- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

One tortured soul attempted to find solace in a glass of liquid sustenance after learning she would be sentenced to four more years of President Bush on the first Tuesday night in November.

It was the bluest of blue nights in the bluest of blue precincts, embodied in a woman’s crestfallen form, too stunned to respond as she absorbed the full impact of the Ohio call. It also was the loneliest of nights of the 9 percent in the District who cast their lot with the Bible-toting, flag-waving, beer-swigging voters of the unenlightened red states.

This was the crystallizing moment of 2004, an “Apocalypse Now” moment, when all things became all political all the time, no more so than along the asphalt arteries and in the dens adjacent to the cauldrons of power.

It was, fittingly enough, the year of the monkey, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, for there was an abundance of monkey business, the boat of the same name that once carried Gary Hart and Donna Rice to Bimini and eventually into the halls of Washington lore.

There was no larger source of buffoonery than Michael Moore, the round mound of Tinseltown who toils in the netherworld of Nazi propagandist Joseph Paul Goebbels.

The gasbags aside, Washington is a city of real people living in real neighborhoods, though wrapped in layers of artifice, from the real players to those on the periphery, all stuffed with aphrodisiac-packing business cards that tell of achievement and relevance. It is the most vexing place in America, with apologies to President Bartlet and the airheads of Hollywood. You either love or hate the place, and sometimes both in a span of hours, depending on which city bureaucrat is asleep on the job and which council member is next in line to come up with the novel idea of raising taxes.

The city remained in a tizzy most of the year, first enthralled with the prospects of the condiment candidate before segueing to the 11th-hour maneuverings of D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, which threatened the barnstorming burden of a baseball team imposed on the proprietors and residents along a forgotten corridor of Southeast.

This promises to be the ultimate act of gentrification, if the vision of Mayor Anthony A. Williams proves correct along the Anacostia River waterfront.

“Gentrification” became a politically sensitive word in 2004, the so-called wedge between blacks and whites, the haves and have-nots, and developers and private owners, with each standoff waged against the backdrop of escalating real estate prices. Gentrification is the gambit of the mayor to reverse the city’s intractable population decline stretching to the ‘50s. It is a measure of last resort intended to assuage public coffers.

The ubiquitous construction crane jutting skyward became the city bird, the jersey barrier the city flower. Capitol Hill came to resemble the Checkpoint Charlie of Berlin of the Cold War days.

At least Washington lost its interest in duct tape and the color-coded terror alerts, along with Tom Ridge. Green means go, red means stop, and yellow means speed up in order to have one of the proliferating traffic cameras snap the license plate of your vehicle.

City officials, alas, were forever determined to legislate the citizenry’s bad choices out of existence, while helping themselves to the citizenry’s wallets and purses. Saving lives is the be-all justification of preening behavior therapists elected to serve the public. The irony is lost on them.

Daniel Snyder, the high-spending, hard-luck owner of the Redskins, showed his arborist side on the property of his estate overlooking the Potomac River. Who knew of Mr. Snyder’s green thumb and power saw? It was the year of the “wardrobe malfunction,” which, too, was politicized, as maintained by the person of the right breast that popped into view on national television. As it turned out, her political commentary complemented the stilted views of all too many pundits.


Good night, Dan Rather.

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