We need a break from politics

We need time out from politics. It’s just too exhausting these days.

Somewhere between listening to supporters of Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton squabble over who is playing the race card and watching the humiliated Eliot Spitzer resign as New York governor, I realized I was in serious danger of not caring.

So I watched Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson tell Congress that big regulatory changes need to be made in overseeing mortgage lenders to avert more credit crises such as the one currently bringing on recession. Now he tells us, after foreclosures started mushrooming and house prices started plummeting.

And then I drove to the gas station, hearing on the car radio that the price of a barrel of oil was headed toward $111. With still almost a quarter of a tank of gas, I didn’t stop at the sign that said $3.52 and that ubiquitous nine-tenths of a cent, but headed back to work.

Chrysler, which once made cars the whole world wanted, announced it is taking two weeks off this summer. Shutting down the entire company to save money.

I called a friend at the Environmental Protection Agency, who confirmed that scientists there futilely had fought the White House and their own boss, whose proposed air standards are more unhealthful than the experts recommended.

Turning on the TV, I saw that there had been another disastrous bombing in Baghdad, killing civilians and U.S. soldiers. Twelve Americans died in three days in southern Iraq. I wondered how their parents feel about the happy talk over how well the surge is going. We’re at the five-year mark for the duration of the war, and we’re just shy of 4,000 for the number of Americans killed in Iraq. It’s no longer a trillion-dollar war, but potentially a 2-trillion-dollar war.

Another one of President Bush’s top military leaders was forced out for disagreeing about how the war in Iraq is going and, more importantly, expressing negative thoughts about the wisdom of talking about fighting Iran.

I picked up The Wall Street Journal, which has a new poll saying that more Americans believe they are doing worse economically. The figures show the highest levels of dissatisfaction since 1992, when President George H.W. Bush lost his bid for re-election.

We’re told that 47 million Americans without health insurance live in terror of getting sick or being injured. Many more are worried they might lose theirs. Even under tightened rules, bankruptcies are soaring, in large part because of medical bills.

A new study by the federal government finds 1 out of 4 girls between ages 14 and 19 in a nationally representative sample of 838 girls had a sexually transmitted disease. Nobody but parents seems shocked.

And there’s continuing fallout from the nation’s largest meat recall, undertaken because sick cattle apparently were slaughtered in violation of federal rules.

But I digress. We’ve got to figure out what to do about the Democratic delegates in Michigan and Florida who aren’t being counted because their state-party leaders violated the national party’s rules on when to hold their primaries.

We should continue trying to psychoanalyze Spitzer to probe what on earth possessed the Democratic governor, who as New York’s attorney general prosecuted prostitution rings, to use the services of high-priced call girls. Why did he further humiliate his wife by dragging her into the spotlight to share his shame?

We must speculate about who should run with Republican John McCain and ponder whether conservative talk-show hosts will vote for him.

We must resign ourselves to a long spring and summer of increasingly nasty bickering between Obama and Clinton.

We’ll learn to care again.

(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)nationalpress.com.)