Insight's Picks and Nix for '96

Insight on the News, December 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

Insight's Picks and Nix for '96


The News

When we finally reach the ballyhooed 21st century, what I will the glorified X generation tell Y and Z about the good old days of 1996, the year of the Atlanta Olympics, a skyrocketing stock market and a presidential election? Here is a flashback of the last 12 months' 10 most significant, or most banal, news stories, with a nod to Congress.

The Best of Times

10. Kerri Strug's gallant vault, Carl Lewis' valiant long jump, Michael Johnson's golden Nikes and Muhammad Ali's lighting of the torch contributed to a dramatic Summer Olympics. With up-close-and-personals illuminating every athlete, NBC managed to do what the Republican Party could not -- bridge the gender gap with an unprecedented feminization of a major sporting event.

9. The October birth of Madonna's daughter rattled those who were in denial and proved that the eighties, which ushered in the MTV era, were finally, definitely over ...

8.... Until Jackie O's multimillion-dollar auction summoned the ghost of eighties decadence.

7. Unions spent $35 million in a futile election gambit. Despite an unprecedented influx of cash, the AFL-CIO and other labor voices failed to unseat a majority of 75 targeted House freshmen. But the sleeping giant seems to have awakened and promises to make its presence felt in future elections.

6. Twelve-year-old Jeff Maier of New Jersey made a big-league catch worthy of the hall of fame. Maier reached over Yankee Stadium's outfield wall to snag what appeared to be a very long fly ball. The umpire ruled the play a home run, at/owing the New York Yankees to beat the Baltimore Orioles and go on to the World Series.

5. Although it did not affect the election, White House political consultant Dick Morris' sex scandal involving a $200-an-hour prostitute demonstrated the triumph of the tabloid in American politics and fueled America's cynicism about its political system.

4. Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm's ill-fated attempt to supplant Ross Perot as the Reform Party candidate left Lamm out in the cold and may have prevented Perot from achieving double digits at the polls.

3. Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski's capture made the mail safe once more -- although the hermit anarchist left a dubious legacy: Because it no longer is possible to mail stamped packages from home, everyone now must spend an estimated 10 minutes in line at the post office.

2. The crash of TWA Flight 800 remains unsolved, although investigators are leaning toward mechanical failure as a culprit. Nevertheless, Americans realized once again how vulnerable their nation is to domestic terrorism.

1. Voters sent politicians a historical message of checks and balances: For the first time since Franklin Roosevelt, a Democratic president won reelection; for the first time since 1928, a Republican Congress maintained its majority.

The Worst of Times

10. O.J. Simpson's promise to search for the murderer of Nicole Brown Simpson was interrupted for golf outings and the making of a $29.95 video proclaiming his innocence. Although he received a $3 million advance for the video, the National Enquirer refused to run an ad for it and the video sold fewer than 40,000 copies.

9. In an interview with Time, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said she and the president would like to have or adopt another child. Some suggested she was emulating Jackie Onassis, whose pregnancy during the 1960 campaign proved politically beneficial. But like so many White House documents the adoption papers never materialized.

8. Newsweek columnist Joe Klein was given a sabbatical for lying about writing Primary Colors, the thinly veiled satire of the Clintons. He not only repeatedly denied authorship but staked his journalistic credibility on it. Responded Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos, "He was projecting his dishonesty onto the Clintons. …

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