CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- AMERICANS set aside workaday concerns between Christmas and New Year's Day. It's a time for warmth of family, not worry.
This year, though, a creepy sense of unreality crept in.
It came through on two levels.
The first lay in endless reporting of every microdevelopment in the only national news that was happening -- the so-called "fiscal cliff negotiations."
Blah. Blah. Blah. Most Americans stopped paying attention.
Anyway, what "negotiations"?
With the nation $16.4 trillion in debt and the government borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, Republicans tried to get Democrats to cut spending.
They would have none of it. Democrats insisted first on raising taxes on a flatlined population by $613 billion between 2013 and 2022 -- in addition to their taxes for Obamacare.
And when President Obama and his supporters got what they wanted -- more revenue with no cuts in spending -- the news carried comments like "Brilliant strategizing."
Irresponsible governance as political brilliance.
The second contributor to this growing sense of false reality seeped through in commercials that punctuated television news.
There was the woman who pulled a long-tailed hat out of a gift box, gave it her best smile and said: "Just what I wanted!"
Then she's seen driving around in a shiny new red car -- what she really wanted.
Was that really an option for many Americans?
In another ad, financial guru Suze Orman and TV psychologist Dr. Phil took people considering impulse purchases of a dress or a Christmas tree for wild rides in a luxury car and admonished them for foolish spending.
They were apparently supposed to buy luxury cars instead.
It seemed wildly out of sync with the reality many Americans face.
Television showed a plethora of shiny objects. Stores opened for 48 hours straight.
It looked like a monstrous amount of goods chasing people with too few dollars. Who was going to buy all this stuff?
Christmas Day. Ho, ho, ho.
Back to work Wednesday, scramble to catch up, go in again on Monday.