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Fri Dec 20, 2019, 10:55 PM


My 2018 "McLaughlin Awards" (Part 1)

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
This is part one of my yearly roundup column of what is going on in the political world. For the duration of the 2020 campaign, I've been instructed to post under the "Democratic Primaries" category rather than the "General Discussion" category, whenever the primary race is discussed. This discussion may be a large part of the column, or a very small part. Just wanted to clarify this up front, to avoid any objections that most of the post is "off topic."}

Welcome back once again to our year-end "McLaughlin Awards," named for the awards categories we lifted from the McLaughlin Report years ago. We've added a category here and there over time, but it's still the same basic list.

Before we get to all of our awards, we have to thank everyone (both online and off) for their suggestions and nominations. I always try to get as many of these as possible, to cover all the stuff I forgot about, and it always helps.

Biggest Winner Of 2019

Um... the Baltimore Ravens? Heh.

We had a few entrants for Biggest Winner of the year, some rather generic ("Russia" ) and some very specific (the residents of Virginia, who will now enjoy Democratic rule in the governor's office and both houses of the legislature -- nominated by reader "italyrusty," I should mention).

We could have gone with Greta Thunberg, who was showered with prizes this year, most notably including Time magazine's "Person of the Year" (which drove Trump into an epic hissy fit over losing...). She is certainly deserving of every award she gets, that's for sure.

But instead we had to give Biggest Winner Of 2019 to "millionaires and billionaires." This was the first year that the new Paul Ryan tax cuts were implemented, and the wealthiest among us made out like bandits, once again. Hidden in all the mystifying changes to the tax code (let's change Form 1040 to seven separate forms, because why not?) were a number of huge giveaways to the wealthy. Added to this were the enormous tax giveaways to corporate America, who it is now reported paid a pathetically-low average of 11 percent income tax this year.

And, once again, the tax cuts didn't "pay for themselves," as promised. Instead, the federal deficit hit the trillion-dollar mark once again, giving the lie to all that weeping and wailing from Republicans about deficits (but only when a Democrat is in the White House, of course).

For sheer monetary volume, the millionaires and the billionaires were indeed the Biggest Winners of 2019.

Biggest Loser Of 2019

We also had a number of entrants for Biggest Loser of 2019. The new president of Ukraine? The National Rifle Association was also a possibility, because they went through a total meltdown all year long only to see money included in the year-end budget deal to study gun violence (something the N.R.A. had successfully fought against for two decades).

Italyrusty (whose name you'll get used to seeing here, as he made a whole bunch of nominations this year) had a great suggestion: "Snowflake Trump, for not making the cover of Time (I laugh my head off imagining his ass-kissers running around wildly, until they hit on the 'bright idea' of transplanting Trump's head on Greta's body)."

Instead, we're interpreting this one literally, and have to give Biggest Loser to the Republican Party. It was an off-off-year election cycle, but it was just as dismal a year for the GOP as 2018 at the ballot box. The mass exodus of suburban voters from the GOP continued apace, and it led to historic and sweeping victories for Democrats in all kinds of places.

Virginia was the biggest story, as the Democrats finally achieved the "trifecta" of holding not only the governor's office but flipping control of both of their legislative chambers as well. This is a monumental shift, and it has been a long time in the making (changing demographics had more to do with this than even Trump).

But the Old Dominion wasn't the only place Democrats won big. They won the governor's race in Kentucky -- a state Trump won by 30 points. They held onto the governor's office in Louisiana -- even though in both of these states, Trump personally rallied right before the election was held.

Democrats also absolutely swept local races in the Philadelphia suburbs, which bodes extremely well for the chances of a Democratic win in the presidential race next year.

The most satisfying win of all, though, from my own post-election article:

Last year, a woman was photographed "flipping the bird" to Donald Trump's motorcade as they were driving away from his Virginia golf club. Her name is Juli Briskman, and she paid a heavy price for that photo, since she lost her job as a direct result. But now she's got a new job: county supervisor. She ran for a seat on the county board and won. The best part? Trump's golf course is within her district. So the next time she feels the urge to flip Trump off, she will not be fired -- because the people who live next to Trump's golf course just voted her into office. The moral of this story is: Sometimes all it takes to flip the 'burbs is to blatantly flip Trump the bird. Because that's exactly how millions of suburban voters are feeling right now.

