A debate over voter ID law triggered an ugly incident this week in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
First came an exchange of angry words between the speaker of the House and a state representative who accused the speaker of not giving equal time to both sides of the debate.
"Are you willing to treat everybody fairly or not?" state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt demanded of the speaker.
"Representative Vaillancourt, another outburst like that and you will be removed from the hall," Speaker William O'Brien replied.
Then came Vaillancourt's mocking rejoinder: "Sieg heil!"
Vaillancourt, a Republican from Manchester, was quickly surrounded by a squad that attempted to hustle him out of the chamber. He at first refused to go but left when lunch was decreed.
Vaillancourt was later allowed to return after a grudging apology. It took Vaillancourt three tries before he found a combination of words soothing and servile enough to placate O'Brien.
Vaillancourt deserved to be rebuked. His Nazi salute was outrageous, particularly in the context of a debate over voter ID, which critics say evokes scenes of the Gestapo demanding, "Your papers, please."
But the incident says more about the atmosphere - and the character - of the House under O'Brien than it does about Vaillancourt.
O'Brien was elected as a champion of the Tea Party and has gathered around himself a coterie of like-minded, conservative Republicans.
But as speaker, O'Brien has more in common with some of the martinets who have ruled Massachusetts' lockstep Democratic Legislature.
In speaking of his leadership style, quotation marks are needed around the word "leadership."
He brooks no dissent and uses closed-door caucuses to cow the weak. If you disagree with him, he doesn't want to hear it. Nor does he want anyone else to hear it
Despite his assertion of power, or perhaps because of it, the House remains a dysfunctional and feckless body, constantly chasing rabbits instead of concentrating on what needs to be done for New Hampshire.
Just this week, the House allowed itself to be distracted by debates over establishing a Loon Appreciation day and paying homage to Doris "Granny D" Haddock, the late New Hampshire political activist.
It's telling that the debates over loons and Granny D resolved nothing, and both matters were tabled.
O'Brien gives the New Hampshire House, state Republicans and the Tea Party a bad name.
The latest incident only advances the day when New Hampshire Republicans, or the voters, wake up to the damage done and take action of their own.
Read the Eagle Tribune's editorial here.