The Year of "Oh, Lord!"

Sign of the times:
So reads a T-shirt that the folks at Soap Opera Digest are distributing in response, they explain, "to the frustration we sensed from visitors to our [web]site and readers of the magazine, who tell us on an ongoing basis that they're unhappy with constant news preemptions."

Translation: The Housewife Brigade remembers O.J.
These lonely women, who while away each weekday from 11 to 4 with hubby's remote in hand and a big box of chocolates at the ready, were forced to confront the emptiness of their so-called "lives" for months on end as the Trial of the Century took over the network airwaves three years ago. And they don't want that to happen ever again.

But "constant" preemptions?
Not hardly.
Until that unconscionable bombing of Baghdad two weeks ago, the last time a major news event took place was when Ken Starr testified before the House Judiciary Committee last month. And Cleveland's ABC affiliate was the only local station brave enough to say, in effect, "The soap addicts' wrath be damned!"

Besides, what's better than a real-life soap opera?
Like so many Americans, I sat glued to the tube from gavel to gavel as the sorry saga of Watergate played out in the summer of 1973. And I'm here to tell you it was some of the most riveting television I've ever seen, with more juicy melodrama than the writers of As the World Turns or General Hospital have been able to concoct in the quarter-century since.

So don't expect me to apologize for preempting what could've been an innocuous column about, oh, my cat with yet another commentary on the players in Bill Clinton's One Life to Live. A year-end wrap-up piece is part of the job description, after all, and let's face it: Monica was the biggest thing that went down in 1998.

Not since the original Simpson verdict was announced has this nation been so sharply divided over an issue. And it's a division that simply boggles the mind.

That a sizable segment of the population wants President Pinnochio drummed out of office is perfectly understandable. I mean, by all accounts (his staunchest defenders' included), the guy's a scumbag, OK?

But why are some people fighting so desperately to save his sorry ass, as if their fate were somehow tied to his?

The country's blacks have closed ranks around Clinton, blind to his sins because--for some unfathomable reason--they see him as one of "their own." (Hey, I play the saxophone too! Does that make me an honorary "brother"?)

Women are willing to forgive him anything, even what in any other setting would amount to sexual harassment, because he's been kind to the feminist cause. And greedy Americans who own stock worry that the value of their portfolios will plummet if he's sent packing.

So what if the guy lied under oath--a crime (however "low") that, for the rest of us, would automatically mean a trip to the slammer?

Then there are those well-meaning souls who argue that the long, drawn-out impeachment process will distract our nation's legislators from more important business--as if they'd otherwise be hard at work on campaign finance reform or something. But even if that were true, Clinton could eliminate the distraction by having the guts to follow Richard Nixon's lead--more recently, Robert Livingston's lead--and resign.

That, my friends, is not gonna happen.
This guy is the master of distraction, willing--shades of Wag the Dog--to inflict what he calls "unintended Iraqi casualties" in a cynical, last-ditch effort to keep Congress from impeaching him.

"Mark my word . . .," he told the American public in that television address the night of the airstrikes, without the slightest trace of irony. As if, in light of the events of the past twelve months, his "word" meant anything anymore.

I never thought I'd see, in my lifetime, a more immoral occupant of the White House than "Tricky Dick."

Boy, was I wrong.

Cleveland Amory, Gene Autry, Alan Balter, Lloyd Bridges, Betty Carter, Carlos Castenada, Thomas Chapin, Eldridge Cleaver, Fred Friendly, Brendan Gill, Barry Goldwater, Stephane Grappelli, Phil Hartman, Ted Hughes, Grandpa Jones, Kenny Kirkland, Akira Kurosawa, Rose Maddox, Fran Murphey, Maureen O'Sullivan, Alan Pakula, Octavio Paz, Carl Perkins, Roy Rogers, "Buffalo Bob" Smith, Junior Wells, Wendy O. Williams, Carl Wilson, Tammy Wynette, Frankie Yankovic, Robert Young, Henny Youngman, Desmond Pfeiffer, and Ohio's mourning doves.

Gone, but not missed
Leo Buscaglia, Al Campanis, Pol Pot, Eddie Rabbitt, Frank "Chairman of the Bored" Sinatra, Karla Faye Tucker, and (I'm sorry) Linda McCartney.

How can we miss you if you won't go away?
"The Buzzard" (WMMS).

Do not resuscitate!
Al D'Amato, Newt Gingrich, William Ginsburg, Jeff Johnson, "Magic" Johnson, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and off-track betting in Canton.

Light a candle
Kirstie Alley, Pamela Anderson, William Bennett, Leon Bibb, Michael Bolton, Tom Bwokaw, James "King of the World" Cameron, Jesse Camp, Connie Chung, George Clooney, William Cohen, David Copperfield, Bill Cosby, Bob Costas, Kevin Costner, Sheryl Crow, Wayne Dawson, Denise Doofus, Ronnie Duncan, Michael "Feet of Flames" Flatulence, Al Gore, Orrin Hatch, Jesse Helms, Alan "Crazy 'Bout a Ford Truck" Jackson, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Mark Koontz, John Lanigan, Jay Leno, Courtney Love, Bill Maher, Carl Monday, Benjamin Netanyahoo, Stone Phillips, Dan Rather, Christopher Reeve, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Rodman, Adam Sandler, Diane Sawyer, Steven Seagal, Bob Serpentini, Ariel Sharon, Latrell Sprewell, Bob Taft, John Tesh, Strom "Two Heartbeats Away from the Presidency" Thurmond, Mike Trivisonno, Shania Twain, George Voinovich, the goofy chick who plays Dharma, and that new guy with the blinding smile on "NewsChannel 5."

Not to mention Ah-nold, Alanis, Barbra and the new Mr. Barbra, Celine, Cher, "Dr. Laura" (insufferable even in the buff!), Donny and Marie, the "underappreciated" Ellen and Anne, Garth, "Iron Mike," Kathie Lee and Frank, Jenny, Madonna, Mariah, Martha, Maury, both Michaels, Montel, the aforementioned O.J., Oprah, "Puffy," Ricki, Roseanne, Rosie, Sally, Whoopi, Wynonna--and that Emperor of Obnoxiousness, "Jer-ry! Jer-ry!"

Great Assholes of the Western World, all.
I don't really wish any of these people ill, you understand. But who would deny that their absence would make the planet a better place?

David Sowd's e-mail address: [email protected]

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