The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist: Gonzales Death-Watch Edition

What Washington is talking about this week.

Mistakes Were Made, Passive Verbs Were Used
Law. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refuses to resign over the firing of eight U.S attorneys, despite pressure from both parties and the resignation of his chief of staff. “Mistakes were made,” Gonzales says, adding, “I accept that responsibility”—just not the kind of responsibility that merits active sentence construction. A series of leaked e-mails indicate the attorneys were fired not for poor performance, as the Justice Department originally stated, but for reasons of loyalty. They will now be replaced with golden retrievers.

If He Did It, and It, and It, and It, and …
Terrorism. Suspected al-Qaida operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confesses to orchestrating the 9/11 attacks as well as 30 other acts, past and future, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 2002 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the decapitation of journalist Daniel Pearl. O.J. Simpson may have just found the killer. Mohammed declares himself “not happy that 3,000 been killed in America.” If only those darn office buildings hadn’t gone around obstructing flight paths. Ever the history buff, Mohammed compares al-Qaida to George Washington: Had Washington been caught by the British, “for sure they would consider him enemy combatant.” Which makes President Bush George III and 9/11 the Boston Tea Party.

Boom Shakalaka
Sports. March Madness kicks off with the usual combo of crushed dreams and fulfilled dreams that will later be crushed. In the tournament’s first major upset, Duke goes down to Virginia Commonwealth—a scandal, although perhaps not by Duke standards. D.C. locals George Washington University get trampled by Vanderbilt, although Georgetown and Maryland redeem the nation’s capital by demolishing Belmont and Davidson, respectively. And then there were 32.

Rear Admirals
Homosexuality. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls homosexuality “immoral.” Sen. Sam Brownback defends Pace’s remarks, adding: “I do not believe being a homosexual is immoral, but I do believe homosexual acts are.” That coming from a man whose last name is a homosexual act. Meanwhile, the number of gays discharged from the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell”drops by half in 2006, presumably due to the need for warm bodies. Warm, gay bodies, right, Gen. Pace?

Be It Resolved That Nothing Is Resolved
Congress. A binding resolution that would pull troops out of Iraq by the end of March 2008 hits the Senate floor—and promptly fails. A House appropriations bill with similar aims is slated for debate next week. If it passes, say hello to Bush’s little friend: Judge Veto. Meanwhile, the Senate approves legislation that would allot larger homeland-security grants to states with greater risk of terrorist attack. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., isn’t pleased: “Some people think all we have is cows and sheep,” he says. He’s right—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has vowed to take out every last one of them.

Less Stuff Exploding Than Usual
Iraq. Violence is down in Baghdad! Violence is down in Baghdad! Despite the improvements, officers express cautious optimism—you know, the kind of optimism you express when you have “only” 102 bombings in the past month. Another good sign: The Shiite militia led by Muqtada Sadr is lying low— cooperating, even—as U.S. troops make security sweeps. That said, it’s hard to forget who’s boss in a place called Sadr City.

The Motorcade Diaries II: Escape From Guatemala
Latin America. President Bush completes his pan-American Hugo Chavez Rebuttal Tour 2007. His theme: improving education, funding health care, restoring faith in the United States. His method: slashing Latin American aid by 8 percent. In Mexico, President Felipe Calderón chides the United States for ignoring Mexico, except when it wants to build a 900-mile fence along the border. As a gesture, Calderón promises to fight drug-running, but only if Americans stop all the drug-snorting, -shooting, -inhaling, -licking, and -eating that makes the drug-running possible. Bush’s visit to Colombia lasts all of seven hours—just long enough to spark a riot.

Fire Sale
2008. Eleven official and potential candidates jockey for endorsement at the International Association of Fire Fighters’ presidential forum. Crowd favorites included John “son of a mill worker” Edwards and Hillary “daughter of a textile businessman who made sure factory owners treated their workers equitably” Clinton. Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) promises “to defeat these people that the media people have considered to be the leading candidates,” prompting media people everywhere to frantically Google “James S. Gilmore.” Notably absent is Rudy Giuliani, whom union leaders have slammed in the past for his treatment of fire fighters after 9/11. He doesn’t need them, anyhow: His campaign is used to putting out fires.

Godless Man Miraculously Elected
Religion. California Rep. Pete Stark becomes the highest-ranking elected official to confess he does not believe in God. Thirty-four years in Congress will do that to you. Humanist groups credit Stark for flouting taboo. Just wait till they find out Hillary Clinton is a woman.

Plame Game
Espionage. Real-life Bond girl Valerie Plame, the face that launched a thousand subpoenas, testifies before Congress. She wants to set the record straight that she was working undercover when “fall guy” Scooter Libby and others leaked her identity to members of the press. As for why she waited so long to speak out, she could tell Congress, but then she’d have to kill them.