Jewish World Review Jan. 4, 2005 / 23 Teves 5765
A year with ups, downs and slip-slides
Life, as my friends and I used to say back in college, is like an elevator: Some days you get a big lift, other days you get the shaft. With that image vividly in mind, I offer my predictions for the coming year:
And, please, as David Letterman says, no wagering!
Going up: Sen.-elect Barack Obama of Illinois.
In a fashion befitting a Frank Capra movie ("Mr. Obama Goes to Washington"), the former "skinny kid with a funny name" brought a stunningly welcome breeze of hope to a bitterly divisive campaign year with his keynote "One America" speech at July's Democratic National Convention. "I'm so overexposed I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse," he later told guests attending Washington's Gridiron Club dinner in early December. He was joking, but not by much.
Significantly, while Time's cover later featured President Bush as its "Person of the Year," for example, guess who was cheerfully smiling on the cover of Newsweek, representing the year ahead? "I figure there's nowhere to go from here but down," he told the Gridirons, "so tonight I'm announcing my retirement from the United States Senate." Well, not quite.
Slipping down: Alan Keyes.
Illinois Republicans chose the conservative talk-show host Keyes to face Obama. Keyes gathered only 27 percent of the vote, despite proclaiming that "Christ would not vote for Barack Obama." And now, despite his Maryland residency, Keyes has announced that he is settling in Chicago to set up a conservative foundation and political committee in the apparent belief that the state obviously needs the sort of redemption only he can bring.
Going up: Bloggers.
Short for "Web logging," blogging is an exciting new medium that is bringing a new reality to Andy Warhol's vision of a world where everyone is famous for 15 minutes. If anything, we seem to be on our way to everyone having a Web page. Reports that bloggers may be replacing us dinosaurs in the "old media" are wildly premature, but we ignore their power at our peril. Just ask Dan Rather.
Going down: Dan Rather.
In a journalistic nightmare come true, CBS' anchor capped off a distinguished decades-long career with a story that may well have been true but was based on documents that, as he later put it, could not be verified. Details, details. As the world awaits the results of a CBS-commissioned investigation of the affair, Rather has announced his retirement. Among those who will miss him are his critics on the political right who will have to build a new totem of "liberal media bias" to tear down.
On the way back up: Martha Stewart.
After Ms. Martha abruptly dropped her appeals of her conviction for lying to investigators about a stock sale, she faced her 5-month jail sentence with a chin-up courage that can only boost the rapid rehabilitation of her public image. A California-based Web site called the "Martha Prison Gift Shop" reported robust yuletide sales of "Martha Is My Hero" camisoles, "Martha Is Not the Enemy" baby bibs and "Free Martha" thongs. As Martha might say, it's a good thing.
On the way, way down: TV programming standards.
If that's possible. The year of Janet Jackson's exposed breast at the Super Bowl ended with understandable protests from the adoption community over "Who's Your Daddy?" a new Fox TV game show airing Jan. 3 in which a woman given up for adoption at infancy tries to guess who her biological father is from a group of men. The crass format does appear to trivialize a very serious, poignant and personal family issue. But we probably should not be surprised to see a show with contestants trying to guess their daddies after years of watching women appear on Maury Povich's daytime talk show, among others, to guess who their babies' fathers are.
On the way in: Faith-based politics.
Just as the 1988 presidential race between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis turned into a feverish competition to see which campaign could get its supporters to wave the most American flags, look for more Bibles and hymnals in the hands of post-2004 Democrats. (Praise the Lord and pass the voter registration forms!)
On the way out: NBC's "The West Wing."
I knew my formerly favorite show was in deep trouble this season when, as if a wobbly economy, international terrorism and rapacious right wingers were not enough, President Josiah "Jeb" Bartlet, played by actor Martin Sheen, was asked to deal with an asteroid racing toward Earth.
As if we don't have enough on this planet to frighten us already.
Happy New Year.
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10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
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04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
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03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks
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