Which is why we've got to give the Biggest Loser of 2019 to the Republican Party.

Best Politician

Hands-down, the Best Politician of 2019 was, once again, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. It wasn't even really close, in fact.

Pelosi is the best leader the Democrats in Congress have seen since possibly Tip O'Neal. She has kept her caucus remarkably united all year long -- so much so that Trump now regularly complains about how the Democrats "stick together" while begging Republicans to do the same. She has gotten an incredible amount of legislation passed, most of which is gathering dust on Mitch McConnell's desk right now.

Pelosi's political instincts are finely-honed, as evidenced by how long she resisted the calls to impeach Trump. She wanted a scandal that was simple, obvious, and impossible to defend, and that's precisely what she got in the Ukrainian quid pro quo. She has run the impeachment process on her own schedule, as she has run the House all year long. She has eaten Trump's lunch in multiple negotiations this year as well -- starting with the government shutdown which began the year -- and quite obviously gets under his skin in a way that no other Democrat can boast. The photo of her standing and shaking her finger at Trump was priceless, in fact, because it truly showed who was in charge.

This year, Pelosi also picked up a "Profiles In Courage" award, which was also entirely fitting. She has indeed showed courage and stamina and grit. And she knows how to count votes in her chamber better than anyone in decades has managed -- in either party.

Nancy Pelosi won the right to take on Trump back in the 2018 midterms. Since she's picked up the gavel once again -- all year long -- she's shown that she was the best possible person to be given such a task. For this reason and many others Nancy Pelosi was indeed the Best Politician of the year.

Worst Politician

Once again, this one is also obvious. Donald Trump wins Worst Politician, tiny hands down.

Let's just run down a quick list of all of the face-plant moments Trump has had over the past year, shall we?

Trump declares a national emergency down at the southern border, and then spends the weekend playing golf.

Trump tells everyone to "hold the date" of the fourth of July because he had the great idea to hold a party that day.

This spring, the White House welcomed the "World Cup Series" champions to the White House. You know (you simply cannot make this stuff up, folks), those "Boston Red Socks."

In June, Trump insisted that the moon was a part of Mars. No, really -- here's his tweet: "For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon -- We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!"

The Washington Post ran an article to explain "Fact Check: What Is The Moon?"

One week later, Trump referred in writing to "the Prince of Whales."

The most hilarious face-plant of the year for Trump came in July, though, when he was attempting to read the TelePrompTer while appearing during the Independence Day on the Mall. It was raining, so perhaps the words were blurred or something, but Trump was left to his own devices in the middle of the speech. He didn't score well:

In June of 1775, the Continental Congress created a unified army out of the revolutionary forces encamped around Boston and New York and named after the great George Washington, commander-in-chief. The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown. Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHendry, under "the rockets red glare," it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their star-spangled banner waved defiant.

Here was my response:

Let's see if we can count up all the mistakes in just that one paragraph alone, shall we? Most glaring, of course, was the fantastic claim that the Revolutionary forces "took over the airports," since this would have happened more than 125 years before the first airplane flew at Kitty Hawk. But, of course, there were other mistakes as well, since it was Trump "winging it," as it were (pun intended). The Continental Army was never "named after the great George Washington" (unless his secret middle name was "Continental" ); they suffered a bitter winter at (not "of" ) Valley Forge; the ultimate victory was in Yorktown, Virginia, not New Jersey ("across the waters of the Delaware" ); Cornwallis was not "of" Yorktown, that's just where his army got beat; Fort McHenry (not "McHendry" ) was instrumental in the War of 1812, not the Revolution; not even sure what "rammed the ramparts" is supposed to mean; and, of course, the "air" was not "manned" by the non-existent pilots flying their non-existent airplanes from the non-existent airports.

Humor aside, though, Trump is the Worst Politician in more serious ways as well. This is why so many of his aides and confidants are now in prison, in fact. His own sister had to step down as a federal judge because of all the fraud the Trump family has been involved with for decades. America is running trillion-dollar deficits again. Iran is enriching uranium again, because Trump pulled out of the agreement with them and replacing it with absolutely nothing. Even Kim Jong Un doesn't want to meet with Trump anymore, because he has learned how pointless doing so would be.

