Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Year In Review

Another Year of Blogging: 2008 In Review

New Year's Eve is also the anniversary of the Deeth Blog, and today marks six years on the air. A look back at the year that was blogged:


When it was all over in the fall, I concluded that the Jan. 3 Democratic caucuses were the Most Important Ever. The six top Dems all passed through Johnson County in the final 36 or so hours, though varying assignments and pre-caucus number-crunching duties meant I saw only Hillary, on New Year's Day, where Tom Vilsack and Chelsea "no comment, Weekly Reader" Clinton stood silent.

By month's end four of the six were gone, and the long war of attrition began. Looking back, the Iowa win was the first big step on the road to the White House for Obama. But Ted Kennedy, as it turned out, didn't trump Hillary's "meaningless" Florida win.

On the Republican side, Iowa stirred the pot. Huckabee won, but the death rattle of Fred Thompson screwed him in South Carolina. By month's end it was looking clear that McCain was the man. And it was in January that Mitt let the dogs out.

I caught a bad case of Super Bowl fever late in January, and with sub-zero weather at Lambeau we imagined Ice Bowl II. But this time the ending was unhappy, and as it turned out it was the last time we'd see Number 4 in our uniform.


Super Sunday was quickly followed by Super Tuesday. We thought that was going to end the whole thing; guess we were wrong. As Obama began his all-month win streak after the √úberdienstag draw, the GOP race briefly settled into a two-way. But it didn't take long for McCain to mathematically clinch. At our house, we settled into the Tuesday night routine of election return watching.

And Tina Fey makes her most interesting political statement of the year: NOT the Palin impersonation, but the "Bitches Get Stuff Done" rant:


Personal stuff highlighted March as I got a new job title: Grandpa.

A happy day, with a little sadness the next as I had to say a sudden goodbye to my old friend Butter.

Politically, the June primary field took shape and I got to know the three Republicans taking on Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD. County conventions of both parties met. At the GOP convention I did my first Linux liveblog. I spent most of the Democratic convention locked in the secret Credentials Bunker, and the Democrats filled every seat for the first time in memory or maybe in history. Statewide, what realigning there was moved in Obama's direction; in some counties Team Edwards moved en masse.

Democrats started to figure out the delegate math in minute detail, and argue about do-overs in Florida and Michigan. And I figured the only way to settle it was the Whig Strategy of 1836.

Eliot Spitzer clinched Scandal of the Year. I feel an awful sense of deja vu as an Iowa City family is found dead. The Smallest Farm sets its start. And Brett Favre absolutely, positively, finally and officially retired.


All Pennsylvania, all month, and God Damn America. Gas prices keep shooting up, and we thought the roads couldn't possibly get any muddier. Or the campaign. Bitter-gate, shot and a beer, the Worst Debate Ever... April had it all.

Not much better in central Iowa, as Leonard Boswell's campaign was All Nader All The Time.

I met Worst Person In The World Steve King for the first time at a Republican district convention, and started to get the idea that this Miller-Meeks gal might have an edge with the GOP base. But at this point everyone knew Peter Teahen was the certain nominee.

The Democrats had a marathon convention as once again every seat was filled and 84 people ran for four delegate seats.


My eight year old asked, "Is there a such a thing in politics like overtime, like in football?" The Michigan-Florida battle finally came to its conclusion, arguments over the definition of "popular vote" ensue, and we learned that Appalachia had little love for Obama. Yet, delegate by delegate, the Obama train inches forward.

On the Iowa primary front, Leonard Boswell dodges debates and the Register retaliates by endorsing Ed Fallon. And the Republican bloggers openly loathe Peter Teahen.

Gas prices start to spike, which most people think is a bad thing. And the majority of the Smallest Farm crop gets planted.


The dam burst on June 3, and the dam overflowed on June 10.

Obama clinched the nomination on the last day of the primary season with an avalanche of superdelegates, and the fall campaign finally began in earnest. Since we were having our own, local primary, I missed most of the action.

