Just another day in the neighborhood

It’s just another typical day in the neighborhood filled, as Walter Cronkite used to say, "with the events that alter and illuminate our times."

First there’s the question whether the Obama-designed bailout of General Motors and Chrysler will work or whether ultimately the taxpayers will be stuck with an enormous bill trying to save the un-savable, leaving Ford to carry the torch for an industry that once was the envy of the world.

If all the pieces fall in place and the streamlined versions of the Detroit behemoths emerge from bankruptcy in fighting trim, their ultimate success will depend heavily on how much consumer good will is still left. Will the nation’s love affair with the American-brand horseless carriage once again blossom enough to push granddad’s Dodge and Chevrolet ahead of those ubiquitous brands owned overseas but manufactured here with non-union labor? Stay tuned.

Then there’s this business about Sonia Sotomayor, the federal judge looking to move up to the Supreme Court. The headlines, newscasts and Internet bloggers — who steal everything they can get their hands on from the newspapers and television — never tire of promoting the possibility of a big confirmation battle even though the odds of that happening are astronomical given the size of the Democratic majority in the Senate. Will thinking Republicans, who see the possibility of an over-the-top assault on the nominee as a major political disaster for their party, be able to convince their conservative colleagues to cool it? Will Rush Limbaugh and New Gingrich just shut up? Stay tuned.

For your daily dose of fright from across the ocean, don’t fail to glance beyond Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan to that old nemesis, North Korea, whose reason for existence seems to be that of constantly engaging the rest of the world, including old allies like China and Russia, in nuclear brinksmanship right out of the Cold War. While their deprived people starve, the nitwits there test their atomic capabilities and rattle their delivery systems while the leaders of much of the rest of civilization seem incapable of doing anything about it. Have the barbarians of the north finally gone too far? Will there be a United Nation’s blockade of their half of the peninsula or some other response beyond stiffer sanctions? Stay tuned.

In the midst of all this, the newly chosen leader of the United States of America had the audacity to take his wife to dinner and a Broadway show. How dare he. At least that’s the way his political opponents put it, suggesting that the new rock star of politics was spending valuable time on frivolous activities — sort of fiddling while the nation burned. In its criticism of the affair, the Republican National Committee wisely neglected to compare his and Mrs. Obama’s sojourn to other White House occupants who have shown a similar predilection for taking a night off now and then.

Come on, fellows. Do you really think a little diversion by the first couple reflects a lack of concern for the national welfare, that the GM and Chrysler deals and the North Korean messes are likely to get worse because of a few hours of Saturday night normality? As one commentator noted, the little woman probably told him that burgers and fries were not going to cut it this time. Who makes the rant decisions for the RNC these days? One look at the throngs eager to get a view of Barack and Michelle should have warned them off. But once again: stay tuned.

So it’s just another typical day in the neighborhood, the one that runs between two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and then all the way to Asia. Not mentioned, of course, was the investigation swirling around lawmakers over their earmarking of funds to help the lobbying businesses of contributors, cronies and their districts, like the one represented by Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. He probably needs to spend a night or two attending the theater instead of fundraisers.

(E-mail Dan K. Thomasson at thomassondan(at)aol.com.)