2008: The best, the memorable and the not-so best

2008. What a year. Dominated by political contests such as we haven't seen since, well, when? Despite the news cycles, however, filled with updates of the endless scrimmages, with strategists both Republican and Democrat (what exactly is a "strategist" and who sends them a check at the end of every month?) opining like there's no tomorrow, much happened in 2008, both political and non, that is worth mentioning.

Here are just a few observations:

  • First, the fact that America elected Barack Obama as president is of such consequence that the full measure of this election is still hard to adequately absorb. It is the seminal event of a remarkable political year. First the primaries for both parties, with Hillary (backstopped by Bubba) and Barack took the nomination campaign down to the last state. It was gripping and endlessly fascinating political theater. And then, without anyone taking a breath, came the presidential campaign with the senator from Illinois competing against the old white-haired dude (Paris' words), Senator McCain. And not to forget Sarah, so wowing the Republicans they responded by raising tubes of lipstick at each campaign stop. It was historical. Change was in the air. Palatable. Organic. Saturday Night Live was instantly infused with new comedy and new life, led by Tina Fey as Palin's spooky doppleganger and Amy Poehler's spot on Hillary.
  • In the realm of shooting oneself in the metaphorical foot, recall Eliot Spitzer, governor of New York, rising star of democratic politics, taking aim and with one discharge (didn't even have to reload) mortally (politically, that is) wounded himself. All for a sleepover with a high-priced hooker, while leaving a paper trail even a wiretapping cub scout could follow. Taking similar aim, and adding to the ongoing mystery of why some individuals who inhabit that rarefied atmosphere of sports, stardom, and politics self-destruct, was John Edwards. Ailing wife at home, a political career that coulda shoulda been limitless (attorney general?), and suddenly his darkest nightmare envelopes him. Forensics concluded, after examining the wound, that it was, sadly, self-inflicted. And not to forget Plaxico Burress, Giants star receiver, who literally shot himself not in the foot but the thigh while seated in a nightclub. Seems Plaxico was packing heat in the waistband of his sweats and after the second Margarita reached down to make an adjustment and accidentally pulled the trigger. Whoops. Made Freud sit up and take serious notice.
  • In the arena of the barely consequential, the Croc wars continue. What's a Croc and why would anyone go out in public wearing them, all chunky and day-glo looking? Nevertheless, they have a loyal and often humorless following.
  • Quick. Who was/is Samuel Wurzelbacher? Stumped? Need a life line? Sam is Joe the Plumber, who became John McCain's new best friend. But then a lot about Joe was imaginary: his name isn't Joe, he's not a licensed plumber and he owed back taxes. Joe is looking for a talk show gig and has a book out.
  • If you didn't catch the movie "Twilight," (adapted from the best-selling book), the hottest pop culture event of 2008, then consider yourself officially benched for 2009. Teen/tween girls especially were captivated. The Christian right said, "Way cool," since the couple who were oh so attracted to one another came ever so close to consummating their relationship but didn't, testimony to the efficacy of abstinence and teens. Of course, the boyfriend was a vampire who was sorely tempted to give his new girlfriend the definitive hickey and chose not to. Is abstinence education really working for hormonally driven adolescents? Not so much. Ask Bristol Palin or Jamie Lynn Spears.
  • Okay, fine. I give. Who are Rihanna and Lil' Wayne. And why is Shania Twain worried? And thousands of tween and teen girls simply tear up at the thought that David Archuleta, of "American Idol" fame, might lose his high, rock star tones when serious puberty hits. And what's DIGG, and YELP and LINUX and TWITTER? FACEBOOK, maybe. CRAIG'S LIST? Sorta get that. There's a parallel universe of stuff going on out there filled with iPhones and texting and iPods and Kindle that takes way too much energy to figure out.
  • A moral dilemma to ponder, aka the never-ending story: Remember the famous promise of the United Nations, "Never again?" Referring to the holocaust of WWII. After Rwanda, Congo, Darfur and now Zimbabwe, it begins to ring a bit hollow. What is the responsibility of the world community to those who are killed, maimed and severely oppressed by their government? We have watched hundreds of thousands die in Darfur and Congo, while cholera sweeps Zimbabwe, and the innocents flee their countries only to live in savagely poor relocation camps absent potable water and food. If a line was drawn in the sand after WWII it's been moved constantly since.
  • And how to even begin to comprehend the events that took place in Mumbai, India. There is no nation on earth that is not vulnerable to terrorists with a death wish whose only desire is to inflict as much harm to as many people as possible. Despicable, indeed. Preventable? Not likely. We can stand in line for hours while our shoes and carry-on luggage go through X-ray machines and still these zealots will find a way to defeat our defenses. Perhaps the only answer is to drain the swamp and hope for the best.
  • During the waning months of 2008 the American Dream stalled and then reversed and Wall Street was littered with huge financial firms that are now absent. SUVs were buried in backyards with empty cans of Valvoline as gas prices soared to close to $5 a gallon. Car companies and banks came to Washington looking for cash. Lots of cash. On Main Street? Some estimates indicate that there are now some 1 million foreclosed homes for sale with more on the horizon. Unemployment is rising by the hundreds of thousands, effecting homelessness, healthcare, spending, while families are coping with staggering credit card debt (the next shoe to fall?). 401(k)s? Toast.
  • Regarding the amazing, eerie, spectacular Michael Phelps, Olympic champion extrordinaire, who won eight gold medals in China's Water Cube: Darwin is sitting up and taking notice. Toes webbed? Just the smallest set of gills behind those ears? Wearing a sleek full-body Speedo, he was a swimming machine. Eat, sleep, swim. Hug Mom. Call home and check on the Bulldog. 2012?
  • In any case, best wishes for a brilliant and wonderful 2009.

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