Retro reality: Seattle looks back as life goes forward

Winners and losers: Commies with errant missles, hookers getting close to the White House, fears of a nuclear test. And all of it while Seattle celebrates a 50-year-old event. Is this the Mad Men, Part Deux?

Crosscut archive image.

John F. Kennedy and Soviet Union boss Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. Kennedy was a Cold Warrior but worked on disarmament with the Soviets.

Winners and losers: Commies with errant missles, hookers getting close to the White House, fears of a nuclear test. And all of it while Seattle celebrates a 50-year-old event. Is this the Mad Men, Part Deux?

In Seattle, we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1962 World's Fair, the Cold War-era extravaganza touting the new Space Age in the post-Sputnik era. It seems that the headlines, the real world now-times headlines, are trying to take us back to that era, to give us sense of authenticity.

Let's see, we've got countries launching and testing missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. India says it can hit China — Red China, if you're Bruce Ramsey — and North Korea can't hit anything, except we're all scared they're going to try to prove themselves with another underground nuclear test. Oh, and Iran wants nukes.

The Middle East, it is explodin', as Barry McGuire once sang in "Eve of Destruction." And there's some ugly fighting in quagmire colonial wars, plus military advisors sent to faraway jungles. When we were building the Space Needle we were also sending troops to Vietnam.

The Republicans see Commies everywhere, including in Congress. And some in the GOP want to roll women's rights back to the pre-Mad Men era. It's not so much tits and 'tinis, but keeping them pregnant and in the kitchen, Santorum-style.

The Democrats can only remember the good times. The next volume of Robert Caro's monumental LBJ biography is about to be published reminding us of the Great Society's greatness, and Crosscut's Peter Jackson recently uncovered phone conversations between Johnson, Humphrey, Maggie, and Scoop Jackson from 1964, recordings from a time when liberals were on a roll kicking right-wing ass. Cue progressive nostalgia for giants who got shit done.

And we have a presidential campaign featuring a Romney, whose dad ran for president in the '60s, and Obama, who's a handsome centrist former-senator Democrat who has authored books, handled international crises, has a Secret Service familiar with hookers, and is under threat of decapitation (Ted Nugent) as he wobbles toward a run for a second term. The only thing missing is Marilyn singing "Happy Birthday."

Here are some other winners and losers of the week:

Loser: Obama plays the silver spoon card. In a speech, he doesn't name Romney but says, "I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth." Restoring to such populism so early in the campaign is not a sign of strength. If you open with the class card, what do you close with?

Loser: Mitt Romney, who highlighted tax week by filing for an extension and continuing to dodge on whether he'll release a decade's worth of returns (his pap did even better than that). Maybe he can't get his year-end statements from the Cayman Islands. Anyway, the is good news for Obama is that Romney will have to pay up in six months, thus creating his own October IRS Surprise.

Winner: Cartagena, Colombia, which, with a prostitution scandal and pictures of Hillary "swilling" beer, is now on the map as one of the great party towns in the Americas. Probably the site of the next General Services Administration convention. Unfortunately, their slogan needs work: "What happens in Cartagena stays on Facebook forever."

Delusional Columnist of the Week: The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, who is touting New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for president as an independent and spend millions losing for the sake of the nation. Why not just raise his taxes? Friedman wins for fantasy and fatuosity.

Winner: The little-reporter-who-can-and-did, Eli Sanders, associate editor and writer for The Stranger who landed a Pulitzer Prize for his great feature writing and reporting about a brutal South Park crime and its aftermath.

Winners: Romney-backing evangelicals, for finally admitting that ideology trumps religion and scripture in politics.

Winner: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for being honest about American infrastructure, blaming the GOP Congress for blocking a transportation bill. And remember, LaHood is a Republican: "America’s one big pothole right now ... nothing's happening in America right now."

Inconsistent Nut-job of the Week: Norway's mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, described by a BBC correspondent as "a man who hates Muslims, but admired Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda ... [who] sees himself as a great Crusader, when in fact he was a high school drop out, a failed businessman and an addict of computer war games."

Confusing International Scandal of the Week: Outrage that the King of Spain was secretly hunting elephants in Africa while his nation's economy goes in the tank. Isn't that the kind of stuff kings get to do?

Losers: Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee for avoiding talking about revenues and tax fairness in their gubernatorial race. You can't boost education and cut and streamline your way to a dynamic new Washington economy, guys. You have to deal with equity, and revenues.

Winner: Washington state political reporters who have strange new political terrain to cover and an anything-goes swing district that is the product of two great political minds (or evil geniuses, take your pick), Slade Gorton and Tim Ceis. Who knows what will happen in the new 1st Congressional District? Probably the most interesting Congressional race in the state, and that's without Dennis Kucinich (yet) who just can't quit his Washington state fantasy date.

Knute Berger discusses the news of the week on a KUOW Weekday roundtable led by the public radio station's Steve Scher at 10 a.m. on Fridays. Hear it at KUOW 94.9 FM or online.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.