Obama running the country into the ground.
Touche, all right?
My only point is, there's no winning at this game, and only a complete nut would want the job at all.
It's not unlike the premise of Joseph Heller's excellent World War II-era book, 'Catch-22': If you try to claim to be crazy to avoid going into battle, then it's obvious you're not crazy, and you're subject to this mythical rule - which, of course, was simply a literary device dreamed up by Heller and not a real rule at all.
Picture, if you will, Corporal Klinger in the long-running television show 'M*A*S*H.' Here's a guy who pranced through virtually every episode in dresses and high heels, often sporting makeup and occasionally a special new hat, hoping to be judged too insane to remain in the Army - only to be ignored by the whole military because they knew his aversion to combat was perfectly normal.
Besides, he was kinda cute.
Obama, Bauchmann, Romney and Perry and the rest of the candidates - declared, undeclared, potential and otherwise - are all volunteering to go on a dangerous mission that will almost certainly be their downfall.
Of course they're insane.
And the fact that the rest of us are content to argue over who's taken the most vacation in recent memory - and whether or not Obama's big black bus looks like Darth Vader's helmet just proves to me that we're all on pretty shaky ground, too.
I once heard it argued by a very wise newspaperman that communities (be they good, bad or just indifferent) tend to get the newspaper that they deserve.
Maybe the same is true of presidents.
(Former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections, puts together the Living Here section and contributes a regular column.)