Coming soon to a year near you
It was January 18, 2008. In years past, the day had been celebrated for a lot of things. Twenty-five years earlier, it was the first time that Martin Luther King Jr. Day had been celebrated in every one of the United States. Two decades earlier, The Jefferson's had appeared for the first time on CBS. About 110 years earlier, Georgia decided it would join up with South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida in seceding from the United States. But on this day, Brian Williams--with no small amount of pain in his face--started his newscast in front of a chroma key wall featuring the smiling face of Jessica Ann Simpson.
"Today," Williams said in his nasal baritone, "America's sweetheart became America's latest fast food craze. Last night, Chris Matthews was the first to tell you that Jessica Simpson has once again become one Whopper of a story. Tonight, we know the identity of the man who made that now infamous sandwich."
Fifteen minutes of the newscast went by, during which viewers heard the tales of Simpson's epicurial exploits, the latest body count in Iraq, the latest petroleum industry ad campaign (50 Cent's latest diddy that declared, "What's another fiddy cents?!!"), and a self-effacing admission that news producers now spent as much time on "To Catch a Predator" segments as they did mining "The Daily Show" and The Drudge Report for news.
In the second half of the show, following a commercial touting a new pill that cured both scrotal wrinkling and premature ejaculation, the producers slipped in a VO (newsie speak for a voice-over, a 30-second bit of video with no soundbites and meant to subliminally convey the least amount of importance) from the Los Angeles bureau.
"Just south of San Diego today," Williams said quickly, "a division of the California Guard moved in to monitor a voting rights demonstration. Democratic activists have spent a reported $500,000 in the Chula Vista area in an attempt to educate Hispanic voters. Last week, the Bush administration directed the California Guard to keep tabs on the situation. The California Governor's office is said to oppose the move, but under federal law, the President can direct the state guard without the Governor's consent."
Thirty seconds passed and Williams moved on to the snow storm that was hitting Washington D.C. and mentioned it may have an effect on President Bush's travel schedule.
A little more than two years earlier, America yawned.
In 2006, a time that on January 18, 2008 seemed like a decade ago, Congress was in a hurry to get home for mid-term elections. It was a time that pundits said Democrats could take over Capitol Hill for the first time since 1994. In the months leading up to the election, eleventh hour riders had been attached to so many bills that even the lawmakers didn't know on what they were voting. They voted to increase the tax burden on American expatriates. They voted to outlaw online gambling. They voted to allow torture of suspected terrorists. And they voted to, in essence, override the Posse Comitatus Act.
Fortunately for the news producers and all of America, it was soon revealed that Jessica Simpson had leaked the Whopper Sex Tape on her own in an effort to distract attention from the Congo Baby Incident. Moreover, closer inspection revealed the sandwich in question was actually a Jumbo Jack and not a Whopper. Burger King's sales plummeted to the point that President Bush hinted at the possibility of a federal bail out. Simpson's Congo Baby became second-block news when it was revealed that Katie Holmes had never married Tom Cruise and her baby belonged to a man from Malaysia named Hoppy.
Ten months later, federal troops were stationed at 80% of American polling places and President George W. Bush was elected to a third term in office.