Last summer, when the presidential candidates were still wedged into their respective debate venues like too many SUVs in too few spaces meant for Honda Civics, and Nevada was still a campaign destination, the Reasonable Reporter was granted a sit-down interview with one of them. The time allotted was ten minutes.
The candidate arrived at the airport around dinner time, after a long flight from a state east of the Mississippi. He came directly to the event site, spoke to the assembled partisans for about 15 minutes, and then retired to a conference room for the interview, where he immediately requested a cup of coffee. His eyes were dull and dark-circled, and his skin had a grayish cast. The press coordinator said they’d gotten up at 4 a.m. after a late fundraising event.
(He. There will be no ambiguity about whether the candidate was Mrs. Clinton. It was not.)
The Reasonable Reporter often begins an interview with a politician by asking a question about his area of greatest expertise. There are several reasons for this, but mostly it’s a cover-your-cute-little-buns technique that ensures if the plug gets pulled early, there is at least one piece of tape containing complete sentences and a bit of substance to facilitate further research. God helps those who help themselves.
The coffee arrived, and the question was asked, and indeed, the candidate should have been able to go on at some length. The candidate, in fact, should have been able to hold up his end of a one-hour interview on just this subject, given his level of expertise.
He began to answer, and stopped in the middle of the first sentence. He started again, got about three sentences into it and then stopped.
The candidate looked helplessly at the Reasonable Reporter and said, “I know what you mean, but…”
He took a swig of coffee and said “Let’s start again.” At which point he fell back on a talking point, although it was clear that his original intention had been to deliver something more.
The months passed, and then there were three. They’ve all been tired for many months, and tiredness does wreak hell with the human brain.
If you have doubts, ask someone who works the morning radio shift, where wake-up time is 3:30 a.m., day after day after freaking day. Drooling at dinner? Yes, if you can stay awake for dinner. Reading a newspaper? Well, you can stare at the words, but on any given day, the meaning can be quite unclear. Calling your spouse by the cat’s name? It’s been known to happen.
Someone should study the performance of the American presidential candidates in terms of mistakes per day, and then factor in the length of the campaign, the number of appearances, time zones traveled, and hours of sleep.
The results might show an amazing level of competence considering the circumstances. The mystery would be why relatively few blunders – given the stress on the human machine — manifest themselves in such devastating terms. References to assassination, for instance.
Maybe tiredness allows a glimpse into their souls, and maybe tiredness just mixes up the marbles. And maybe the regional primary advocates are right, and the primary period is just too long. Maybe several regionals would leave the hopefuls functioning better, and put them back in the Senate where they could pay proper attention to the very issues they claim to want to solve, and all the inappropriate utterances would be made in the proper zip code.