Monday, December 22, 2008
Auld Lang Syne - and good riddance!
This is the best of times. This is the worst of times. It is the spring of hope. It is the winter of despair. We have everything before us. We have nothing before us.
With apologies to Charles Dickens for stealing his words, they pretty well describe the state of America at the dawn of the Age of Obama. I can't remember an upcoming new year that was filled with so much hope and so much fear, both at the same time.
Yes, disaster looms almost everywhere we look. The economy, environment, terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - you name it, and we've got a crisis.
But at least we finally have a guy in charge who looks like he knows what he's doing. And more importantly, he has us. As Ronald Reagan said, "Once the American people set their minds to something, there's nothing we can't accomplish."
What kind of year was 2008? To paraphrase Walter Cronkite, "It was a year filled with the events that alter and illuminate our time. And you were there."
Indeed we were. It's rare to be conscious that you're living in a transforming historical moment, but it was hard to ignore in a year when we elected our first African American president and sank into the most painful economic crisis since the Great Depression.
So before 2008 is out, let's look at the winners and losers:
A Star Is Born: Rachel Maddow, Mike Huckabee, Waren Sapp and the hamster on a piano eating popcorn.
Falling Star: John Edwards. Somebody should have told him that the reason people were voting for him was because they liked his wife. Oops! There goes the attorney general position!
Best Quote: "I can see Russia from my house!" - Tina Fey. It defined Sarah Palin so devastatingly, the Yale Book Of Quotations named it "quote of the year."
Worst Quote: "The fundamentals of our economy are sound." - John McCain.
Animal Of The Year: The turkey that was slaughtered in the background while Palin's television interview took place in the foreground sold on eBay for $225.
Music Video Of The Year: will.i.am's "Yes We Can." It both captured the rising enthusiasm for Obama and contributed to it.
Losers Of The Year: Rod Blagojevich, Elliot Spitzer, George W. Bush and, through no fault of his own, David Letterman. What's he going to do now that he can't use his nightly "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" shtick anymore?
Journalists Of The Year: The ladies of "The View." Who'd have thought they'd make more real news than "Meet The Press" and "Face The Nation" combined?
Book of the Year: "Team Of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Now that Obama has chosen it as the template for his administration, it's a must-read for anyone who wants to know what he has in mind.
Athlete Of The Year: Usain Bolt. What Michael Phelps did was phenomenal, but he didn't destroy the field as completely as Bolt did in his sport. The last time I saw such total dominance was Secretariat in the Belmont.
Gone But Not Forgotten: Dona Spring, Studs Terkel, Bo Diddley, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, George Carlin, Don Haskins, Arthur C. Clarke, Sir Edmund Hillary, Jerry Wexler, Sammy Baugh, Mark Felt, Gene Upshaw, Edie Adams, Van Johnson and, last but not least, Tim Russert. As exciting as the election campaign was, it would have been so much more fun with him.
So what will 2009 be like? I don't know, but I'm certain of one thing: It's bound to be different from 2008. History never moves in a straight line, and the future is never a direct extension of the present.
If you don't believe me, think back to how the world looked 12 months ago. If those trends had held, we'd be getting ready to inaugurate President Hillary Clinton right now, and we'd all still have jobs and IRAs.
Happy New Year to us.