The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist, Landslide Edition

What Washington is talking about this week.

Catch the Wave Democrats. The permanent Republican majority that Karl Rove announced in 2004 turns out to be as permanent as Britney and K-Fed. Now Nancy Pelosi is set to be the first woman to lead the House and Harry Reid the first inanimate object to lead the Senate. The Democratic wave made congressmen out of obscurities such as Heath Shuler, a former Redskins quarterback, and John Hall, a former Orleans front man. If the war in Iraq drags on much longer, we might see Gus Frerotte and Wang Chung in the House.

Just Back Off White House. President Bush ousts Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who blames Americans for failing to comprehend the complexities of Iraq. This calls for a joke, but the Zeitgeist Checklist’s brain just exploded. In his postelection news conference, Bush also calls for a new era of bipartisan cooperation and vows to reach out to Democrats. Giggling uncontrollably, he then calls for a new era of sacrifice by America’s wealthiest citizens and vows to reach out to that pretzel that nearly choked him to death.

Oy, Vey! Virginia. Sen. George Allen, who expected to win the presidency in 2008, will be unemployed in 2007 after he spares the nation another recount by conceding to Democrat James Webb. Allen blames his defeat on macaca, Iraq, and the current unpopularity of faux-cowboy politicians, but mostly on anti-Semitism. Analysts believe that the electorate’s tolerance for Webb’s raunchy novels proves that Virginia really is trending blue.

Recrimination Nation Republicans. Rumsfeld and House Speaker Dennis Hastert are the first victims of the finger-pointing frenzy as the stunned GOP tries to figure out how it lost to the Bad News Bears of American politics. Many Republicans want to return to their small-government roots and get serious about cutting spending, starting with the Diebold contract.

And Don King Supports Our Opponents! Maryland. Democrats demand an investigation after Republicans hire homeless men to distribute fliers to blacks claiming that Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael Steele were endorsed by Kweisi Mfume, Oprah Winfrey, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But Ehrlich still lost, and so did Steele, which means that Ben Cardin will be the most colorful Maryland senator since whoever that guy is he’s replacing.

The Redskins Are Committed to Winning, Too Iraq. Pelosi says the Democratic landslide proves that Americans want a new direction in Iraq. But after firing Rumsfeld, Bush insists that Americans are still committed to winning the war. Well, that would be a new direction.

But This Could Be a Problem for Matthew Perry Medicine. Perrigo Co., a medical manufacturer, chooses the inopportune week of the Democratic landslide to recall 11 million bottles of tainted generic painkillers. But Rush Limbaugh says not to worry: He uses only name brands.

No Word Yet From Wang Chung 2008. The presidential campaign officially begins, as Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, D, form the first exploratory committees. The first task will be to explore how exactly they got the idea that they could be president.

Crazy Marriage Is Still OK, TomKat Ballot Initiatives. South Dakota rejected a ban on abortion, but seven states approved bans on same-sex marriage. Apparently, most Americans still cling to a traditional view of marriage as a sacred bond between a man and a woman and a reality-TV crew and the entourages and the paparazzi and the strippers and the publicists and the divorce lawyers.

This Column Might Be Next Media. The Tribune Co. ousts well-respected Los Angeles Times Editor Dean Baquet, who had publicly refused to shrink his newsroom to boost corporate profits. Some journalists contend that dramatic cuts are already damaging the quality of their product, but industry bean counters say that’s ridicu