From Slate: Washington Buzz for week ended 8/18/06

DC capZeitgeist Checklist
What Washington is talking about this week.
By Dana Milbank
Posted Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006, at 6:14 AM ET

Monkey Business
Republicans. Sure, there’s stuff going on in Lebanon and Iraq, but Washington is more intrigued by Sen. George Allen, R-Va., calling a young Indian-American man “Macaca”—aka “Monkey”—and welcoming the Fairfax native to America. The filmed insult and the effort to attribute it to the man’s mullet hairdo, which Allen confused with a mohawk, might not scalp Allen in Virginia but puts his presidential prospects in deep caca..

Everybody’s a Winner
Middle East. The world—including much of the Israeli public—concludes that Hezbollah is the big winner in its monthlong war with Israel, now suspended by the U.N. cease-fire. Israel’s government could fall after its military fails to subdue guerrillas or rescue kidnapped soldiers. The lone holdout in the otherwise unanimous verdict: President Bush. “Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis,” he judges.

Action, Overreaction
Homeland Security. Cable-news hysteria follows foiling of British plane-bomb plot. Crazed 59-year-old woman armed with a screwdriver and matches and urinating on the floor forces London-to-Dulles flight down in Boston. Bedclothes in cargo container from Pakistan cause six-hour evacuation at Port of Seattle. Meanwhile, a Carter-appointed federal judge rejects Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, beginning a probable journey to the Supreme Court.

All Over but the Shooting
Iraq. The country hits yet another macabre milestone: New figures show a record 3,438 civilians killed in Iraq in July—a proportion of the population equivalent to 39,000 Americans. Even friends abandon Bush at home. National Review editor warns that Iraq is turning into another Vietnam. George Will says Kerry was right and mocks Bush’s “illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism.”

Grassy Knoll Field Day
Mystery. Authorities get a confession in the decade-old JonBenet Ramsey case. Reclusive Russian mathematician solves the century-old Poincaré conjecture (we don’t know what it is either). It cannot be long before we find the WMD in Iraq, learn who killed O.J.’s wife, and figure out what the lump was under Bush’s jacket while he debated Kerry.

Lost and Found
Science. Pluto gets a reprieve, as astronomers decide it can still be a planet. But they cheapen the honorific by bestowing planethood on three others: Ceres, Charon, and Xena. NASA, casting doubt on its ability to explore planets, reports that it can’t find its tape of the 1969 moon landing.

Crawford Can Wait
White House. Bush, trying to pull election debate back to terrorism, leaves the ranch for roving photo ops at Pentagon, State Department, and National Counterterrorism Center. But voters aren’t impressed: Pew Research poll finds that only 2 percent want to hear about terrorism. Bush’s overall support limps to 37 percent from 36 percent in July.

Another Godzella?
Democrats. Sen. Joe Lieberman, vanquished in the Connecticut Democratic primary, gets revenge in a new poll giving the independent candidate a 12-point lead over lefty Democratic nominee Ned Lamont. Gleeful White House gives Lieberman a tacit endorsement by refusing to back the Republican. Democrats worry that a victorious Lieberman, dissed last week by his colleagues, could turn into another Zell Miller.

Category Five Kitsch
Katrina. White House declares a political storm watch that will remain in effect at least through the Aug. 29 anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans Mayor Nagin shrewdly calls off the fireworks and comedy show, but the city will have religious services and somber concerts while networks flood the country with reports showing how little has been rebuilt since the storm leveled the city and killed 1,700.

That Burning Smell
Technology. Zeitgeist Checklist, written on a Dell laptop, narrowly escapes disaster when it is discovered that the computer battery is not one of the 4 million recalled because of a fire hazard. Experts warn that iPods, BlackBerrys, Game Boys, cell phones, and anything else using lithium ion batteries could ignite without warning.

Dana Milbank writes the Washington Post‘s Washington Sketch column.