The Silly Season In Politics

The term "silly season" is a lot older than I thought, reaching back into the 1800s. It refers to late summer, when governments go on massive taxpayer-funded vacations all over the world. Silly trivia: the "silly season" is known, for reasons obscure, as "cucumber season" in many other languages (you just can't make this stuff up).

Here in America, of course, we take our silly pretty seriously. August, in recent political history, was when the infamous "swift boat" ads ran, which contributed to the destruction of John Kerry's campaign for president. Kerry contributed to this as well, mostly by staying on vacation and not responding to the attacks, which (in retrospect) looks pretty... well... silly.

But this year's season could produce a bumper crop of silly. The silly, it seems, is just bustin' out all over. And it's only the beginning of August, when our elected representatives all take off work for five weeks. Who knows how silly things are going to be by the end of the month?

From the Democratic side of silly, William Jefferson, former House member, was just convicted of bribery. That's not very silly, but he will be remembered for a very silly act -- stashing $90,000 in his freezer. Sentencing will happen later, so this silliness isn't quite over yet. At least he lost his re-election bid, so we won't have to witness the silliness of a sitting member of Congress being hauled off to the pokey.

On the Republican side, the silliness is coming so fast and thick, it's hard to even keep up with the feverish pace. News stories which appeared today alone include a Republican former U.N. ambassador claiming that former president Bill Clinton talking North Korea into releasing two Americans is somehow the moral equivalent of ignoring the annexation of the Sudetenland. The Republican National Committee, facing an onslaught of calls from an ad run about health care reform, is apparently redirecting callers to the Democratic National Committee. Wow, there's a bright idea to grow your party! Direct callers to the other party! As the guy in the Guinness ad would say: "Brilliant!"

In other Republican silly news, a fake Barack Obama birth certificate from Kenya has surfaced, but that hasn't stopped mainstream Republican Party officials from embracing the "birther" movement. Here's a hint, guys: if you want to look less silly, you need to denounce those with views most of the public finds silly. But, I forgot, up-is-down and black-is-white are the marching orders of the day in GOP-Land. I'm still trying to figure out the logic behind trying to call the cash-for-clunkers program a "failure" -- because it is just too wildly popular. Republican senators apparently thought twice about this one, and will allow an extension to pass before the program runs out of cash -- probably because there are a lot (and I mean a lot) of car dealers who not only vote Republican, but also donate large sums of money to Republican politicians, and they probably had a few choice words to say about this silly tactic.

But the icing on this silly cake, for me at least, was Arthur Laffer (of discredited "Laffer Curve" silliness), on CNN this morning:

"If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they're run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government."

Um... Ooooh-Kay. We certainly wouldn't want government to get its filthy paws on our Medicare and Medicaid! Because that would be just... silly!

Sigh. I need a vacation.


[Program Note: This column is taking a vacation for the next week or so. This Friday, instead of our usual Friday Talking Points column, we will be running a special report on President Obama's second hundred days in office, which I was able to write in advance. Repeat columns from the past few months will run on early next week, and this column will resume normal broadcasting starting next Friday. Thanks for your understanding, and if you'd like to get in on some silliness yourselves in the meantime, check out this hilarious page, where you can make your own fake Kenyan birth certificate. Fun for the whole family! Who knows, one of you may be president some day... sillier things have happened!]


Chris Weigant blogs at: