© 2016 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. Ask any astronaut what question they are asked most. Is it about the wonders of the cosmos or dangers they face or what launch feels like? According to many astronauts, they’re most often asked how they use the biffy in space.
Lately I have been thinking about the presidential contenders. While I don’t care about their biffy use, I wonder: how can they campaign twenty hours a day, seven days a week, and do so for months and months?
Speaking for myself, I work ten-hour days usually five or six times a week, and get plenty tired. The presidential contenders could be tougher than me, or, as some people suspect, they enhance their stamina pharmacologically.
There is no chance the current presidential candidates will disclose what drugs they take to campaign relentlessly. I wonder about the side effects?
Maybe none of them take drugs. A few years ago I remember watching New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson spend much of six years running for president while he was also the governor of New Mexico.
Sometimes in debates he was sharp and collected. Other times he was sweaty and off target. Could it have been too much caffeine? He has the Guinness handshaking record for an eight-hour span. He shook one hand every 2.15 seconds for eight hours. How much energy does that take?
The 38th Vice President of the United States, Hubert Humphrey, was elected vice president in 1964. He was known as the Happy Warrior because he could campaign around the clock. Interestingly, he was a licensed pharmacist. Perhaps there was a connection.
This presidential election cycle we are getting some very odd statements from both major candidates. In 1972, Ed Muskie broke down weeping uncontrollably at one campaign stop while reportedly taking drugs to keep his energy up. This kind of behavior on a slow news day spelled the end of his candidacy.
Writer Hunter S. Thompson wrote in a 1972 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine: “It was not until his campaign collapsed and ex-staffers felt free to talk that I learned working for Big Ed was like being locked in a rolling boxcar with a vicious 200-pound water rat. Some of his staff considered him dangerously unstable. He had several identities, they said, and there was no way to be sure on any given day if they would have to deal with Abe Lincoln, Hamlet, Captain Queeg, or Bobo the Simpleminded…”
Thompson captured the antics of politicians in the extreme on the campaign trail. Some stand for hours at fish sliming plants shaking hands with workers before they wash their hands at the end of their shift. Mechanically they say, “Shake hands with the next president, shake hands with the next president...”
As I watch this presidential race I wonder: is this the best we, as a nation, can do to select our leaders? Further, will this process produce the best leaders? After they have spent many a disgraceful year pandering to the voters, will they be able to step into the White House prepared to be presidential?
This election is not about how many hot dogs they can eat or a parking ticket or if a friend of a friend heard someone say they didn’t leave a tip one day. They are asked “Gotcha” questions which are routinely misreported by media sources who are pushing a candidate.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have stumbled on the stump. Perhaps they took just one too many of the energy drinks or whatever they take to keep going. Wondering is not proof but both have had some bad moments on the campaign trail.
The over-hyped media makes each day on the campaign trail sound like the Hindenburg has just crashed: “Trump is one point up in Indiana today. We will have twenty-four non-stop hours of analysis to know what the people of Indiana are thinking just one hundred forty-two days before the election.”
Going back to Kennedy/Nixon, I’ve watched each presidential election, somewhat in awe and often in horror. This presidential cycle is worse than any other I have experienced. If they are like this normally and not taking dangerous drugs - it will be a long four years.