- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As always, Cuzin’ Kim offers the New Year’s ditty to uplift the family for the coming 365 days. “It’ll be fine in ‘09!” she exclaimed on Christmas Day. Wait a second, I cautioned. “Didn’t you predict that ‘It’ll be great in ‘08’?”

Well, “we got our first black president,” she retorted.

And that historic election was definitely no small feat.

Weathering the scary seasons of high gas prices, foreclosures, layoffs, bailouts and devastated retirement accounts, for some required cloning the discipline and practice employed by Michael Phelps to win a record-breaking eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

What an emotional roller coaster was 2008: a presidential high, a Wall Street low and whiplash events in between. Never again, for example, will Americans be so spendthrift or trusting.

Without question, 2008 will be remembered most for the tortuous, titillating and ultimately tiresome presidential campaign that resulted in the election of Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain.

This was the year that Americans actually seemed more interested in watching wall-to-wall cable-news election coverage than “American Idol” or “Survivor.”

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, providing the shrill counterpunches of dueling political pundits, were as entertaining as any heavyweight boxing championship. But liberal Rachel Maddow trumped them all by garnering her own show geared to the newly empowered younger voters.

What fun would this election year have been without “Saturday Night Live” and Tina Fey’s uncanny parodies of the surprise GOP vice-presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and her “you betcha’ ” winks and “shout-outs”?

Would Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have survived the Democratic primaries as long as she did if Amy Poehler, as Mrs. Clinton, hadn’t used the pillow to goad the media into scrutinizing Mr. Obama closer? Dare I mention the latter’s incendiary former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sean Hannity?

Say what you want, but the funniest moment during the 18-month campaign had to be the “SNL” skit in which a pregnant Poehler and crew performed a rap song in which they shot a moose while Mrs. Palin bounced in the Alaska backdrop.

Not so funny despite his mea culpa is Chip Saltsman, former Tennessee GOP chairman, sending out a holiday CD with “Barack the Magic Negro” on it. Didn’t the Republican Party learn anything from the last election about inclusion, as retired Gen. Colin L. Powell warned during his breakaway endorsement of Mr. Obama?

Speaking of 2008 events that made you scratch your head, the cast of characters in that most-stupid list is too long to mention here. But, how about Ashley Todd, who carved a “B” in her cheek, which she reported to police as the handiwork of a black Obama supporter on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary? Or, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was caught on-mike slicing and dicing Mr. Obama’s critical body parts?

About those body parts, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards must have lost their heads when, their extracurricular activities indicate, they thought they were above the law and their marriage vows.

Closer to home, in the nation’s capital, the Supreme Court repealed the 30-year-old D.C. handgun ban, but don’t expect to holster your weapons here anytime soon.

Sadly, some people here don’t need guns to do dastardly deeds.

The most horrendous stories of 2008 involved the deaths of four Southeast Washington girls, who were missing and allowed to decompose unnoticed for months after their mother, Banita Jacks, purportedly killed them. That incident was reminiscent of another in Maryland. There, a mother reportedly placed her daughters, adopted from the District, in a freezer that may have been moved twice before their bodies were discovered.

Any other 2008 regrets? Michelle Obama’s “proud” American moment? Or Mr. Obama’s “bitter” comments? Maybe Mr. McCain’s “the economy is sound” faux pas? Perhaps Mrs. Palin’s “real America?” Unlicensed “Joe the Plumber?” Bill “the Weatherman” Ayers?

For the really red-faced whoppers, check out the New Yorker’s cover of the “terrorist fist-bumping” Obamas and a Fox News chyron labeling the future first lady as “Obama’s baby mama.”

As we ring in 2009, mysteries remain. Who killed Caylee? Will Minnesota seat a senator within the first 100 days of the next Congress? Will we come to call her “Sen. Caroline Kennedy?”

Surprising as the new year approaches, a Marist poll conducted last week indicates that a majority of Americans think “better days are ahead.” Of the 1,003 surveyed across the country, 56 percent are more optimistic about what the future holds in 2009, while 40 percent are more pessimistic. Women and younger residents have a more positive outlook compared with men and those 45 or older.

In fact, 62 percent of women and 50 percent of men think good things are going to happen next year. “Looking at age, 64 percent of Americans under the age of 45 think the world will be a better place, while 52 percent of those 45 or older feel the same way,” according to the Marist pollsters.

Their findings are in line with a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Christmas Eve that showed 82 percent of those approve of the way Mr. Obama is handling the transition.

Another poll showed that three in four Americans are glad the Bush administration is ending. Still, the only thing noteworthy about that Iraqi shoe thrower was how quickly the American president instinctively ducked. Would that he had moved so swiftly on the Hurricane Katrina rescue or in bringing the troops home.

While we honor and miss the dead and wounded soldiers fighting in two wars, we surely won’t miss the negative political nastiness of this historic campaign year.

Out with “great” topsy-turvy 2008; in with “fine” 2009.

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