The Year in Review
JANUARY . . .
which begins, as it does every four years, with presidential contenders swarming into Iowa and expressing sincerely feigned interest in corn. The Iowa caucuses produce two surprises:
On the Republican side, the winner is Mike Huckabee, folksy former governor of Arkansas, or possibly Oklahoma, who vows to remain in the race until he gets a commentator gig with Fox. His win deals a severe blow to Mitt Romney and his bid to become the first president of the android persuasion. Not competing in Iowa are Rudy Giuliani, whose strategy is to stay out of the race until he is mathematically eliminated, and John McCain, who entered the caucus date incorrectly into his 1996 Palm Pilot. On the Democratic side, the surprise winner is Barack Obama, who is running for president on a long and impressive record of running for president. A mesmerizing speaker, Obama electrifies voters with his exciting new ideas for change, although people have trouble remembering exactly what these ideas are because they are so darned mesmerized. Some people become so excited that they actually pass out. These are members of the press corps.
Obama's victory comes at the expense of former front-runner Hillary Clinton, who fails to ignite voter passion despite a rip-snorter of a stump speech in which she recites, without notes, all 17 points of her plan to streamline tuition-loan applications.
The instant the caucuses are over, the contenders drop Iowa like a rancid frankfurter and jet to other states to express concern about whatever people there care about.
Meanwhile, George W. Bush, who is still, technically, the president, visits the Middle East and finds things over there just as confusing as ever.
FEBRUARY . . .
The battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton heats up as the two engage in a series of increasingly hostile debates, including one in which Secret Service agents have to tackle a large, angry, red-faced man who bursts from the audience shouting incoherently. This turns out to be Bill Clinton, who is swiftly dispatched by his wife's campaign to work his magic on voters in the crucial Guam caucuses.
On the Republican side, John McCain emerges as the clear front-runner when Mitt Romney drops out of the race, citing "motherboard issues."
MARCH . . .
In politics, Barack Obama addresses the issue of why, in his 20 years of membership in Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, he failed to notice that the pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is a racist lunatic. In a major televised address widely hailed for its brilliance, Obama explains that . . . Okay, nobody really remembers what the actual explanation was. But everybody agrees it was mesmerizing.
Obama's opponent, Hillary Clinton, gets into a controversy of her own when she claims that, as first lady, she landed in Bosnia "under sniper fire." News outlets quickly locate archive video showing that she was in fact greeted with a welcoming ceremony featuring an 8-year-old girl reading a poem. Clinton's campaign releases a statement pointing out that it was "a pretty long poem."
On the Republican side, John McCain wraps up the nomination and embarks on a series of strategic naps.
APRIL . . .
tensions run high in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, which all the experts agree is extremely crucial. Barack Obama gets into trouble with rural voters for saying that rural Americans are "bitter" and "cling to guns or religion." Responding to charges that this statement is elitist, Obama responds: "You are getting sleepy. Very sleepy."
Seeking to capitalize on Obama's gaffe, Hillary Clinton starts channeling Annie Oakley, tossing down shots of whiskey and talking about her love of guns and hunting. After one particularly long day on the trail, she grabs a Secret Service agent's pistol and attempts to shoot a deer; instead she wounds a reporter, thereby sealing her victory in the Pennsylvania primary, which turns out to not actually be all that crucial because the Democratic race keeps right on going with no sign of ending in the current decade.
On the Republican side, John McCain gets wind of something called the "Internet" and orders his staff to give him a summary of it on index cards.
MAY . . .
In presidential politics, the increasingly bitter fight for the Democratic nomination intensifies when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hold a televised debate, moderated by PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, which consists entirely of spitting.
On the Republican side, John McCain, preparing for the fall campaign, purchases a new necktie.
JUNE . . .
Barack Obama finally claims the bitterly contested Democratic nomination when Hillary Clinton, behind on delegates and in debt to the tune of $25 million, including $9 million for hairspray alone, suspends her campaign and declares that she has "no hard feelings" and will do "whatever it takes" to help Obama get elected, "even though he is scum." Bill Clinton, at his wife's side, nods vigorously but is unable to speak because of the restraining device. A gracious John McCain tells the press that he "looks forward to a spirited debate with Sen. Mondale." Before he can take questions, he is informed by his aides that he has an important meeting.
In other campaign-related news, Chicago developer Tony Rezko, a former Obama associate and fundraiser, is convicted on corruption charges, but media representatives realize that this is not an issue after Obama explains that it is not an issue.
President George W. Bush takes one last official trip to Europe to meet with European leaders. Unfortunately, they are not home.
JULY . . .
Barack Obama, having secured North and South America, flies to Germany without using an airplane and gives a major speech -- speaking English and German simultaneously -- to 200,000 mesmerized Germans, who immediately elect him chancellor, prompting France to surrender.