From the start of the year right up to that insane letter he just sent to Nancy Pelosi, Trump has been the Worst Politician imaginable. OK, we saved one funny one for last. Remember that time when Trump wanted to buy Greenland? Yeah, that actually happened. No wonder the entire rest of the world is laughing at Donald Trump. the Worst Politician ever.

Most Defining Political Moment

This one was pretty easy, and was nominated by many. The Most Defining Political Moment of the year was the whistleblower blowing the whistle. The report was held in secret, which caused Adam Schiff to complain, which caused the news media to get interested, which caused Trump to release the transcript of the call and eventually the whistleblower's report itself. And the rest is history.

When first writing about the scandal (which still thankfully doesn't have a "-gate" name), I came across an apt quote from Trump's favorite president, Andrew Jackson. Jackson rode into office after being denied the victory he should have won the four years earlier. His campaign centered on what he called the "Corrupt Bargain," which he described in a way that certainly fits the mess Trump caused with Ukraine: "There was cheating and corruption and bribery too!"

Turncoat Of The Year

Some years we interpret this one in a positive light. If we were going to do that this year, we'd probably pick Michael Cohen, for flipping on Trump in spectacular fashion. Or maybe Gordon Sondland (suggested by reader "nypoet22" ).

Instead, however, we're going negative this year.

The Turncoat Of The Year was without doubt Donald Trump, for his disgraceful and shameless abandonment of the Syrian Kurds. To say he "threw them under a bus" actually understates what happened, because getting hit by a bus is minor compared to getting killed on a battlefield after your strongest ally betrays you.

There really aren't enough negative words in a thesaurus to condemn what Donald Trump did, not only to the Kurds but also to the word of the United States of America on a global scale. Why should anyone ally themselves with us ever again, when this is how we treat our friends?

Over 10,000 Kurdish fighters died in the struggle to eradicate the Islamic State. Americans did not have to fight and die because the Kurds did so for us. This is pretty easy to understand. And then Trump allowed Turkey to execute what was essentially a gigantic land-grab, at the expense of the Kurds. It was ethnic cleansing, as Turkey is planning to relocate non-Kurdish Syrian refugees to this area.

The whole thing was disgusting and disgraceful, and caught even the Pentagon by surprise. Trump's legacy will mostly (hopefully) be quickly forgotten, but his betrayal of the Kurds will be remembered in the Middle East -- and beyond -- for decades to come. Trump is a turncoat, plain and simple, and he deserves the strongest condemnation possible.

Most Boring

The Most Boring award goes to none other than Bob Mueller. His investigation was boring, because it was the only one I've ever seen in Washington with absolutely no leaks at all. His report -- all two volumes of it -- was pretty boring, even though it outlined ten instances of Trump actively obstructing justice. His statement after the report came out was boring, and his testimony before Congress was even more boring.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying his conclusions were boring. But Bob Muller himself was pretty boring, you've got to admit. Stack his testimony up against pretty much anyone from the impeachment hearings, if you need further proof.

Most Charismatic

For the first time in many years, we are not going to give Most Charismatic to Donald Trump. To us, "charismatic" is a neutral term, since it can be good charisma or bad charisma, but it is still the quality of being the center of attention of every room you step into. Which Trump undoubtedly is, for obvious reasons.

But this year, we think that Alexandria Ocasio Cortez topped Trump in this regard (thanks again to italyrusty for pointing this one out). The vitality and presence of "A.O.C." cannot be denied even by her detractors. In fact, her detractors are a big reason why she won, because this year no other Democrat -- not Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, or anyone -- got under the skin of people on Fox News more than A.O.C. somehow managed to do.

Mere mention of her name drives Fox hosts into an immediate tizzy. She's been one of the few Democrats who not only can keep up with Trump on Twitter, but actually get the better of him each and every time. She became the face not only of the Green New Deal but also of the progressive freshman class in the House this year. She is refreshingly honest and obviously not very impressed at all the pomp and circumstance of Washington. She is candid and sharp as a tack. But mostly, she commands attention in any room. She becomes the focus just by her presence. She is, in a word, charismatic.

