Everybody who lives in New Hampshire, where (whether we want to or not) we get a close-up view of presidential candidates 24/7/365 for a couple of years at a time, must have this thought come scooting across their neurons at one time or another: Why on earth would anyone want to run for president?
To put it in even more simple terms: Are these people crazy?
Well, the short answer is, probably not - medically speaking at least. The long answer may be a little more complicated.
Of course, we know that a presidential campaign has a schedule that could have been designed by the Marquis de Sade, or at the least Nurse Ratched: nonstop travel across the country and back; the never-changing stump speeches; a diet apparently consisting of rubber chicken, M&Ms and an orange; the incessant backbiting; the necessity of spending much of your time seeking approval from people who either don't know you or may not like you - you get the drift.
No one would blame you for wondering about the common sense of anyone who willingly subjects himself, or herself, to such an ordeal. (It's an ordeal, by the way, that has as one of its highlights giving a speech at a political convention populated by people in hats made out of balloons, dead animals or food products and wearing clothes that give the colors red, white and blue a bad name.)
The complication comes from this unfortunate reality: People who exhibit such a world-class need for approval from others simply don't emerge fully formed to run for president. They have to work their way up the ladder, often for decades, before achieving the appropriate disconnection from reality required of a presidential candidate.
I bring this up because there's no doubt that New Hampshire legislators are among those populating the lower reaches of the political food chain. And it has become apparent for lo these many years that, collectively at least, they need their heads examined.
Just in the last legislative session, we had the spectacle of a bill defining "milk" actually making its way through the legislative process and to the governor's desk.
We also were treated to the defeat of a bill that would have allowed the use of clotheslines. And another bill "relative to the theft of stones from stonewalls." And still another that would have changed what we call voters who aren't registered with any political party - from "undeclared" to "independent." And the one considering adopting Atlantic Daylight Savings Time. And how about the bill defining "swine as a nuisance"?
Unfortunately, I could go on.
In the end, though, we must face a difficult truth: The problem, dear reader, is not in our politicians, but in ourselves. After all, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then we're all certifiable. Because every November we're the ones who put them in office. NH
Jeff Feingold, editor of New Hampshire Business Review, used to pen a column titled "Capitol Offenses." We stole the name, but still allow him on occasion to put his two cents on the page.
This article appears in the August 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine