The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist, Course-Staying Edition

What Washington is talking about this week.

A Sorry State of Affairs Iraq. As the deadliest month of the three-year-old conflict nears a close, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells war critics to “back off.” Isn’t that what they tried to tell him three years ago? Meanwhile, a senior State Department diplomat apologizes for telling Al Jazeera that the United States has displayed “arrogance” and “stupidity” in Iraq. He’s sorry that he forgot to mention “hubris” and “astonishing ignorance of Middle East politics.”

The (Too Much) Fun Bunch Republicans. GOP leaders, still hoping to hold Congress despite voter disgust over Iraq and Mark Foley, warn Democrats against “dancing in the end zone.” They should know, after a month of doing the Ickey Shuffle. Still, a relatively good week for the Republicans: only one congressman (Rep. Jim Gibbons of Nevada) accused of assaulting a cocktail waitress and only one new one (Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona) under investigation for shady land deals.

Stay the Course Correction
White House. In a rhetorical shift reminiscent of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s admission that we had quite a lot more to fear than fear itself, President Bush says he never really wanted to “stay the course” in Iraq. Still, he says, America is winning the war. Great news for the Redskins: By presidential standards, they’re winning their division!

Jersey Barriers Fall Same-Sex Marriage. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals are entitled to the same rights and benefits as heterosexuals, while leaving it up to the legislature to decide whether those rights constitute “marriage.” Gay-rights activists said they were pleased with the decision, and increasingly ecstatic that they still can’t be sent to Iraq.

Bum Rush Campaign Ads. Denying that their newest ad against Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., is racially coded, Republicans vow to keep using the soundtrack from Shaft. Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh slams Michael J. Fox for twitching during a commercial filmed for Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill. Fox blasts Limbaugh for his insensitivity to Parkinson’s disease sufferers, but agrees to apologize for Doc Hollywood.

A Different Kind of Green Energy
Economy. ExxonMobil posts a $10 billion profit for the third quarter, nearly breaking last year’s record set by … ExxonMobil. In other economic news, house sales slowed down dramatically. But Democrats and Republicans assured investors that, no matter who wins in November, the House of Representatives will still be for sale.

I Kinda Like Those Old Drapes Democrats. The party’s chances of taking the Senate dim, with revelations that Virginia novelist-candidate James Webb has the dirtiest mind this side of Lynne Cheney. Pundits advise Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to start measuring the drapes in the speaker’s office; in Washington, even window treatments have partisan implications. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama floats a presidential run, but critics question whether he has the experience to get America out of a quagmire. Sorry, folks, only one American has that kind of experience, and Gerald Ford isn’t available.

Hasta Luego Immigration. Bush signs legislation authorizing a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border, but some conservatives doubt that the fence will be built. Maybe Bush will get to it after he finishes overhauling Social Security, sending a mission to Mars, and changing the tone in Washington.

The Vice in Vice President Torture. White House says waterboarding is still unacceptable, even though Vice President Cheney says he has no problem with dunking. White House also reaffirms opposition to the rack, physical assault, and sleep deprivation, though Cheney says detainees might still be subjected to “stretching,” “horseplay,” and “all-night rave parties.”

Live to Tell Celebrities. As hordes of critics accuse her of kidnapping, extortion, and cultural genocide, Madonna tells Oprah she will never apologize for adopting a baby from Malawi, but agrees to apologize for Evita. A blue-ribbon panel of child-rearing experts declares that having good parents is more important than having rich parents, and urges Britney Spears and Kevin Federline to send their new baby to Malawi.