The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist: SOTU, So What?

What Washington is talking about this week.

What We Have Here Is Not a Failure To Communicate
Iraq. After a rash of bombings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declares that there will be “no safe place for terrorists in Iraq.” It’s true: There’s no safe place for anyone in Iraq. Meanwhile, President Bush proclaims again that failure in Iraq is unacceptable. Judging from his Vanilla Coke approval ratings, the American people seem to agree.

The William Hung of American Politics
White House. Bush’s State of the Union offers nothing new on Iraq and just a few small-bore domestic-policy nuggets, but more Americans watch the speech than American Idol. Presumably the same Americans who watch NASCAR for the wrecks. The highlight of the address is Baby Bush’s plug for Baby Einstein, who apparently invented a self-immolating nuclear bomb to prove he was better than his dad.

Frankly, We Think You’re a Bit Scary
Media. In a contentious CNN interview, Vice President Cheney says that the United States has had “enormous successes” in Iraq and rejects Wolf Blitzer’s suggestion of administration blunders as “hogwash.” He also complained that the media always focus on the negative aspects of Kevin Federline and picked the Redskins to win the Super Bowl. At one point, Cheney furiously objected to Blitzer’s prying: “Frankly, I think you’re out of line!” Blitzer apologized and promised not to ask again how the VP takes his coffee.

Was It Something We Said?
2008. Hillary Rodham Clinton says that after consulting with her family, Eleanor Roosevelt, and an eager coalition of late-night hosts, she’s in. Sam Brownback, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson are in, too. But the Zeitgeist must say a sad farewell to John Kerry, who’s dropping out to spend more time with his mirror. Kerry still believes he can be president, even though polls suggest that he’s less popular than Mel Gibson at an AIPAC convention. Kerry also believes that his departure would leave the Senate with a pressing shortage of pompous windbags.

Yes, They’d Have To Be Insane
Crime. The Scooter Libby trial heats up, as the defense accuses Bush administration officials of scapegoating Libby to protect Karl Rove, while the prosecution argues that they’d have to be insane to protect the strategist responsible for Bush’s 28 percent approval rating. But the big news is that Libby once met with Tom Cruise about Germany’s treatment of Scientologists. Finally, someone crazier than Cheney in the vice president’s office!

This Calls for a Task Force Congress. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill announce competing resolutions regarding Bush’s decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, with Democrats criticizing the “escalation” and Republicans criticizing the “augmentation.” But in a poignant display of bipartisan cooperation, both parties agree they won’t do a damn thing about it.

Flaccid Earnings
Business. Ford Motor Co. posts a $5.8 billion loss for 2006, the equivalent of a Mustang a minute. Cheney issues a statement congratulating the company for its “enormous successes.” Meanwhile, Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, announces that it’s eliminating 10,000 jobs after its own billion-dollar losses. Analysts expect an upturn in 2007, but warn that if it lasts more than four hours, investors should consult their broker.

He Didn’t Invent the Deficit, Either
Hollywood. Al Gore, Hollywood-for-Ugly-People’s emissary to Hollywood, is going to the Oscars after his global-warming movie wins two nominations. The last time Gore got mixed up with Hollywood, he was embellishing his role in Love Story. And thank God he did! Otherwise, we might be stuck with a president who was right about both Iraq wars, nuclear proliferation, the Social Security “lockbox,” and the global-climate crisis.

You Can Tell Simon’s Rambling If His Mouth Is Open
Celebrity. American Idol judge Paula Abdul denies that she was drunk after rambling incoherently during interviews; Cheney defends Abdul’s performance as “positively Fergilicious.” And supermodel Gisele Bündchen claims that any girl with strong family support can avoid anorexia. To prove her point, she then chows down a Grape Nut.

Don’t You Dare Laugh, Peyton Manning Sports. Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith are the first African-Americans to lead their teams to the Super Bowl; Smith is also the first Preposterously Named American to lead his team to the big game since Weeb Ewbank, who led the New York Jets to victory in 1968. Wasn’t Joe Gibbs one of his assistants?