Back in the days when journalism was a job and not a “calling,” and you might find a college degree on the top editor’s wall but having one wasn’t a requirement to write stories from the cop shop, summer was “the silly season.”

News itself seemed to take a vacation then (or as one headline in a comic strip put it, “News shortage develops!”), and reports of UFOs, attacks by giant sharks and other oddities easily made it into print.

It wasn’t that long ago that Maine even had its own chupacabra, when an “unknown species of animal” (one witness called it “a hybrid mutant”) that may have killed some domestic pets was hit by a car in Turner. DNA tests showed it to be a mangy, half-starved feral dog, but the significance of the story, which got national coverage on a show called “MonsterQuest” on the History Channel, was the date of the first report: Aug. 12, 2006 — square in the middle of the silly season.

And that silly season feeling is coming over me again as I read about the governor’s race.

Recall that the average Mainer knows that summer is not a time to worry about politics.

People in public life and those who follow them in my profession can forget this, but it is absolutely guaranteed that blue skies, warm sunlight and the lure of the beach, the golf course, the hiking trail and the backyard are far closer to a normal person’s consciousness than candidate X’s hissy fit about what candidate Y said.

It’s all just one more dead dog in the road to Mainers flipping burgers on the new grill while sipping a bottle of suds or relaxing under an umbrella on the beach devouring a favorite author’s latest best-seller.

After Labor Day, when vacations are over, the kids are back in school and the weather cools, Mainers will begin to remember that, hey, there is an election coming up, isn’t there?

Until the first Monday in September, however, politicians and media types are talking to each other. Still, that keeps us off the streets at night and (mostly) out of bars, pool halls and topless doughnut shops.

So, when I see that a comment about “creationism” is being touted as the big political news of the day, I feel grateful that the state doesn’t have any real problems to worry about.

Billion-dollar budget shortfalls, a shrinking work force, huge regulatory burdens to starting or expanding a business, or being 16th in the nation for laziness (how did that creep in there? Oh, I remember, it’s summer) can’t matter all that much if this is what’s leading the news.

Let’s take it as a given that Paul LePage is not the smoothest or slickest candidate the GOP has ever had. Sooner or later he’ll realize that as the poll-certified frontrunner, he’s everybody’s punching bag.

Otherwise, he will end up like a pilot in a World War I biplane hoping to prevail in a Top Gun competition. There’s not much of a political future to be found in a pile of flaming wreckage.

Still, there’s something attractive about a rough-hewn candidate who doesn’t stop to consider all the angles before saying what he thinks.

He just needs to start saying rough-hewn truths about the things that really matter in the race for the Blaine House, like taxes and programs and budgets and schools and jobs.

Now, for all I know, he is saying these things, and the media are simply ignoring that to concentrate on summertime fun.

Still, nobody’s listening yet, so it doesn’t really matter.

Which is probably a good thing for the Democrats, too, or somebody would have written about statements like these, scrounged from recent e-mails from the Maine Democratic Party (with my own comments appended in parentheses).

July 20: “ the Republican National Committee, along with the Republican Governors Association, will try to buy this election with heaps of out-of-state money. Get ready for cookie-cutter smear campaigns full of lies, fear and propaganda. (Thanks for the warning.)

“But, it gets worse: Democrats in Maine are not expecting a similar announcement from national Democratic groups. We’re on our own this year, and we need to raise more than $1 million without the help of any national organization.” (We’re up a creek, and no one will buy us a paddle.)

July 6: “Imagine the State of Maine being run by a volatile, right-wing extremist (be still, my beating heart) and being represented in Congress by two political nobodies who are too conservative for even the Maine Republican Party.” (That must be why the national GOP is sending all that money.)

“LePage is woefully out of touch with mainstream voters. He has publicly expressed radically conservative views on issues like the environment, civil rights, separation of church and state and a woman’s right to choose. (Like most Americans surveyed in recent polls, he’s pro-life.)

“LePage is an unabashed agent of the Christian Right (now I’m scared) and he is opposed to any recognition of same-sex families in Maine. (Just like most Maine voters.)

“He calls global warming a ‘scam.’ (He’s perceptive.) He wants a nuclear power plant in Brunswick.” (President Obama supports nuclear power, too.)

“He also believes that his religious views on creationism should be taught in Maine’s public schools. Creationism is for Sunday school. Science is for public school.” (OK, give us the scientific proofs of why the Universe began or how life arose from dead matter. Oh, that’s right. There aren’t any.)

As I said, it’s good that politicians keep busy in the summer.

Me? I’m off to the beach with my buddy, Dean Koontz.

 

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

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