A Double Mystery

Laura HelmuthFirst, there was the strange case of the Romney-Ryan direct mail campaign, Doing more to fight the spread of Lyme Disease. The pamphlet claims that Lyme Disease is a, “Massive epidemic threatening Virginia.” Massive? I don’t know. I guess that it sucks if you get it, but only about 900 people get it in the state each year. That’s 0.01% of the population. Count me as one who will never visit Virginia because of the enormous chance of getting Lyme Disease!

My working theory is that the Romney campaign really isn’t that bad. They must be a bunch of smart people. But campaigning is hard. This direct mail campaign has me a bit confused, however. Perhaps Lyme Disease is a great concern to people in Virginia. Maybe it is an especially compelling pro-Romney argument for women. But I don’t think so. It sounds too much like an act of desperation. “Did you know that a thousand people are hit by lightning every year? That’s why Mitt Romney is dedicated to putting a lightning rod on every house. Paul Ryan will install it himself!”

As much of a mystery as this campaign pamphlet is, I’m even more confused about Laura Helmuth’s article in Slate, Why Is Romney Campaigning on Medical Quackery? It would be one thing if the article were one thing. But it isn’t. It’s flying off in a couple of directions. It starts off sounding very serious with information that indicates that depression is often misdiagnosed as Lyme Disease. Strange, but I have no doubt that it is true. But then she starts ranting—taking a few jabs at Romney. Finally:

The task force’s report makes some reasonable suggestions. People should be warned about the dangers of ticks. They should shower and do a tick-check after walking in tick habitat. We should shoot more deer.

Okay, after reading it several times, I guess that’s a good idea: kill some deer, because God knows, that is what you should do to stop Lyme Disease, which is really no big deal, because what you really have is depression.

By the end of the article, I’m not sure what the hell she’s trying to say, nor have I figured out the tone. And she writes, “I don’t mean to make fun of people who are suffering from what they think is chronic Lyme disease.” So I go back. Was she, “making fun”? Not that I can tell. But she ties it all together with a light and inspiring story about a girlfriend whose depression was misdiagnosed as Lyme Disease. And killed herself. And that’s why Mitt Romney should not be making a big deal out of bad treatments for Lyme Disease especially when it is really depression that we should be worried about.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree. Lyme Disease almost never kills and depression kills commonly. But Laura Helmuth’s column makes me wonder why I’m not writing for Slate. After all, I can write weird articles that are vaguely about various things but don’t exactly connect. Also: my official crush has moved from Karen Finney to Laura Helmuth (even though she is probably too young for me).

So there you are: a double mystery for the 2012 campaign. I’m thinking it would make a great movie, “Mitt Romney, Deer Ticks, and the Sassy Reporter.” Hollywood, here I come!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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