The only big regret in watching the dozens of Democrats get in the presidential nomination race was the fact that Alexandria Ocasio Cortez can't even contemplate jumping in. This is because she is still too young to be president. In fact, she'll only barely be old enough in 2024 to run. If Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar fail this time around, there's a good chance that Alexandria Ocasio Cortez could indeed become our first woman president -- she's that good. For now, she'll have to settle for Most Charismatic.

Bummest Rap

Donald Trump began the year by (as we put it) "assmenting" himself. Trump accused House Democrats of "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT" just by beginning investigations into his wrongdoings. This is in February, mind you, before the ball even got rolling. The Washington Post responded with a comprehensive list of the eighteen times Trump himself had called for investigations into Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, which began with " (1.) Birtherism; (2.) Benghazi..." and didn't even include any of the calls Trump has made this year to investigate other Democrats (such as Joe Biden, to give the most obvious example).

But Trump's idiocy in this regard was surpassed by his idiocy in another regard. All year long -- from the State Of The Union until today -- Trump has railed at Democrats for "foolish political wars and ridiculous partisan investigations" while falsely claiming: "There cannot be war and investigations. It just doesn't work that way." Later, he latched onto a snappier label for his perception that all Democrats were doing was impeaching him: the "Do-Nothing Democrats." This, although I'd bet the farm that Trump is unaware of it, is actually a historical term used by a previous president ("do-nothing Congress" ) to great political benefit.

But it is a bum rap, plain and simple. House Democrats have been getting all kinds of things done, all year long. The best evidence of this was when we had three horrific mass shootings in a row (Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio) while Congress was on vacation, and House Democrats rightly pointed out that they had already passed two universal background check bills that Mitch McConnell was sitting on. House Democrats, in other words, had already acted.

More proof, from an article I wrote right after the Michael Cohen hearing, back when those two measures passed in March:

In the same week as the Cohen hearings, Democrats also did the following: passed two gun safety measures, the first to pass in decades; introduced a measure to restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court gutted it; held hearings on the Trump administration "zero tolerance" child-separation policy as well as prescription drug prices; and, for good measure, introduced a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level that almost all the Democratic candidates for president have signed on with.

To state this another way, House Democrats did more in that one week than the Senate has done all year long. And that was just one week out of many productive ones for Pelosi's House. One Republican senator (John Kennedy of Louisiana) even admitted this, halfway through the year: "The U.S. Senate isn't doing a damn thing... The Senate hasn't done a damn thing except sit on its ice-cold lazy butt." Ouch.

An incomplete list of what else House Democrats have gotten done: the Equality Act to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination on the federal level, a bill to force drug companies to lower their obscene prices on prescription drugs, For The People Act to reform ethics and fix voting problems, Paycheck Fairness Act, Violence Against Women Act, a bill to legalize the "Dreamers," the first-ever $15-an-hour minimum wage bill, Save the Internet Act, bills to protect people with pre-existing conditions, infrastructure bills, pension protection bills, and too many hundreds of others to list here.

One chamber of Congress has been doing a whole bunch of good things. The other is called a "Legislative Graveyard" by the guy who runs it. It is painfully obvious which party is the "do-nothing" party on Capitol Hill, which is why "Do-Nothing Democrats" is the Bummest Rap of the year.

Fairest Rap

We have a few of these to choose from. I wrote an article last January making a strong case that Donald Trump should be banned from Twitter, for so regularly breaking its acceptable-use rules. Nothing has changed my opinion since.

I could have set a record for shortest category with just one word here: "impeachment."

Or how about just: "tax cuts don't pay for themselves"?

But instead I think the fairest rap was also one of the most righteous. Representative Elijah Cummings, during a hearing where Kevin McAleenan was trying to justify the Trump administration's border policies, pointed out how very wrong it all was. In doing so, he laid down the fairest rap against Trump I've heard to date:

"I'm talking about human beings," Cummings said. "I'm not talking about people that come from, as the president said, shitholes. These are human beings. Human beings. Just trying to live a better life."

. . .

"And therefore, I guess -- you feel like you're doing a great job right?" Cummings asked.

McAleenan responded his department was "doing our level best," before being cut off again.

"What does that mean? What does that mean? When a child is sitting in their own feces, can't take a shower?" Cummings said, his voice shaking. "Come on man. What's that about? None of us would have our children in that position."

