So, 2004 will be remembered as the year of living dangerously, thinking sloppily and—except where Janet Jackson bared her breast, Nicollette Sheridan dropped her towel, or the threat of gay marriage loomed—barely paying attention at all.
Locally, Salt Lake County imploded into a vacuum of scandal almost self-inflicted. The LDS Church announced a massive reworking of downtown Salt Lake City’s layout to conform with, as LDS Presiding Bishop H. David Burton told The Salt Lake Tribune, “the doctrine of the church.” A supposed medical student allegedly dumped the body of his own wife into the garbage that found its way to the county landfill. Meanwhile, the “values” crowd rallying around Amendment 3 insisted gay people were out to sully the institution of marriage. Nationally, our nation stumbled through another year on the world stage:
• Tape-recorded conversations of employees at Houston-based Enron, the energy trading company headed by friend of President Bush Kenneth L. Lay, revealed how the company planned to rip off “Grandma Millie,” along any other old lady in California who, “wants her f—-king money back for all the power you’ve charged jammed right up her a— for f—-king $250 a megawatt hour.” Vice President Dick Cheney had his moment as well, scoring big points with the nation’s “values” voters after telling a Senate colleague to “go f—k yourself.”
• Outgoing U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Pentecostal who believes calico cats are agents of the devil, is soon to be replaced with longtime presidential chief counsel Alberto Gonzales. If you remember Abu Ghraib, then you may remember Gonzales’ questions to U.S. Justice Department attorneys as they discussed the limits of acceptable torture on terror suspects and other “forward leaning” strategies. Gonzales, soon to be our nation’s highest law-enforcement official, later told President Bush the nation’s war on terror “renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners.” Nothing says “American democracy” or “values” quite like a photo of a hooded man threatened with electrocution.
• By mid-June, a bi-partisan commission investigating the terror attacks concluded there was no meaningful connection between the Iraqi dictator and Al Qaeda. But Vice President Dick Cheney insisted Saddam Hussein had “long established ties with Al Qaeda” and that hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi official in Prague. By October’s debate with John Edwards, however, Cheney said, “I have not suggested there’s a connection between Iraq and 9/11.” Even Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did some backtracking regarding this alleged connection. In a debate with John Kerry Bush himself admitted that Osama bin Laden had attacked us, not Saddam Hussein. No matter, polls showed that two out of three Americans believed Saddam was “personally responsible” for the 9/11 attacks. You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to fool the American “values” crowd.
• LDS publisher Sherrie Dew, who once compared support for gay marriage to support for Hitler, opened the Republican National Convention in New York City. History isn’t one of her “values,” or else she’d know that Hitler put homosexuals in concentration camps. Finally, Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a Catholic who believes states should have the right to ban contraception and premarital sex, became our No. 3 power in the U.S. Senate. How’s that for a “forward leaning” year?