Meanwhile, John McCain, at a strategy session at a golf resort, tells his top aides to prepare a list of potential running mates, stressing that he wants somebody "who is completely, brutally honest." Unfortunately, because of noise from a lawnmower, the aides think McCain said he wants somebody "who has competed in a beauty contest." This will lead to trouble down the road.
AUGUST . . .
Barack Obama, continuing to shake up the establishment, selects as his running mate Joe Biden, a tireless fighter for change since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1849. The Democratic Party gathers in Denver to formally nominate Obama, who descends from his Fortress of Solitude to mesmerize the adoring crowd with an acceptance speech objectively described by the New York Times as "comparable to the Gettysburg Address, only way better."
Meanwhile, John McCain, still searching for the perfect running mate, tells his top aides in a conference call that he wants "someone who is capable of filling my shoes." Unfortunately, he is speaking into the wrong end of his cellphone, and his aides think he said "someone who is capable of killing a moose." Shortly thereafter, McCain stuns the world, and possibly himself, by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a no-nonsense hockey mom with roughly 114 children named after random nouns such as "Hamper."
SEPTEMBER . . .
the Republican convention gets off to a tentative start in St. Paul, Minn., when President Bush and Vice President Cheney are unable to attend, partly because of Hurricane Gustav, and partly because the organizers told them that the convention was in Atlanta. The mood improves when Sarah Palin dazzles the delegates with her winning smile, detailed knowledge of what is on the teleprompter and spot-on imitation of Tina Fey. The next night, John McCain, formally accepting the nomination, pledges to run "a totally incoherent campaign." None of this is reported in the media because the entire press corps is in Wasilla, Alaska, investigating rumors that Palin once dated a yeti.
But the presidential campaign is soon overshadowed by the troubled economy. The federal government is finally forced to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after they are caught selling crack at a middle school. But that is not enough, as major financial institutions, having lost hundreds of billions of dollars thanks to years of engaging in practices ranging from questionable to moronic, begin failing, which gives the federal government an idea: Why not give these institutions more hundreds of billions of dollars, generously provided by taxpayers?
This plan is discussed and debated in urgent meetings in Washington attended by the president, the Cabinet, congressional leaders, Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain and all other concerned parties except the actual taxpayers, who are not invited because they are, with all due respect, way too stupid to understand high finance. The taxpayers are repeatedly assured, however, that unless they fork over $700 billion, the economy will go right down the toilet. And so it comes to pass that in . . .
OCTOBER . . .
The economy dominates the presidential campaign, with the focal point being "Joe the Plumber," an Ohio resident who asks Barack Obama a mildly confrontational question about tax policy and within hours is more famous than the Dalai Lama. He draws intense scrutiny from the news media, which, using investigative reporters borrowed from the Palin-yeti beat, determine that "Joe the Plumber" is in fact (1) not named Joe, (2) not a plumber, (3) a citizen of Belgium and, biologically, (4) a woman.
In the presidential debates, John McCain, looking and sounding increasingly like the late Walter Brennan, cites Joe the Plumber a record 847 times while charging that Obama's tax policies amount to socialism. Obama, ahead of McCain by double digits in the polls and several hundred million dollars in money, skips the debates so he can work on his inaugural address. The New York Times declares his performance "masterful."
NOVEMBER . . .
Barack Obama, in a historic triumph, is elected the nation's first black president since the second season of "24," setting off an ecstatically joyful and boisterous all-night celebration that at times threatens to spill out of the New York Times newsroom. Obama, following through on his promise to bring change to Washington, quickly begins assembling an administration consisting of a diverse group of renegade outsiders, ranging all the way from lawyers who attended Ivy League schools and then worked in the Clinton administration to lawyers who attended entirely different Ivy league schools and then worked in the Clinton administration, to Hillary Clinton.
DECEMBER . . .
President-elect Obama, continuing to bring change in the form of fresh-faced Washington outsiders, announces that his secretary of state will be Hillary Clinton. The position of secretary of defense, currently held by Bush appointee Robert Gates, will be filled by Bush appointee Robert Gates. Responding to rumors that he also plans to retain Dick Cheney, Obama insists that he has tried to ask the vice president to leave, "but nobody knows where he is."
In other political news, federal authorities arrest Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod "Rod" Blagojevich after wiretaps reveal that he was . . . okay, that he was being the governor of Illinois. Everybody is very, very shocked. Meanwhile, the recount in the extremely tight Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken is thrown into disarray with the discovery that more than 13,000 of the ballots were cast by residents of Palm Beach County, Fla.
...The point is, if you have any money left, you should spend it soon.
And happy New Year.
The Year in Review
By Dave Barry
Sunday, December 28, 2008; W10
How weird a year was it? Here's how weird:
Of course, not all the events of 2008 were weird. Some were depressing. The only U.S. industries that had a good year were campaign consultants and foreclosure lawyers. Everybody else got financially whacked. So, we can be grateful that 2008 is almost over. But before we leave it behind, let's take a few minutes to look back and see if we can find some small nuggets of amusement. Why not? We paid for it, starting with . . .