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Politics: The Magic Is Back

Eric J. Plosky

Graduates, forget those dot-com get-rich-quick schemes. As the Nasdaq keeps stubbornly reminding us, this is 2001, and Alan Greenspan and Co. have finally picked up all that New Economy trash we left at the curb.

Fortunately, just as the wonderful world of dollars was growing too hideous to contemplate, politics is getting exciting again. Now’s the chance for you all to quickly get hip to the latest conversational fashions! After all, when everyone’s talking about the Beltway, an errant comment on the price of Cisco could be deadly. (Eyes will flick uncertainly over martinis and cosmopolitans until someone says, awkwardly, “How about those Sox?”)

The Federal Reserve is out; the White House is in. Not since the days of Danforth Quayle has it been so much fun keeping track of Washington gobble and gossip. Our beloved W.’s latest performance had him (Yale ’68) soberly informing graduating C-level Yalies that “you too can be president.” Excellent news, no doubt, for Mr. Strategery’s Bulldog daughter Barbara, presumably not under too much pressure to study -- leaving plenty of time to get busted for underage boozing, along with twin Jenna, in a very un-Chelsea-like way.

This is compelling stuff.

There’s always fun-filled excitement coming out of the Bush administration. Just for one, the energy situation is becoming increasingly entertaining. As California fumbles for its candles, and a gallon can of gas runs up $3.00 Mountain, our steadfast leaders, urging us to remain calm, assure us that conservation is for sissies. “Not the basis for sound policy,” claims Death-Defying Dick Cheney; “Not the American way!” exclaims spinmeister Ari Fleischer. Coming soon, an oil-drilling platform near you!

Congress’s ratings are going up too. Thanks to nutty Vermonter Jim Jeffords, the ex-GOP Senate is now under Democratic control, setting the stage for Battleground: Beltway. If you liked Gladiator, get ready for W. and Tom Daschle to go at it. Tax cuts, education and Social Security reform, “faith-based” claptrappery -- all that’s missing are the roar of the crowd and the hot-dog vendors. Will there be more sudden defections? Will stalwart 98-year-old Strom Thurmond, relieved of those grueling president pro tem duties, survive his term? Why watch The West Wing when you can just keep C-Span on in the background?

And you wanted to talk about tech startups.

Defense and foreign policy are big news. Jet-setting Colin Powell is trying to untangle the Middle East before everybody there is killed. Europe is peeved that we’ve thumbed our nose at the environment. China is mad about spy planes, diplomatic skulduggery, as well as just about everything else. And let us not forget that these days there are two Star Wars Episode Twos in the works: George Lucas’s, for which no one can wait, and Defense Secretary Darth Rumsfeld’s, which everybody except Pentagon propellerheads seems to hate.

And protestors, of all things, are making headlines once again. In a demonstrative mood over the past couple of years, Angry Young Radicals have blasted globalization, decried genetically modified food, and, just up the street, bewailed the plight of $6-an-hour janitors. Lefty icon Ralph Nader, having completed phase one of his get-out-the-vote effort by delivering the 2000 election to W., has moved on to phase two, Green seed-planting. Activism is growing faster than the Dow; cities hosting trade summits, beware.

Where does all of this leave you, the freshly-minted graduates? Well equipped for small talk, hopefully -- there are lots of martinis and cosmopolitans out there, and even the most firmly business-minded among you is going to need to have some snappy political patter ready, if only to convince the venture capitalists. So put down that diploma, stop writing that business plan, and pick up a newspaper. That’s where the action is.