All sorts of things happened last year, most of which we should try to forget. Here are a few of them.
Almost everybody ran for the Republican presidential nomination. Mitt Romney finished at the front of the pack and proceeded to conduct the worst campaign for national office that anyone could remember. To nobody’s surprise, he lost, by a lot, and The Year of the Windbag finally came to an end. President Obama was reelected but hasn’t looked too happy about it since.
The National Rifle Association reasserted itself as a font of inspired ideas, such as flooding the corridors of schools with oil to make it hard for gun-toting lunatics to move around in them. An idea that good deserved a lot more attention than it got. The N.R.A. has also suggested putting armed policemen in every school in the country. That is obviously a swell idea but not as good as the oil thing.
A poll of Congressmen and Senators revealed that only a small percentage of them had any idea they were supposed to help govern the country; most of them believed they had been sent to Washington to represent the interests of the high rollers and the big companies that had bankrolled their campaigns. Tea Party Members could be heard muttering, “Govern? Govern? We hate government.”
In parts of the Middle East, the Arab Spring turned to winter. Senator John McCain, who has been in a bad mood since 2008, wants to invade the Arab countries that have fallen out of his favor, especially Iran but also Libya, where a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed when President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton carelessly left the door unlocked at the American mission in Benghazi. McCain would really like to invade the White House but fears being labeled a demented crank, even though he is a demented crank.
In the sports world, there were the usual assaults, drunken driving, homicides, suicides, spousal batteries, rapes, molestations, drug abuse, and other boys-will-be-boys hi jinks. There is some evidence that the excessive violence of pro football may cause brain damage contributing to the excessive boys-will-be-boys behavior. Baseball and basketball players seem less prone to criminal activity, possibly because they are distracted by the problems of managing huge financial holdings, charitable foundations, and demanding advertising commitments.
Alex Rodriguez, the formerly formidable Yankee third baseman, showed up now and then during the endless baseball season to demonstrate the perils of the long-term contract. Although he rarely gets a hit anymore, the Yankees are committed to paying him $30 million a year until he hits his one-thousandth home run or turns 85, whichever comes first.
The Summer Olympics in London were a big success despite Mitt Romney’s prediction that the British wouldn’t know how to pull it off. Exciting as they were, there is a fleeting quality to the Games, like Chinese food. You can enjoy watching hundreds of hours of the stuff, as I did, and come away with a memory that is a jumble of powerful, graceful athletes in action and simpletons behaving badly in moronic beer commercials. You can’t quite remember who won what. Except for Usain Bolt, of course, the Jamaican sprinter who told us he was now a legend and the greatest athlete in the world. Which he may well be.
The best was saved for last. “Fiscal Cliff” took hold as the most tiresome phrase of the year. And even though it was repeated a thousand times a day by every newspaper and talking head in the country, no one seemed to know quite what it meant. Now that it has been averted, we are saved from trying to understand exactly what it was. Apparently, it had something to do with taxes, specifically your taxes. If you are moderately well-off your taxes are about to go up. If you are rich your taxes are about to go up even more. The rest of us don’t have anything to worry about. Our taxes will not go up but will aspire to an upward movement. We will pay more to the government than we did last year but without the discomfort of having our taxes raised. Got that? And, by passing this dramatic, eleventh-plus-about fourteen-hour law, our enlightened Congress has averted a global economic disaster and set us on a course for, what? Another Fiscal (Precipice? Slope? Cliff?) In about two months.