If Politicians Went On Vacation, We'd All Get A Break

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If you toss a corn dog at a state or county fair this summer, you may bonk a politician.

Congress is in recess, but for politicians, it's not recess of the kind they have in grade school. Many pols, especially in a close election year, spend the summer shaking hands at meet-and-greets. They cock their heads to pay rapt attention during listening tours and community meetings, raise money, make speeches, hurl charges, countercharges and ask for votes.

Does that sound refreshing?

I wonder if voters and candidates might benefit if more politicians took real vacations. If they went somewhere, for at least a short time, where no one knows them; where they don't have to ask for votes, money or spout talking points.

Politicians from, say, Muleshoe, Texas, might go to the South Side of Chicago; and politicians from Santa Monica could go to Mussel Shoals, Ala. They might feel free to wear something brightly patterned in Hawaii — or something sombre in charcoal gray, if they're from Hawaii. They can dribble hot sauce on their T-shirts, and sit on a rock and stare into space without worrying about NASA's budget.

They can talk to people without trying to impress them, and listen to people without trying to figure a way to agree with them. They can dabble and dip into whatever — knitting, wind-surfing or flower arranging — without worrying that someone will draw some inference from something they do for fun.

Instead of reading important policy tomes or history to instruct and inspire them, a politician might feel free on vacation to go to a yard sale and pick up a trashy book — take that any way you like — a bodice-busting romance, a sinister thriller or old P.G. Wodehouse stories featuring Gussie Fink-Nottle.

They might also read something they disagree with — or think they will — without fear that a constituent will see them and they'll "alienate their base" — a current political term that sounds more like a line from Star Wars.

A politician on a real vacation might feel free to see a truly mindless movie that never got close to Sundance, rather than a searing documentary that will prompt committee hearings. They might be reminded about what makes people laugh, which is also valuable.

Many politicians now go to fairs and hope to be photographed eating pork chops, corn dogs and quaffing a little beer, to counter stories about white wine fund-raisers in Hollywood and Washington, D.C. It might be refreshing for a politician to feel free to pat their stomach and say, "Oooh, looks good, but just a falafel and water, thanks."

Real vacations wouldn't make politicians better informed, but it might help them have a fuller view of life and the world beyond politics.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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