But there was, in fact, action in Iowa--all on the GOP side. Two squeaker primaries with Mariannette Miller-Meeks prevailing in the 2nd CD and, big upset, Christopher "who?" Reed in the Senate race. George Eichhorn was itching for a recount... but everyone very quickly forgot about the primary.

Obama cancels a Cedar Rapids trip, but John McCain came to Columbus Junction (despite the governor's requests). Even W came to check it out.

Both parties pushed their conventions back. The Dems met at the end of the month, in an interminable marathon that ran past 2 a.m. (That was also where I discovered my wifi worked better in Linux than in Windows.)

But mostly I switched gears from political blogger to flood photographer. And the journalism got too participatory for me the day we sandbagged my house. Fortunately the water stopped a block and a half away. The Smallest Farm stayed above water and grew nicely, as I started harvesting catnip.

And George Carlin suffered a terminal health episode.


The cleanup begins. Talk of a special legislative session begins to float on the receding flood waters, but that never comes to pass.

Party unity gets serious and the fall campaign begins in earnest. Obama rocks Europe, sinks a three pointer, and ends the month with that postponed Cedar Rapids visit. I realize that I've seen this movie before: five years ago starring Chris Rock.

McCain calls Obama a "celebrity." Paris Hilton responds, and comes off the real winner believe it or not. My meme of the year makes its debut, as someone unearths a clip of McCain:

Iowa Republicans convene and oust a national committee member in a hard right turn.

The Smallest Farm was producing full meals and excess zucchini, despite the gopher. And in Green Bay, lots of drama as my fears--Favre changes his mind right at training camp time--are realized.


Sarah WHO? Thanks, but no thanks.

Obama tries to build the drama, but even a leak-free ship can't hide the Secret Service in Joe Biden's driveway. Deeth Blog traffic spikes to an all-time record as my archive of Biden stories is suddenly relevant. The convention is marred a little for me by the Florida and Michigan calendar cheaters getting full seating, but I forgot all that on Monday of convention week as Obama stopped by Davenport on his way to Denver.

Hillary and Bill did what they had to and did it well, and Barack nailed The Big Stadium Speech.

The first pseudo-debate of the fall and Rick Warren's first visit of the year to the top of page one, as a Get Smart reference to the "cone of silence" is the big meme for a week or so.

Everybody moves and everybody gets paid on the first of tha month. Gas prices really, REALLY spike and Republicans start the chant of "drill baby drill."

Better late than never as Jim Leach endorses Obama.

Like all Iowans, we feast on corn, only this year it's Smallest Farm corn.

The world turns a blind eye to human rights and parties in Beijing; I launch a two-week Olympic blogathon that accomplishes nothing except getting me Nazi-bashed. (In November, we finally see Chinese Democracy, and toast with a Dr Pepper.)

Sad endings: Brett is a Jet, a professor finds it too much to take, and John Edwards gets caught with his pants down, clinching Scandal of the Year.


This is the month when Obama sealed the deal. Or maybe the month that McCain blew it.

It started off rough, with that brief Palin poll spike. True, she nailed the raw moose meat convention speech, which established all the big lines (hockey mom, pit bull with lipstick on a pig, Barracuda, etc.) But the more we got to know her, the more questions we had and the fewer she answered. Sometimes those went over the top, like the Secret Baby Conspiracy. But as soon as Tina Fey said "I can see Russia from my house," the public perception was locked in.

I got to see the Sarah Show live at the Grand Rapids--I mean, Cedar Rapids--airport, and when the protesters protested she didn't react, she just kept reading the teleprompter.

Near the end of the Palin peak, Kathleen Sebelius suggested that race maybe, maybe is a teeny weeny factor, and landed me on the front page of the Drudge Report to the tune of 20,000 hits an hour. My old bud Howard Dean stopped by Iowa City, too.

Mid-month, the crash of the economy gets serious and McCain double-fumbled; first with the "fundamentals of the economy are sound" and then with the "suspended campaign" play that failed.

The public is enraged at the bailout, but the Too Big To Fail argument prevails. Obama says enough is enough, and McCain copies, as the rivals agree to strongly oppose snakes on planes.

In the midst of all this, McCain tries to cancel the first debate, alienates David Letterman, and doesn't look at Obama once when they do debate.

