Psst! Hillary Clinton is running for president

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves as she walks with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, left, former President Bill Clinton and Ruth Harkin, right, as they arrive at Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa.  AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall.

This is the time of year — every four years or so — when otherwise ethical journalists become willing participants in a presidential campaign’s strategy.

Hillary Clinton is running for president. You know it. I know it. The ’27 Yankees know it.

You know who keeps pretending they don’t know it? Journalists.

But here we are this morning with this headline on NPR, which mirrors the ones elsewhere. For nearly five minutes, NPR played along.

This is a game in which the politician plays the media, taking advantage of the misplaced sense of ethics that says if a candidate doesn’t confirm he/she/it is running for office, we can’t presume and say she is, even if she’s clearly running.

In this way, candidates get journalists to do “will she or won’t she” stories for months, instead of more robust and hefty journalism. It’s a game and journalists are the suckers, led to run the stories the politicians want them to run. That’s never a healthy thing.

For five minutes today, NPR played the game and never once deviated into any issue facing a potential president. Five minutes!

It’s not just Clinton, of course. This morning on CBS, Rand Paul got the “when will you announce?” question and, predictably, he said he’ll decide in January.

Right. We’ll check back then.