Never a stickler for rhetorical ruffles and flourishes, the president simply said: "This sucker could go down." He was referring to the economy, which took the president's party down with it. In the second quarter, General Motors lost $181,000 a minute. Would you buy a used car company? Didn't think so. But in 2009, you probably will, if you are a taxpayer.
By 2010, you will be able to buy the plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt. Although it is designed to reduce America's dependency on foreign oil, a GM spokesman said: "There is a fear that if we position this as a 'pro-American' car, it will upset some of the environmentally conscious crowd." Heaven forfend.
If 2008 were not divisible by four, this would have been The Year of Gen. David Petraeus. During the presidential contest between an African-American from Chicago and a plumber from Toledo, eros reared its beguiling head, so: Coming soon to a Cineplex near you, "Republicans in Love," a romantic comedy about conservatives who advocate extravagant presidential powers and who this autumn favored putting the governor of a national park (the federal government owns 63 percent of Alaska) in close proximity to those powers.
Cuba being politically primitive, Fidel Castro yielded power to his brother. Caroline Kennedy, because she is a president's daughter, sought the gift of the Senate seat from New York that Hillary Clinton got because she married a president, but Andrew Cuomo, son of a New York governor, might get it, because this is a democracy.
Thanks to Rod Blagojevich, Eliot Spitzer, a.k.a. Client Nine, was only the second-most embarrassing governor. Actually, third-most, considering the lurid mismanagement of California. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, like Mrs. Jellyby in Dickens's "Bleak House," practiced "telescopic philanthropy." She neglected her chaotic family so she could devote herself to improving conditions in distant Borrioboola-Gha. With California chin-deep in red ink, Schwarzenegger summoned an international conference to tweak the planet's thermostat.
A San Francisco teacher's first graders went on a field trip to witness her lesbian wedding. In nearby Hayward, a teacher asked her kindergartners to sign cards pledging "not to use anti-LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] language or slurs." For some reason, Californians voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman. "This is not a matter for ridicule, this is serious," said Australia's health minister, whose department urged teachers not to mark grades with red pens because that color "can be seen as aggressive."
Peanut allergy had its 15 minutes as a cause of public health hysteria, long enough for the vigilant schools of Union County, N.C., to ban PB&J sandwiches. In New Haven, Conn., an eighth grader was suspended, removed as class vice president and banned from a school honors dinner because he bought a banned substance from a classmate. The substance was Skittles, the fruit-flavored candy. A food fascist explained that candy sales violate the school system's wellness policy. In Prince William County, Va., police were called when Randy Castro, 7, a first grader, became the subject of an incident report titled "Sexual Touching Against Student, Offensive." While still 6 he had smacked a classmate's bottom. Residents of New York City are becoming obese almost three times faster than other Americans, which is probably partly explained by nanny-mayor Michael Bloomberg's jihad against smoking. Compulsory calisthenics—"Central Park at 6:30 a.m. Be there or be fined!"—cannot be far off.
Even with a bum knee Tiger Woods was the best golfer. No one notified Michael Phelps that it was considered evolution when our Homo sapiens predecessors crawled out of the water.
Death, as it must to all, came to Jack Lucas, 80, who lied his way into the Marines at age 14, and on Iwo Jima, six days after his 17th birthday, won the Medal of Honor, becoming the youngest winner since the Civil War. Lazare Monticello, 110, was the last French infantryman from the War to End All Wars, which ended 90 years and hundreds of wars ago. Mildred Loving, 68, was a black woman who also was part Cherokee and Rappahannock Indian. Like another Virginian of color, Pocahontas, she married a white man. In 1967 she was the plaintiff in the wonderfully named Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which struck down miscegenation laws. A lower court had upheld Virginia's Racial Integrity Act on the ground that if God had wanted the races to mix He would not have put them on different continents. That court did not explain why He allowed the slave trade to interfere with His plan.
"Shoot pool, Fast Eddie," said an irritated Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) in "The Hustler" (1961). "I'm shootin' pool, Fats. When I miss, you can shoot," replied Fast Eddie Felsen (Paul Newman, then 36, in the movie that made him a star). Newman, 83, who rarely missed, will be. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of the slayers of the Soviet Union, was 89, seven years older than an American soulmate, the principal maker of the American conservative movement, William F. Buckley, whose harpsichord now makes Heavenly music among the harps.