x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Pandering to pundits

An alert from the National Zoo was the major story in Washington in the past week. Really.

Policy wonks and political commentators in Washington should have plenty of fodder to keep their pens wet. There's climate talks and immigration battles, the war in Syria, budget fights on Capitol Hill, disengagement in Afghanistan, and a gripping saga of a runaway secrets leaker who seems to have vanished into thin air.

But only one vanishing act was engaging enough to capture the unbridled attention of Washington's media mavens this week, if only for a few hours: the hunt for a runaway red panda.

On Monday, the National Zoo in the American capital sent out an urgent plea for help locating a misplaced mammal named Rusty. "We are looking for a missing red panda, a male named Rusty," the zoo tweeted. "He was last seen at 6 pm last night." It included a photograph of the red and white creature, with black beady eyes and a racoon-like face.

Within minutes some of America's finest pundits were pontificating on Rusty's name ("lazy," one said, given that he's red), whether Edward Snowden took it, or if the escape was a publicity stunt by Monkeybrain Comics to promote its new release, Mask of the Red Panda.

Less than three hours after the alarm was sounded, Rusty was found and the fun was over. Then, we assume, everyone got back to work.