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A modest proposal: Put the campaigns on hiatus for the summer

July 13, 2008 | 12:00 pm

We've got about seven weeks to go until the Democrats' nominating convention and eight until the GOP's -- and in politics years (sort of like dog years), that's a lifetime. That's an endless summer of stump speeches by the candidates, not to mention even more opportunities for those off-the-cuff comments by the candidates' surrogates that can cause the political equivalent of a fender-bender that ends up clogging the 405 for miles.   

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chairwoman who is a top advisor to (and surrogate for) GOP presumptive nominee John McCain, attempted to engage in a little damage control today ...

... concerning the latest surrogate train wreck. Asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" about the "nation of whiners" comment by former Sen. Phil Gramm, an economic advisor -- until last week -- to McCain, she said this:

MS. FIORINA: I don't think Sen. Gramm will any longer be speaking for John McCain, and I think John McCain was crystal clear about that this week. And I think ...

MR. BROKAW: But he ...

MS. FIORINA: ... by the way, outside of Washington, where this is an interesting parlor game, I think most Americans are not really focused on what a bunch of surrogates are saying.

To which host Tom Brokaw replied that he certainly hoped Americans were paying attention to the surrogates, since they are who's filling the guest lists of his and the other Sunday shows.

Over on CBS's "Face the Nation," host Bob Schieffer used his commentary at the end of the show to urge both campaigns to take a breather until the nominations have been formally accepted and the last balloon has dropped at the conventions:

SCHIEFFER: And finally today, so here's where we are in the campaign for the most powerful office in the world. John McCain's man Phil Gramm says that America is a nation of whiners and that the economic recession is just in people's minds. McCain says Gramm didn't speak for him. Really? Then why was he speaking? I thought they were old friends and Gramm was a trusted adviser.

And then there was Barack Obama's man John Kerry saying that John McCain hadn't learned the lessons of 9/11. Yes, that's the same John Kerry who seriously thought of asking McCain to be his running mate when he ran for president himself in 2004.

And then along came Jesse Jackson, with an observation about Obama that sounded like something out of the Ken Starr report. 

Which reminds me, what's the deal with Bill Clinton? Are his feelings still hurt? Will he campaign for Obama if Obama helps the Clintons pay their bills? And will McCain get better at reading the TelePrompTer? 

We've been treated to endless conversation, speculation and analyses of all these pertinent topics. To the point that a friend of mine said the other day he thought McCain and Obama would be better served if both of them just suspended all campaigning until fall, after the nominating conventions. Just shut it all down -- the surrogates, the press conferences, the talking points, the conference calls, all of it. Give all of us a rest. 

It's not my idea, but I wish it were. Because what we've been hearing from both sides lately isn't helping them or us.

As Dana Carvey (doing his impression of George H.W. Bush) might put it, "Not gonna happen." But we can dream ...

-- Leslie Hoffecker