Obama's Long, Cruel Summer

A never-ending season of political woes

By Robert A. George
|  Tuesday, Sep 1, 2009  |  Updated 7:15 PM CDT
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Obama Family Vacations in Photos: Martha's Vineyard

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Obama has had a long, cruel summer.

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There's already something of a chill in the air.  There's' a slightly cooler breeze. Many kids have already returned to school. The signs are undeniable: Summer's basically over.

President Obama must be grateful, considering how his health-care plan was in shambles when members of Congress left for their recess in August. It's arguably in even worse shape now.  Poll numbers that began slipping in July are cratering now.  He's back from his abbreviated vacation; Congress isn't.   

But...but...there's a full week to go before Labor Day!?!?! How on earth did that happen?  This summer hasn't just seemed to go on for a long time:  It HAS been going on a long darn time. 

Due to a weird anomaly on the calendar, this has actually been the longest "seasonal" summer in eleven years.  The "actual" dates of summer are are June 21st (give or take a day) to September 20th (ditto).  But for schoolchildren and the parents who plot summer schedules around them, summer actually "begins" on Memorial Day and "ends" on Labor Day -- always the first Monday in September.

Yet, on a year like this -- when September 1st falls on a Tuesday, Labor Day doesn't roll around until the 7th, almost a full week into what is considered a "fall" month. That means many parents get stuck with the kids for nearly a full extra week than usual. 

Of course, Congress likes to take advantage of an extended summer recess as much as actual chronological children.  That's somewhat good for the public -- less chance of taxes being raised or new big programs being approved.  It's not so good, however, if you're a president who's primary domestic agenda has been pummeled while Congress was home and members dealt with the onslaught of town halls on steroids.  

While Congress isn't back yet, a health care consensus is arguably even further apart: Two of the remaining three Republican members of the "Gang of Six" seem about ready to drop any effort for a bipartisan approach.  And the whole effort to get a public option through could snarl on a logistical conundrum known as Senate rules

Meanwhile, two Ghosts of Christmas Past are making early appearances to mock the Obama "change" attempt:  The decision to investigate CIA interrogators has re-energized Bush administration officials -- Dick Cheney in particular -- and the right in general.  Meanwhile, both liberals and at least one prominent conservative are ready to dump the Afghanistan effort -- just as Obama wants to rev it up. 

The net political result of this long, long (and deathly) summer? A collapse of approval for the president that may be historic in proportions

Well, the calendar just flipped to September and Labor Day will -- finally -- be here next Monday.  Summer will be at an end. The challenge for President Obama is to take control of his agenda and guarantee that a returning Congress doesn't ensure a winter of even more massive discontent.  

New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter.

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