“Are people crazy when they get into politics, or does the process of politics drive them crazy?,” Jim Geraghty asks:
Perhaps Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s belief that Neil Armstrong planted a flag on Mars qualifies, or her assertion that “Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working.” Or perhaps Rep. Hank Johnson expressing a fear during a hearing that the island of Guam could “tip over and capsize” if too many military personnel were stationed there.
How do we explain the behavior of, say, Anthony Weiner? Or David Wu?
I suppose politics requires a person to be particularly good at two sometimes challenging tasks: 1) being particularly charming and appealing to immensely wealthy people, so charming and appealing that they’re willing to write checks to your campaign and 2) being appealing to the electorate at large.
There’s undoubtedly stress, fear of defeat, desperation, a widening gulf between the private self and the public face held up for approval. Does this, at some point, wear down one’s mental health? Is shamelessness such a prerequisite for running for office that candidates and their spouses lose a sense of what’s abnormal human behavior? Or is political ambition by itself a bit of abnormal human behavior?
Our founding fathers knew that power over the masses could both corrupt men and drive them completely insane, which is why they worked so hard to limit that power. Looking at the Senate, P.J. O’Rourke famously quipped that “The founding fathers, in their wisdom, devised a method by which our republic can take one hundred of its most prominent numbskulls and keep them out of the private sector where they might do actual harm.” Of course, these days, the zaniest inmates have escaped their asylum, which is why we have leftwing former senators Barack Obama, John Kerry and Joe Biden making a hash of the world, and their current and former senatorial colleagues Hillary Clinton Elizabeth Warren jockeying in the wings to continue the socialist crazymaking after 2016.
Oh, and Democrat former congressman David Wu pictured above, and in Geraghty’s post in his bespoke Tony-the-Tiger suit?