"They are human beings," he said, beginning to raise his voice. He added that he didn't think Democrats' complaints were being taken seriously. "I get tired of folks saying, 'Oh they're just beating up on the Border Patrol.' 'Oh, they're just beating up on Homeland Security.' All I'm saying is, I want to concentrate on these children, and I want to make sure that they're OK. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It's not the deed you do to a child. It's the memory. It's the memory.

"We are the United States of America! We are the greatest country in the world," he said. "Come on. We're better than that. And I don't want us to lose sight of that."

Cummings is right. We should be better than that. And we should never lose sight of it, either.

Best Comeback

A case could be made for Nancy Pelosi in the Best Comeback category, since January was when she picked up the speaker's gavel for the second time -- a historic comeback if ever there was one. But we gave the award to her last year for the same feat, so we're going to take a pass this year.

If there were a "Worst Comeback Attempt" category, it would go to Sean Spicer, who appeared on Dancing With The Stars in a hideous costume. Here's how I described it at the time:

Not to be outdone by Rick Perry, Sean Spicer made his debut on Dancing With The Stars this week, in a lime green shirt complete with ruffles. No, seriously. His dancing was likened, by one judge, to "being attacked by a swarm of wasps." It is a sight that, once seen, can never be unseen. That's really about all you can say about such a demeaning spectacle.

Seriously, though, the Best Comeback award this year goes to Virginia Democrats. They started off the year with a triple scandal at the top, as the governor's medical school yearbook was revealed to have a photo with not only someone in blackface, but also someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood. The lieutenant governor was accused of sexual assault around the same time, and the attorney general also admitted he had dressed up in blackface for a party. The really astonishing thing was that none of them stepped down, instead choosing to stick it out and attempt to push forward through the scandal.

This appears to have largely worked, if measured by the fact that the voters didn't penalize the party in November. In fact, Democrats went on to make historic gains and flipped both houses of the legislature. That is a pretty spectacular comeback, you've got to admit.

There was even some tasty icing on this comeback cake, as we pointed out in the Biggest Loser category -- the woman who won a county board seat after losing her job for flipping the bird to the Trump motorcade. She deserves a Best Comeback award all on her own, in fact!

Most Original Thinker

This one was tough because it was pretty close between our two finalists. Our runner-up for Most Original Thinker was Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, for her Green New Deal. We examined this document closely when she released it, and while we had (and still have) a few reservations about it, it's impossible to deny the originality of the thinking. This is precisely the type of long-term thinking that will be necessary to combat climate change in any meaningful way, so we have to salute her for it.

But in the end we thought that Elizabeth Warren edged her out, for the idea of a "wealth tax." In the first place, it defines itself easily. Tax wealth. As opposed to taxing income. It's not at all hard to understand the concept, in fact.

What is most astonishing is how wildly popular the idea already is. Warren introduced the idea at the very beginning of this year, and by year's-end the concept is polling upwards of 70 percent among the general public. Not only does a huge majority instantly favor the concept, a majority of Republican voters support the idea. That is astonishing indeed when you consider how far right Republicans are in general on the subject of taxing the rich.

Elizabeth Warren has had a number of bold ideas as a presidential candidate, and has quietly staked out positions that show how committed she is to reforming the political system at its core. Her main campaign theme is fighting the corruption of money in politics, which also polls outrageously well with the public at large. We could have added all her other ideas together and she still would have been a strong contender for Most Original Thinker, but just on the basis of her wealth tax alone, Elizabeth Warren clearly deserves this year's prize.

Most Stagnant Thinker

We've got to give this one to the entire mainstream media (with a very few exceptions), for their continuing insistence that any idea that comes from progressives is "far left" or "extreme" -- when in fact overwhelming majorities of the public support them. The Overton Window has shifted on many issues, and the media just stubbornly refuses to catch up to the new reality.

For instance, people now strongly back the idea that "health care should be a right, not a privilege." Bernie Sanders deserves the lion's share of the credit for moving public opinion on this one, it should be noted. What was once considered a radical idea is now supported by the majority.

Taxing the rich is also overwhelmingly popular, although you sure wouldn't know it from reading or hearing anything from the media. Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax idea is popular even with Republicans, in fact, and the general concept of making the rich pay far more than they currently do is wildly popular.

