The Brits call it the silly season—those slow days in August when all the newsmakers are on vacation, the world shuts down, and nothing much is supposed to happen. It’s the time of year when newspapers and TV networks usually focus on stories like the Kardashian wedding, or that of Yvonne, the German cow who escaped into the woods this month just before her slaughter date. But more often than not, August refuses to cooperate with its reputation as the year’s quietest month. This year, an earthquake put cracks in the Washington Monument and rattled nerves up and down the East Coast. Another quake rocked Colorado. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s Libyan regime finally fell. In Augusts past, Katrina leveled New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005. The First World War began in August 1914, and the Berlin Wall went up in August 1961. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in August 1963 finally made civil rights a national imperative. And 20 years ago this month a misbegotten coup in Moscow marked the last desperate gasp of the Soviet empire (see Best columns: International).
It might come as news to politicians who streamed out of Washington weeks ago, but the world has kept turning while they went off to play golf on Martha’s Vineyard or fish for bass in some less-tony vacation destination. Imagine that: With Congress and the White House virtually shut down, we’re not lacking for something to talk about. That chastening fact may speed the return of our leaders to the nation’s capital, where they’ll find, along with the cracks in the Washington Monument, that the problems they left behind remain unsolved.