One of the perennially fun things about following American politics is tracking the people who say they are not running for president.
The fact is, somewhere around 310,767,362 Americans will not be running for president in 2012. Most of them will not bother making a formal announcement of what they are not going to do.
Those who do run for president will make a formal announcement — perhaps several to maximize free media coverage — long after everyone already has figured out they are running. And for the Republican wannabes, those announcements will likely come next spring.
What's intriguing now is those people who announce they are not running, often without prodding. Howard Dean, the notorious Iowa imploder, did so recently.
Think of it this way: If one Saturday noon out of the blue your teenager announced he was not going to the mall, where is the first place you'd look for him later if necessary? For some reason, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton chose Australia as the place to say she was not running again. Flashback to her statements that she was not dropping out of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary — repeated right up until her actually dropout.
So, on "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace," the host pursued the following line of questioning:
WALLACE: You made some news recently in Australia when you ruled out running again for office in 2012 and 2016. Why?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I love what I'm doing. I can't tell you what it's like, Chris, to every day get to represent the United States, and it's why I feel so strongly about every issue from, you know, START to Afghanistan.
WALLACE: But are you — are you categorically saying that you are done with political office ...
CLINTON: I — I have said ...
WALLACE: ... elected office?
CLINTON: I have said it over and over again, and I'm happy to say it on your show as well. I am committed to doing what I can to advance the security, the interests and the values of the United States of America.
I believe that what I'm doing right now is in furtherance of that, and I'm very proud and grateful to be doing it.
WALLACE: So you're done with elective office?
CLINTON: I am. I am very happy doing what I'm doing, and I am not in any way interested in or pursuing anything in elective office.
History suggests over time such statements can become malleable. Usually, they say something like, "I have no plans to run for president." No one has any plans to run until they actually do. Clinton seemed to leave the door open until that last "I am."
Freudian slip aside, Texas Gov. Rick Perry seemed equally firm later on the same program:
WALLACE: All right. You brought up running for the presidency. You have repeatedly said that you are not going to run for president. Why not, sir?
PERRY: I think being the president — or, excuse me, being the governor of a state like Texas or, for that matter, Oklahoma or New Mexico, is a more pivotal job in the future. I do indeed hope there's someone that says, "I'm going to go to Washington, try to get back to our constitutional roots, devolve this centralization of government back to the states." So why would you want to be up there if the action is down here in the states?
WALLACE: And just one last question along those lines, and we're running out of time. When you took the job as head of the Republican Governors Assn., did you have to make a commitment that you would not run for president?
PERRY: Oh, I've made that commitment every time I've been asked, and that commitment still stands. I don't want to be the president of the United States….
So, Perry is out of the GOP running until someday when perhaps he isn't out of the running. One other key indicator of future political aspirations: publishing a book. Sarah Palin's second book just came out. Mitt Romney's is out. So is Newt Gingrich's, albeit a novel.
And, oh look! Perry has a book out too, which could be a "tea party" chant: "Fed Up!"
But he's not running, of course.
Top of the Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics (www.latimes.com/ticket) is a blend of commentary, analysis and news. This is a piece from the last week.