You know itâ€™s getting late in the election season and the media is losing energy and originality when one of the nationâ€™s preeminent newspapers, the New York Times, decides to cover not just the politicians but the â€œparasitesâ€? with whom they come in contact. No, Iâ€™m not speaking of the various lobbyists and other influence peddlers who wish to curry (i.e., purchase) the favor of current or potentially future members of the political establishment. Iâ€™m speaking of actual parasites, as well as their microbial brethren. Mark Leibovich offers what turns out to be an interesting article on the unseen perils of pressing flesh with the populace:
Campaigns are filthy. Not only in terms of last-minute smears and dirty tricks. But also as in germs, parasites and all the bacterial unpleasantness that is spread around through so much glad-handing and flesh-pressing.
â€œYou canâ€™t always get to a sink to wash your hands,â€? said Anne Ryun, wife of Representative Jim Ryun, Republican of Kansas.
Hands would be the untidy appendages that transmit infectious disease.
Like so many other people involved in politics these days, Mrs. Ryun has become obsessive about using hand sanitizer and ensuring that others do, too. She squirted Purell, the antiseptic goop of choice on the stump and self-proclaimed killer of â€œ99.99 percent of most common germs that may cause illness,â€? on people lined up to meet Vice President Dick Cheney this month at a fund-raiser in Topeka.
When Mr. Cheney was done meeting and greeting, he, too, rubbed his hands vigorously with the stuff, dispensed in dollops by an aide when the vice president was out of public view.
That has become routine in this peak season of handshaking, practiced by everyone from the most powerful leaders to the lowliest hopefuls. Politics is personal at all levels, and germs do not discriminate. Like chicken dinners and lobbyists, they afflict Democrats and Republicans alike. It would be difficult to find an entourage that does not have at least one aide packing Purell.
Some people find that unseemly in itself.
â€œItâ€™s condescending to the voters,â€? said Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democrat.
A fervent nonuser of hand sanitizer, Mr. Richardson holds the Guinness Book of World Records mark for shaking the most hands over an eight-hour period (13,392, at the New Mexico State Fair in 2002).
Indeed, what message does it send when politicians, the putative leaders in a government by the people, for the people, feel compelled to wipe off the residues of said people immediately after meeting them?
â€œThe great part about politics is that youâ€™re touching humanity,â€? Mr. Richardson said. â€œYouâ€™re going to collect bacteria just by existing.â€? [full text]
And has there ever been a greater collection of bacteria than the current political establishment? Just the thought of coming into contact with any of them makes me want to dunk myself in Purell. Now, if only they could make a cleanser that politicians could apply to their oft-compromised morality and honesty. Although, if such a product were applied, I imagine the outcome would look something like this: