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Ann McFeatters: A vacation from politics

WASHINGTON -- A recent study concluded Americans have not been taking their vacation time. If that is true, they are making a big mistake.

I recently logged in a few hours of beach time and found that not once did I ponder whom Mitt Romney would choose as his running mate. I gave only cursory thought to Greece's economic meltdown. And I didn't even care (much) how obvious it is that Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama can't stand each other.

Folks, we need our vacations so that when we have to confront such crucial issues we will be able to care. Also, there are enough Americans without jobs to risk putting writers of trashy beach novels out of work.

But my real break-through thought on vacation was how absolutely ridiculous our political process looks when you're more than 10 feet away from it.

There was Obama handing out favors right and left (mostly left where his base is) to women voters, to Latino voters, to gays and lesbians. And the summer has just begun! Maybe we'll see some help for foreclosed homeowners, the unemployed and pining environmentalists.

On the right, we have Romney pictured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal making a piecrust. Clearly, the three-hundred-million-dollar man will do anything to get elected.

On the other hand, he won't say anything to get elected. He is so spooked about making a gaffe, he's basically stopped talking about anything except how incompetent he thinks Obama is. He also won't say exactly what he would do to fix the economy, if it can even be fixed in the short term.

Romney declined to answer newsman Bob Schieffer's question about whether he would repeal Obama's move to permit children of immigrants in the United States illegally to avoid deportation. Schieffer asked three times, but Romney steadfastly chuckled.

He did say Obama is pandering to Hispanic voters.

But would Romney repeal Obama's order? Answer: "It would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution, with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals such that they know what their setting is going to be, not just for the term of a president but on a permanent basis." Ah.

We have another debt ceiling crisis upcoming, a huge tax increase, major across-the-board military spending cuts and all-heck breaking loose over health care. We have no idea whether Europe will fall over the economic cliff, how long Syria's bloody civil war will last, whether climate change will continue causing ever-more extreme havoc.

To cope with this stress, we need to take all the vacation time coming to us. Enough brown-nosing. Enough martyrdom. It's for sure Europe will shut down in August without any guilt.

Consulting firm Right Management issued a survey that seven out of 10 working Americans don't take all their allotted vacation time. They're too anxious about job security (although it seems every other employer is cutting staff and forcing the remaining employees to do two or three jobs).

The consultants said giving the company back vacation time leads to "resentment, health problems, unnecessary turnover, absenteeism and safety claims." Wow. That sounds un-American.

Maybe if more people took their vacations, even if only to hang out in their own back yards, employers would have to hire a few more employees.

But at least workers would return to their duties in the fall ready to weigh seriously the pros and cons of the exceedingly bland Rob Portman against the stunningly boring Tim Pawlenty in the riveting veep stakes.

If we don't care about stuff like this, what is to become of us? It has to matter whether Romney can bake a pie or that Obama and his wife are committed to teaching children to like cauliflower.

See you at the beach. It's your duty.

Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail