The Zeitgeist Checklist

The Zeitgeist Checklist

What Washington is talking about this week.

Red Alert!
Homeland Security. British authorities arrest 24 suspected of plotting to blow up planes with liquid explosives; U.S. officials raise threat level to red for U.K. flights. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says this was much more serious than “a handful of people sitting around coming up with dreamy ideas about terrorist plots.” He adds, “You know, like those bozos we rounded up in Miami.” DHS bans hair gel on all U.S. flights, forcing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to cancel her travel schedule.

Peace Nix Middle East. Israel moves more troops into Lebanon, Hezbollah fires more rockets into Israel, cease-fire talk remains a U.N. pipe dream. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice describes the situation as “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.” In an unrelated story, the FDA debates over-the-counter sales of the morning-after birth control pill.

Tarnished I-Conn. Democrats. Left-wing challenger Ned Lamont upsets moderate Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., in primary, but Lieberman vows to run as an independent, complaining that mean-spirited extremists have taken over the Democratic Party. “Oh, really?” asks Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga. “Then how did I lose my primary?”

War, Yes; Civil, Not So Much Iraq. After a new surge in sectarian violence, U.S. and Iraqi troops launch Phase 2 of Operation Forward Together to secure Baghdad. Phase 1 fizzled after insurgents launched Operation You Get the Hell Out; We’re Staying Right Here. President Bush says, “The Iraqi people decided against civil war when they went to the ballot box,” but some apparently want a recount.

He’s No. 1!
Scandal. Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, the Jack Abramoff pal better known as “Representative #1,” announces that he won’t run for re-election so that he can spend more time with his lawyers. Ney relented after House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, warned him that he was jeopardizing his chances of making big bucks as a lobbyist. That’s not a joke; that’s what Boehner really said.

House Party
Republicans. Polls show disgust with incumbents in general, GOP incumbents in particular. Even Republicans say they might lose the House if the Democrats run a smart campaign, although they burst into giggles when they say it. Meanwhile, right-wing challenger Tim Walberg upsets moderate Rep. Joe Schwarz, R-Mich., in a primary, but pundits are too busy debating whether the Democrats have left the mainstream to notice.

Cracked Pipe
Energy. With oil prices already approaching record highs, BP shuts down its Prudhoe Bay drilling complex in Alaska after discovering corrosion in its pipeline. Fortunately, the United States isn’t dependent on U.S. oil.

9/11 + 5 Memory. Reminders of Sept. 11, 2001, are everywhere as the five-year anniversary approaches, including Oliver Stone’s new movie, the new airline scare, and Republican warnings that Democrats are stuck in a “pre-9/11 mentality.” They’re apparently still nostalgic for a time when budgets were balanced, the economy was booming, and America was well-liked.

Strock Out Katrina. Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Army Corps of Engineers commander who recently admitted that his agency’s faulty levees drowned New Orleans, resigns without fanfare on Thursday. By an amazing coincidence, Thursday was the day of the attention-grabbing terrorism alerts. In an equally amazing coincidence, the sun rose in the East again that day.

That’s Hot! Celeb-acy. Heiress-about-town Paris Hilton pledges not to have sex for a year. In other news, Donald Trump pledges not to talk about himself for a year, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., pledges not to talk to the press for a year, and the Middle East pledges to remain calm for a year.