The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist, Kerry’s Back Edition

What Washington is talking about this week.

Who Do You Trust To Clean Our Mess? Republicans. After Iraq, Katrina, a slew of GOP corruption, and former Rep. Mark Foley, Karl Rove finally rolls out his October Surprise: Sen. John F. Kerry. Polls suggest that if Kerry keeps talking, Republicans will easily hold the House and the Senate and might win the Nicaraguan elections as well. To close the deal, they’re asking voters to extend their control of Congress with a Pottery Barn appeal: We broke it, we own it!

Stay (On) the (Golf) Course Democrats. Kerry apologizes for his botched joke and agrees to sit out the rest of the 2006 campaign. But he refuses to apologize for the 2004 campaign, which was also a botched joke. Still, confident Democrats are making post-victory plans: Charles Rangel wants to raise taxes, John Conyers wants to impeach President Bush, and James Webb wants to publish an X-rated Congressional Record.

The Decider Iraq. Bush says he’s pleased with the nation’s progress in Iraq. He says he’s also pleased with Keanu Reeves’ progress as an actor. Meanwhile, U.S. troops abandon a mission to rescue a kidnapped soldier after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki complains. An outraged Bush says there’s only one man who can tell U.S. troops what to do: James Baker.

Look Who’s Talking North Korea. A month after its dysfunctional nuclear test, North Korea wants to return to the table. Kim Jong-il says that if the West agrees to drop sanctions, North Korea will agree not to build any more nukes that don’t work. Meanwhile, the Bush administration pulls an atomic-bomb manual off of a government Web site. And Kim offers a new deal: He’ll accept sanctions if someone will teach him how to use the Google cache.

Fish Story Science. A new report on the depletion of the oceans predicts that the world will run out of seafood by 2048, which means that the troops coming home from Iraq won’t be able to celebrate over sea bass or tuna tartare. In brighter news, a new report on climate change predicts a 3.6 degree to 5.4 degree increase in global temperatures by 2056, which means that there should be balmy weather the next time the Redskins have a Super Bowl parade.

That Might Not Be Far Enough, Anyway Space. NASA announces that it will launch a shuttle mission in 2008 to try to fix the Hubble Space Telescope, 380 miles above Earth. Despite pleadings from Democratic Party leaders, Kerry will not be sent on the mission.

Come On Down! Corruption. Republican congressmen quietly enact a provision to oust the Pentagon’s inspector general for Iraq, Stuart Bowen Jr., a dogged investigator who has uncovered billions of dollars in waste and abuse. After the provision is exposed, GOP leaders say they’ll find someone just as qualified to watch the bottom line in Iraq. In unrelated news, 82-year-old Bob Barker announces that he’s leaving The Price Is Right.

Love the Sinner, Love the Sin Religion. The president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a staunch crusader against marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, resigns after allegations that he paid for gay sex. He says he still believes that marriage and adoption should be limited to heterosexual couples but that hypocrisy should be available to all Americans.

This Calls for a Drink Medicine. A comprehensive new health study suggests that red wine can help obese mice live longer, providing scientific confirmation for the Elizabeth Taylor Hypothesis. On the other hand, it didn’t seem to help Chris Farley.

And You Thought Shantytowns Were Hell Death. A sad week in the obituary pages, with the deaths of Celtics legend Red Auerbach and novelist William Styron. Then again, unrepentant South African apartheid defender P.W. Botha is also on his way to a final Truth and Reconciliation Commission.