Enough Already: Our Endless Summer

A hurricane is coming, and it’s heading straight toward Florida and Tampa — with the possibility of causing havoc with the Republican National Convention.

Well, isn’t that just swell. Here we are on the anniversary of last years’s East Coast earthquake plus hurricane weather, and we’re going to likely see what we’ve been missing all summer: a hurricane (or two) and its aftermath.

Haven’t we suffered enough?

It used to be that “The Long, Hot Summer” and “The Endless Summer” were the titles of movies, the one starring Paul Newman, the other about surfers. Now hear this: this has been “The Long, Hot Summer” and “The Endless Summer.”

Yeah, the Olympics were fun, but guess what hasn’t been fun. The 2012 election campaign. It may be, without any serious competition, the worst election campaign in U.S. history. It’s one of those curious things that combines an ability to lead in terms of the people and groups in charge of the campaign, with an ability to mislead when it comes to the rolling barrages of television ads coming from both campaigns and the various super PACs and surrogates.

Most of the ads play fast and loose with the truth—the way-out-of-line Bain ads from the Obama camp, the continued Romney ad flatly stating that President Obama had ripped out the work requirement from the welfare reform act which is still running in spite of fact checks that refute the claim—in a way that basically rolls with the idea that if could be true, or is even a little bit true, well, then, it is true.

Most of the campaign, whether in terms of the candidates themselves, or surrogates and super PACs, has been entirely negative. Both sides have whined about the attack ads, with spit and spitballs in their mouths. Romney has tried to focus on the economy and a portrait of Obama as a job destroyer. Obama has painted Romney as a member of the super-rich class who is out of touch with the middle class, let alone anyone below that.

Neither candidate has provided a valid plan or a suggestion that bi-partisanship was in order because there’s an economic crisis still going on. There are people out there running who have thrown in the towel on working with the other side and go on the attack instead.

Even the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate hasn’t helped Romney as much as it might have. There’s some obvious differences between the two men’s approach to medicare, the budget, the deficit and the Ryan plan. The result—a little smudge of a move in the polls, and a strangely muted Ryan on the campaign trail. As somebody said to me recently, the selection rollout resembled one of those hot courtships that goes the way of “I love you, you’re perfect, now change.”

Depending on which poll you believe, or if you believe any polls, the election at this stage is essentially a dead heat with some polls showing Obama ahead and others have Romney ahead or gaining.

The conventions—if they’re not disrupted by hurricanes—will gain some standings in the polls for both camps but not much. It’s the stretch run that counts.

Just when the Republicans felt they were making some progress—along came Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican who was ahead in his bid for a Senate seat in Missouri. A Tea Party stalwart and devout Christian and anti-abortionist, Akin, asked about abortion in case of rape came up with the memorable phrase “legitimate rape” and the claim that women wouldn’t get pregnant in a rape because “the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down,” according to doctors.

Well, all Limbaugh broke loose. Akin backed off from his claims and even apologized to some extent, but by this time Romney and company suggested that he give up his candidacy. This will not sit well with the Tea Party wing of the party and has created a firestorm within the ranks on the eve of the convention. Akin has refused to quit, saying he’s in the race to stay. And Republicans convention platform includes a plank that calls for making abortion illegal even in the case of rape, as if they needed to say that.

Well, that’s a boon for Bill Maher, no question, and should be a big boon for President Barack Obama. But it’s been then kind of year: just when either candidate manages a smile on his face, something wipes it off.

Just this week, the Congressional Budget Office issues a strong warning that the country will head into a recession if a series of automatic budget cuts and tax increases are not avoided in January. Then, a Colorado-based poll based on several economic factors which has predicted the last seven election results correctly said that Romney will win the election handily, sweeping the battleground states.

Moreover, Newsweek, in one of those Tina Brown shock covers which have been the trademark of the magazine of late, ran a cover story that said Obama did not deserve to be re-elected: “Hit the Road, Barack.”

And Obama’s dog is overweight.

It’s been that kind of year for everybody, not just politicians. The summer has been marked by yet another in a series of mass shootings, one at a Sikh temple, another at a mall movie theater in Aurora, Colo., for a midnight screening of the new “Batman” movie. All sorts of things were written and said, but the wonder is that the outcry about guns was ever so muted, again showing the political power of the National Rifle Association.

And Mother Nature gave us pause, as we dismissed the Mayans’ so-called prediction of the end of the world. Record forest fires raged, with deaths, and unprecedented destruction of property and natural assets all over the West. Record 90- and 100-degrees-plus temperatures were the norm everywhere. Drought has ruined a large part of the country’s corn crop, and threatened the livelihood of already strapped farmers, and storms wreaked havoc across the nation, amidst reports of melting in the Arctic and habitat loss and the dwindling numbers of animal species. It was enough to make even the most die-hard doubter of climate change worry a little. But only a little.


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