In just a few short days, we'll have our brand-new president inaugurated, thus granting us closure on the election season and license to ignore national politics for at least another three years.
The jubilant George W. Bush family will arrive in their new Washington digs, only to find that the Clintons have stolen the towels and all the little bars of soap. If the just-resigned Texas governor has any sense of history, he'll arrange to be sworn in by the five Supreme Court justices that voted him into office (while the other four throw spitballs).
As you know, every time we media people evaluate our own performance, we acknowledge a few mistakes, lament our many hardships, and, after weighing the specifics, decide we did a pretty darn good job after all. What's more, we're better people and better journalists for doing this noble soul-searching.
But it's time for the media to forget the past and make a few vows for the future. We'll call them Inauguration Day resolutions:
*Quit griping about the election night television coverage. Look, most people turn their TV on for one reason: to find out who their next president will be. The networks have little choice but to keep using exit polls, partial returns, and just plain guesswork to give the folks what they want. When both the popular and electoral vote totals are unusually close (as they were this year), this creates a chilling nightmare for TV's talking heads. Trust me, each network had reams of background information on the candidates, their possible Cabinet members, the winning campaign strategies, and the like, just waiting to be trotted out as soon as a winner emerged. But they couldn't use any of it. Telling on-air analysis such as "Gosh, this sure is a close election" is bound to lose its freshness after a couple hundred repetitions.
*Drop the "It's Nader's Fault" campaign. It was perfectly legal for Ralph Nader to run for president. And the notion that he should have dropped out of the race on election eve is ridiculous. The guy wasn't busy picking out new curtains for the Oval Office, he was trying to get 5 percent of the vote and qualify the Green Party for federal campaign funding. A candidate has a duty to his supporters, and Nader fulfilled his by fighting to the end.
*Stop using the phrase "Green Party" and the word "viable" in the same sentence. From a historical perspective, Nader's 3 percent of the vote nationwide wasn't a particularly good third-party run (John Anderson, whose 1980 run is often cited by those arguing the futility of independent presidential campaigns, got 6.6 percent). Ralph was a good candidate too: He's well-known, he's well-respected, and he campaigned hard and ably. Maybe Nader can come close to matching his 2000 numbers if he runs again in four years; with any other candidate, the Greens will sink back into Libertarian Land (below 1 percent). Buh-bye, Greenies.
*Spare us the turnout talk. We all realize that only around half of the country's potential voters cast a ballot for president, but this has been a fact of life for years and it hasn't invalidated an election yet. Try this simple test at your next family gathering or social event: Take a poll of who voted and who didn't. Odds are the nonvoters also don't read the newspaper, can't name their congressional representatives, and may not even share your political views. Do you really want these people to cancel out your vote?
*Keep an eye on that new first brother. Hey, Jeb Bush couldn't carry his own state for his sibling without the aid of massive electoral incompetence and voter fraud. Didn't anyone else think it was weird that George W. and Jeb are the governors of the two most death penalty-loving states? And what kind of name is "Jeb," anyway? All of this merits further scrutiny. (Note to those of you old enough to remember President Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy: Sure, the guy was a nitwit, but at least he didn't have his own gas chamber.)
*Last, but hardly least, my fellow Americans, let's strive to keep from repeating the same mistake so many of you made during the brief reign of W.'s father, President George Herbert Walker Prescott Rockefeller Bush: Don't call me "George!"
Ten percent solution
Turn off the lights! Hey, that's not me shouting, it's your elected officials.
Governor Gary Locke, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, City Council member Heidi Wills, and several other people in nice suits whose names escape me are all asking Washington residents to cut their power usage voluntarily by 10 percent through the end of March. (They're also looking at raising Seattle's electricity rates by 18 percent, which should help get you into that energy-saving mind-set.)
Wills says that if each of the 330,000 City Light customers would turn off just one 100-watt lightbulb, it would save enough electricity to power 30,000 homes. And, Wills adds, if every one of those same customers jumped off a kitchen chair at the same exact moment, it would cause an earthquake in Tukwila. OK, I made that last part up, but consider yourself warned just the same.