Democrats punish traitor Joe Lieberman by, ooh this is tough... not eating lunch with him. Unfazed, Joementum just keeps droning on for McCain.

By September 25th I've heard enough and vote for Obama the first day I can; history will mark this year as the election that early voting broke through into the mainstream.


Sarah repeats her talking points for 90 minutes at the VP debate, but Tina upstages her with some fancy pageant walkin'. Trying to be a good sport, the governor does the SNL bit herself, but doesn't seem to get that she's the butt of the joke.

McCain calls Obama "that one" at debate two and Joe The Plumber dominates debate three. People tuned in and did NOT see the Jeremiah Wright caricature of the attack memes.

But McCain's crowds, and especially Palin's crowds, get madder and madder as Palin drops the "pallin' around with terrorists" bomb. Finally even McCain is sick of it and shows some spine briefly when he stands up to a supporter and calls Obama "a decent family man."

But that glimmer is gone when I see him the next day in Davenport. In fact, the big news out of Davenport happened before McCain even arrived, when the preacher said "there are millions of people around this world praying to their god - whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah - that (Obama) wins." (All the press caught it, but because I was liveblogging I had it first and got the traffic.) But McCain doesn't give me a 45 minute world exclusive interview like Gloria LaRiva did.

Barack Obama just kept his cool through it all, as the numbers stabilized and Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight became the breakout blogstar of the year. By month's end the pundits are really trying hard to pretend it's not over. The Democrats go on offense, spending more and more time in Virginia and North Carolina, while Iowa City instead gets surrogates like the other Illinois senator, Dick Durbin.

The early vote lines keep growing and growing and growing, as people simply can't wait to vote.

Iowa's Republican bloggers start grumbling that the state party is ignoring Chris "Not Tom Harkin" Reed, who makes a splash in the one debate by calling Harkin "the Tokyo Rose of al Qaeda and Middle East terrorism." But all the GOP blogs are convinced that their one bright spot will be Miller-Meeks. The Dems, meanwhile, think Becky Greenwald has a shot at Tom Latham.

Locally, after many months without opposition, Flip Yes on the conservation bond was countered with a Flip No.

With all this politickin' and votin', the Smallest Farm gets neglected and quietly goes to seed.


They called it the moment the California polls closed, in what will go down in history as one of those Where Were You When moments. It took a while to tally the final score (weeks in that Alaska Senate race, and they're still counting in Minnesota) but it wasn't a buzzer beater like 2004 or a bad call on the last play like 2000.

Closer to home, slow absentee counts gave us a few scares about some legislators, but when it was done the Dems padded their Des Moines margins. The Flip Nos flipped out and said I can has recount? but Team Yes prevailed. I crunched the local numbers to find the minor distinctions between "Democrats won big" vs. "Democrats won REALLY big," but Obama falls decimal points short of my 70 percent Johnson County goal.

The Saturday before the election, John McCain did the SNL thing and looked like he was at the acceptance stage of the grieving process. Palin launched her 2012 bid, pardoned one turkey, but not all, and blamed the PJ-clad bloggers.

I responded from my parents' basement.

Republicans began the navel-gazing that invariably comes with defeat, while Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal swooped into Iowa to say "here I am." Dems patted themselves on the back and watched Obama roll out the cabinet. Two weeks of pseudo-drama were capped with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Journalistically, I rather suddenly regained my amateur status and started inflicting Linux posts on my readers.


December always feels wrong in these year-end retrospectives. Without enough time to sink in, it's either over or under-emphasized.

Bill Richardson shaves for his new job, Bill Ayers finally speaks for himself, and Rod Blagojevich speaks very colorfully to clinch Scandal of the Year.

In Iowa, Republicans line up around the block to run for state chair, while Iowa Dems get some cabinet action with Secretary of Ag Tom Vilsack. Bruce Braley plays his cards right in a palace coup and gets rewarded with a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

I get rewarded with traffic for my Linux posts and, six years in and seeking direction in my post-professional era, I wonder if more techie is the way to go.

And as usual, my New Year's resolution is to spellcheck before I post.

No comments: