All I Want This Christmas: An Exit Strategy!

And so we’ve come to the final days of 2005.

The tips have been distributed; the holiday cards have been dispatched. And all that’s left is that flurry of last-minute shopping for the most difficult gifts—the gifts for whom it’s not just “the thought” that counts.

So what, then, is the perfect gift this year? What’s the thing that everyone wants, and everyone covets, yet all but a few have managed to attain?

Is it peace? Spirituality? A $31 million apartment in the Beresford, with a 60-inch plasma TV screen in every room?

What is it that captures the spirit and the zeitgeist of this holiday season?

Cash is vulgar; iPods are a cliché. Gift cards are impersonal, and Botox is outré.

An S.U.V. is environmentally unacceptable, those 60-inch screens too bourgeois. A house in the Hamptons is a burden, just to social-climb at brunch; and so far as mayoralties or governorships go, billionaires and movie stars seem to have beaten us all to the punch.

Plastic surgery might be considered offensive (it cuts too close to the bone), and a BlackBerry, however useful, is still nothing but a phone.

Diamonds are too ostentatious; a trinket from Prada is passé; a private jet from Gulfstream might tend to arouse the suspicions of Eliot Spitzer, depending on his mood that day.

You could buy a movie studio—like DreamWorks—but Viacom seems to have snapped up the very last one. You could buy an island, or a yacht, but we all know how dangerous it is to bathe in the sun.

So what is it then, that’s not offensive? What is sublime, that reflects the tenor of the time, that allows the recipient to be both warm yet somehow pensive?

Repeat after me, for this will set you free:

All I want for Christmas is an Exit Strategy.

It’s the rage; it’s the thing; it’s the item that everyone from David Geffen to Donald Rumsfeld is trying to swing.

In a bad relationship? Try the words “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Or if you really want to drive them crazy, and make your partner shoo, try being passive-aggressive and yelling, “It’s not me, it’s you.”

Overwhelmed by too much information? Too much Gawker, too much Defamer, too much snarkiness to go around? On Dancer! On Prancer! Drop the high-speed Internet, go dial-up! And start spending your evenings out on the town.

Yes, we all need an exit strategy. We all need a way to declare victory and go home.

Blame Woodward, blame Libby, declare the First Amendment saved; blame Novak, blame Keller, cite your enemies as depraved. Take the buyout, leave the building, claim things have run amok; make the book deal, hit the circuit, wish Fitzgerald lots of luck.

Sell your life rights to Viacom; all it takes is hubris and lots of nerve; thank the jury, thank your lawyers, declare that justice has been served.

Withdraw your name from contention, citing hounding by the liberal press; blame the bloggers, blame the media, claim you took the money under duress; take the high road, use your family, announce you’re protecting them from undue stress.

Cite your ethics, tout your morals, say “If I knew then what I know now, I would have never voted for the war”; consider your opposition, calibrate your position—remember: That’s what polls are for.

Yes, there are dozens of exit strategies out there, just waiting to be picked like low-hanging fruit—they’re guaranteed to make any indiscretion all but moot.

At any time, at any and all events, you can always blame your misfortune on bad intelligence.

In the boardroom, in the factory, you should never show remorse; blame the shareholders, blame the stock market, it’s not your fault those jobs are now outsourced.

Blame it on Pataki, blame it on Bloomberg, blame it on partisan hacks; blame it on gossip, blame it on backbiting, blame it on diversity—which that co-op board so sadly lacks.

Blame it on Google, blame it on Yahoo, blame it on Craigslist, too; blame it on anything—blame it on anybody—so long as it’s not you.

Tell your children you feel their pain and hurts; it’s not their tuition, or your lack of financial position—but you’ve got to sell the co-op, before the bubble bursts.

Yes, my friend, believe me when I say this: Wherever there’s a will, there’s always a way, to paint yourself blameless.

Blame it on the publisher, blame it on the marketing department, blame it on the publicist too; blame it on FEMA, blame it on the F.B.I., blame it on one of those “high-ranking government officials” who always chose to remain nameless.

Cite a previous commitment, an engagement in a far-off land; blame Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame, should things get out of hand. Pin it on the prosecutor, or mixed signals from the C.I.A.; that’s the way we do things here, in the new U.S. of A.

Blame it on the religious right. Blame it on the liberal elite. Blame it on TiVo. Blame it on downloaders. Blame it on pirated DVD’s.

And if none of this works—should you elect—try blaming everything on TimesSelect.

Blame it on gas prices, blame it on oil companies, blame it on big government; blame it on the Saudis, blame it on the French; blame it on one of those countries whose friendship we rent.

There is no such thing as torture; in rendition we don’t believe; if all else fails, you can always say: “I did what I set out to achieve.”

Blame Starbucks for “tall” and “venti”; blame Wal-Mart for keeping people down. If there’s an urgency to ending this insurgency, let’s blame Bush and Cheney, and Rumsfeld too; it’s all but unforgivable that they still haven’t got a clue.

And so we end this season, a time bereft of reason. From Baghdad to King Kong, it’s time to move along.