That will be the year that was, for sure

What a year 2004 was! Those wacky talk radio co-hosts, Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly, summed it up perfectly when they named their new show "You Can't Make This Stuff Up."

Because, really, who could?


When '04 began, some handicapper might have bet that the United States would elect its first woman -- and African-American -- president. And no doubt Democratic candidate Carol Moseley Braun would have been the oddsmakers' choice to make that sort of history, although finishing dead last in the New Hampshire primary took Moseley Braun out of the game early on.

But then the ticking "Halliburton-gate" scandal exploded, spreading to the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney, who resigned in August. (President Bush had to be physically restrained when special prosecutor Janet Reno crowed "We got him!" to a packed D.C. news conference.)


In turning to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice as his new running mate, Bush made some history himself -- even more than he thought. For when Bush himself stepped aside in December, Rice became president-elect -- and the new face of American leadership. Her subsequent choice of Florida governor Jeb Bush as vice president set the tone for this whole bizarre year.

No, you really can't make this stuff up. Although, gosh knows, some try.

A glance back at some of 2004's oddities:


John Kerry narrowly upsets Howard Dean in New Hampshire, garnering a Time cover story ("The Ketch-up Kid!") and key endorsement by former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. "We got him!" Kerry crows at a Manchester victory celebration, referring to Dean, whose forces launch a "death blog" counterattack on the Massachusetts senator.


The New England Patriots beat the Dallas Cowboys, 27-24, in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Bill Parcells immediately announces he's leaving Dallas to coach the Oakland Raiders. On Super Tuesday, John Edwards wins primaries in Delaware and South Carolina, Joe Lieberman takes Arizona and New Mexico, and Richard Gephardt prevails in Oklahoma and North Dakota. A scrambling Dean later captures Maine, Wisconsin, Virginia and Tennessee, whereas a stumbling Kerry manages to win Hawaii by 2 percentage points -- although only after purchasing the island of Kauai, it is reported.



James "Whitey" Bulger, No. 1 on the FBI's Most Wanted List, is found crouched inside a "spider hole" tunnel beneath Kavanagh's, a popular pub on Dublin's north side. "We got him!" exults FBI director Robert Mueller. "My name is Jimmy, and I'm willing to negotiate," Bulger mutters as he's taken into custody. The fugitive's brother, former University of Massachusetts president William Bulger, is said to be "traveling" and cannot be reached for comment.


Special prosecutor Reno begins investigating Halliburton-White House ties following investigative reports about sweetheart contracts in Iraq and payoffs to top U.S. officials. Dennis Kucinich wins the Virgin Islands primary and decides to stay there. Singer Michael Jackson is acquitted of child-molestation charges -- "We got him off!" brags attorney Mark Geragos -- but is convicted of "general creepiness" under an obscure federal statute and deported to Vitiligo, a remote Micronesian atoll.


Powerless to stop California from sliding more deeply into fiscal and political chaos, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spearheads a movement to secede from the Union and establish California as a sovereign nation-state. The newly formed Republic of Kahleefornya installs Schwarzenegger as prime minister, former Disney chief Michael Eisner as defense chief, and establishes diplomatic relations with Vitiligo.



TV's latest reality-show gambit, Queer Eye on An Average Joe Millionaire Bachelor Facing Fear in a Spider Hole, is canceled after two episodes when it is discovered that its huge audience is made up only of people who have been rejected from other reality shows. Producers immediately gear up for a new program: All-Star Reality Reject Staredown.


A badly split Democratic Party meets in Boston for its national convention. Edwards wins the nomination on the 17th ballot, at 4:15 a.m. Wednesday, amid general confusion as to who among those remaining is eligible to vote. "We got him!" shouts DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, to no one in particular. A bleary-eyed Edwards invites Kerry to run as vice president after Hillary Rodham Clinton, Caroline Kennedy and Schwarzenegger turn him down.


The Republicans convene in New York. Confirming widespread rumors, Cheney steps down for "personal reasons, and the good of this great country." Bush selects Rice, muscling her nomination through as aide Karl Rove roams the floor, personally twisting the chains on delegates' credentials. Fox News floor reporters Matt Drudge and Paris Hilton call the Cheney-Rice development "freaky, man" and recommend a hot new Asian-fusion restaurant in TriBeCa to any interested viewers.



The publishing phenomenon of '04 turns out to be Bill Clinton's 1,300-page memoir (Volume 2 to appear in '07), in which the former president reveals what "is" really is and why he voted for Ralph Nader in the 2000 election. Ex-aide Blumenthal signs a seven-figure deal to write and produce a CBS miniseries based on the Clinton book. James Brolin and wife, Barbra Streisand, are cast in the lead roles.


The Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in Game 7 for the American League pennant on a walk-off grand slam by second baseman Pokey Reese, whose fly ball is ruled a home run despite interference by a fan seated atop the Green Monster. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner demands a U.S. Justice Department investigation. The Sox nip the Chicago Cubs in a nail-biting, seven-game World Series, bringing a brief halt to hostilities in Iraq and a three-day halt to economic activity in most of New England.


As Americans prepare to decide Election '04, fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden is arrested trying to enter a voting booth in Dade County, Fla. "We got him!" boasts Gov. Jeb Bush in a phone call to the Oval Office. Later that day, President Bush beats Edwards in 49 states plus Puerto Rico and Guam. Howard Dean, however, continues to win every online poll.



Declaring himself "medically unfit to serve" after what is alleged to be a botched knee operation, Bush resigns amid a fresh flurry of subpoenas from Reno's office. The world champion Red Sox finally close a deal for disgruntled Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez. "We got him!" announces team president Larry Lucchino, although nobody believes a word of it. All-Star Reality Reject Staredown is renewed for a new season, to be shot on location in Vitiligo. Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly are married in a civil ceremony in Vermont. Howard Dean presides.

Sun staff contributed to this article.