The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist: Welcome Back, Hostages!

What Washington is talking about this week.

Iranian Hostage Crisis Resolved 27 Times Faster Than Last One
Iran. Iran releases the 15 British soldiers who allegedly crossed into Iranian waters two weeks ago. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls their release a “present to the British people” for Easter. A perhaps nicer gesture: not kidnapping them in the first place. Prime Minister Tony Blair insists their release isn’t part of a deal, although an Iranian official captured in Iraq was also released early this week, and Iran is being granted access to five Iranians in U.S. custody. Those must be Easter gifts, too.

Clinton’s Bills 2008. Hillary raises $26 million in the first quarter of the year, making the $8.9 million that Al Gore raised in early 1999 the biggest broken record since Al Gore himself. Obama comes in a close second with $25 million, but analysts say his million-dollar smile levels the field. Mitt Romney bests the Republican bunch with $21 million, which currently amounts to about half a million per Romney supporter. John McCain, after raking in a paltry $12.5 million, considers replacing his fund-raising arm with a charity.

Speaker Out of Turn Syria. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plays secretary of state and visits Syria—a conspicuous defiance of the Bush administration’s diplomatic priorities. After Pelosi botches a discussion with President Bashar Assad over Syrian-Israeli relations, Dick Cheney criticizes her “bad behavior” and promises to put her on timeout when recess is over.

Al’s Spring Training Law. The U.S. attorneys saga takes a breather this week as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales all but vanishes. With an upcoming hearing before the Senate judiciary committee, Gonzales goes into Rocky-montage mode: phoning Republicans for support, consulting with trusted advisers, simulating intense testimony sessions, and drinking pitchers full of raw egg. Former Gonzales aide Monica Goodling reiterates her refusal to testify before a House committee. Sen. Patrick Leahy says that if she’s telling the truth, she should have nothing to worry about. Except, you know, dealing a deathblow to an already crippled department, ending the careers of her colleagues, and paving the way for three-pronged Democratic dominance in 2008. But that’s about it.

Hot Air
Climate. The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that the Environmental Protection Agency can’t refuse to regulate greenhouse gas emissions without a good reason. Perhaps this ruling will finally acquit the Clean Air Act as the greatest political misnomer of all time. A new U.N. draft report declares with “high confidence” that humans are at least partly responsible for climate change. Despite predictions of “increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts,” the report helpfully points out there will be “fewer deaths from cold.”

Think Happy Thoughts
Iraq. Good news! Well, sort of: Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces the Baghdad surge is showing “positive” signs, but he doesn’t want to jinx it with any “happy talk.” Meanwhile, a declassified Pentagon report deals yet another blow to claims of Saddam Hussein’s prewar ties to al-Qaida—the same day Dick Cheney reasserts to Rush Limbaugh that al-Qaida was active in Iraq “before we ever launched.” Cheney then returned to his soundproof, windowless iron lung.

Newt No Hablo Very Bueno
Latin America. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich performs damage control after remarking that bilingual education programs teach “the language of living in the ghetto.” In an online video, Gingrich clarifies his statement en español, inadvertently making a remarkably convincing case for bilingual education. In Virginia, immigration authorities arrest Ernesto Guillermo Barrreiro, who served as chief interrogator at a notorious torture facility during Argentina’s Dirty War. He will likely be deported—if the Bush administration doesn’t hire him first.

Snort Me Up
Celebrities. In an interview with British music magazine NME, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims to have snorted cocaine mixed with the ashes of his dead father. A spokesman for Disney says that Richards, who appears in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean film as Captain Jack Sparrow’s father, “won’t be doing a lot of publicity” for it. Now Richards claims the nasal-cannibalism remark was a joke, but the interviewer insists he was utterly serious.

Bong Hits 4 Easter Holidays. As the White House prepares for its annual Easter Egg Roll, a Connecticut man gets caught preparing for a different sort of rolling. Police arrest Ian Lawrence after finding 16 small bags of marijuana stuffed inside an Easter bunny and plastic eggs hidden in his car. Perhaps he gave up moderation for Lent.

John Kerry Knows His Waffles
Congress. President Bush takes advantage of the congressional recess to appoint Sam Fox, a Republican donor who helped fund Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as ambassador to Belgium. Sen. John Kerry calls the appointment “sad but not surprising.” Look for an ad attacking Fox’s inability to distinguish the Orval Trappist pale ale from the lambic bieres of the Senne Valley.