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New Hampshire Views: Ill-conceived remarks from Sanborn, unnecessary reaction from foes

It’s hard to say which was worse: the ill-conceived remarks of state Sen. Andy Sanborn in comparing the Affordable Care Act to the jetliner crash in San Francisco or the attempts by Sanborn’s political foes to make hay out of his comments.

Sanborn, a two-term Republican from Bedford who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, made his remarks on Concord radio station WTPL. The Affordable Care Act, he said, is “barreling down on us like a jet landing in San Francisco.”

Coming less than a week after a plane crash in that city that killed three people, Sanborn was clearly guilty of insensitivity and bad taste. He apologized for the remarks in an interview with Manchester television station WMUR.

Two things are troubling about Sanborn’s behavior: First, this isn’t the first time he’s had to apologize for his remarks. He posted a message on Twitter earlier this year in which he referred to Gov. Maggie Hassan as “Haggie.” He later claimed it was a typo and not intentional, though his detractors have their doubts.

For someone rumored to have aspirations of higher political office, Sanborn demonstrates something of a tin ear when it comes to choosing his words. If he were running for, say, governor, a voter might look at the Twitter “accident” and the plane crash “incident” and wonder if he has the maturity we expect of our elected officials. Slips of the tongue – or the keyboard fingers – have a way of piling up.

The other disturbing aspect of Sanborn’s actions is that he is starting to come off like the proverbial one-trick pony. He has been an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act. That’s all well and good. It’s one of the issues of the day, and Sanborn is clearly passionate in his opposition to it. But judging from his public comments, one might conclude Obamacare was the only issue on the public agenda that matters. It isn’t, and he would do well to remember that voters usually expect our elected officials to be diversified.

And then there’s the matter of the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, which told the New Hampshire Union Leader that Sanborn’s comments make him unfit to serve on the legislative committee that is studying whether the state should expand Medicaid.

No, it doesn’t. Sanborn’s opposition to expanding Medicaid was well known before he was appointed to the committee by Senate President Peter Bragdon. It’s not a reach to think that Bragdon put Sanborn on the Medicaid panel precisely because of his views. The fact that Sanborn demonstrated a lack of tact doesn’t disqualify him from serving. It’s not like he broke faith with voters or committed an act of malfeasance. He still has a right to a seat at the table.

Sanborn handed the Citizens Alliance something of a gift. Their attempt to score political points at his expense only undermines their cause by making him a more sympathetic figure.

In fact, if there’s one thing we wish the state’s political operatives would learn, it’s that not every stupid thing the other guys do ought to be viewed as an opportunity for political haymaking. Sometimes the best thing to do is just shut up and count your blessings.

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