Fighting climate change, free college tuition, universal health care -- they all now enjoy majority support. And when any issue enjoys majority support, it is -- by definition -- a "mainstream" idea. It is not a fringe issue, or extreme in any way. It may once have been, but once again the Overton Window has shifted, and now it is not. This is a basic truth obvious to anyone who can read any of the numerous polls that all say the same thing, but apparently no one in the media is able to do so. They see all these ideas through a lens that is at least 20 or 30 years old, in fact.

My biggest frustration with this over the course of the year was in the wake of the horrific mass shootings where universal background checks was spoken of as some sort of "lefty" idea. I responded with a talking point, with bolding added for the key phrase:

You know, the N.R.A. and their bought-and-paid-for Republicans always try to paint Democrats as somehow far outside the mainstream of American political beliefs. But the reality is that we're all in agreement over one basic fundamental change that absolutely needs to take place. Every time a gun changes hands, there should be a background check. Period. No exceptions. No loopholes. And you know what? An astounding ninety-three percent of the public agrees -- in a country where the two sides generally can't agree on much of anything. Over nine in ten Americans support universal background checks, including a majority of Republicans and a majority of gun owners. Our position is not just the mainstream position, it's the whole damn river. Democrats have been fighting to pass universal background checks for years, the people are behind us, and only the N.R.A. and the cravenness of the Republicans are standing in our way. That's just a fact.

Now, not all progressive ideas enjoy such near-universal support. Ninety-three percent is pretty tough to match. But almost all of the progressive agenda polls northwards of 60, 70, sometimes even 80 percent. That may not be "the whole damn river" but it certainly qualifies as mainstream. In fact, the opposition to these ideas can now accurately be called "fringe" or even "far-right."

But the mainstream media hasn't gotten the memo yet. Which is why they collectively deserve the Most Stagnant Thinker award this year.

Best Photo Op

If there was a historical subcategory to this award, the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing would surely have won it. Perhaps the best photo op of all time goes to the "Earthrise" photo, in fact.

Two presidential campaign announcement rallies were nominated: Kamala Harris holding a rally of 20,000 in Oakland, California; and Amy Klobuchar announcing in the middle of a blizzard (or, as more than one late-night comic put it: "from the ice planet Hoth" ).

Little-remembered, but definitely worthy was the entire assembled United States government breaking out in song to wish "Happy Birthday To You" to an 81-year-old survivor of both the Holocaust and the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue during the State Of The Union speech.

Or, for that matter, Nancy Pelosi's "clapback" photo from the same speech. That one was worth a few thousand words, easily!

We even had the joy of seeing Mitch McConnell speaking to the media in front of a field of marijuana, which was certainly something we never thought we'd witness. OK, technically it was hemp, but the visual was exactly the same as if it'd been the smokable kind. Priceless!

But our Best Photo Op of the year goes to the guy who heckled Howard Schultz at a New York City book signing. Schultz, the head honcho of Starbucks, flirted with a presidential run this year, but the worrisome part was that he was thinking of launching an independent bid. Now, it's one thing for billionaires to run in the Democratic primary (and quite a few of them have), but it'd be another thing altogether for one to self-finance his own spoiler campaign. As one pundit put it, this would be like "Ralph Nader, but with money and coffee."

But back to the book signing. Schultz originally must have planned his book tour as the launch of his campaign, but the public had other ideas. During one of his appearances (in a Barnes and Noble in Manhattan) someone stood up and loudly said what millions must have been feeling: "Don't help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire asshole!... Go back to Davos with the other billionaire elite who think they know how to run the world!"

Ouch. Even worse, it was caught on video and immediately went viral. Later in the year, Schultz officially said he wasn't thinking about running anymore. What we wonder is how much that one heckler had to do with his decision. Whatever the answer to that is, the "egotistical billionaire asshole" heckler wins Best Photo Op of the year. Well done, Sir! You spoke for many of us, that's for sure.

Worst Photo Op

The Notre Dame cathedral on fire was certainly a pretty bad image, outside the world of politics.

If it had happened, Trump's planned meeting with the Taliban at Camp David during the same week as 9/11 would surely have won this category. But he was talked out of it at the last minute.

If he let photographers join him on the golf course, then a photo of him golfing during a hurricane, or golfing right after he had just declared a non-existent national emergency on the border would also have been in the mix.

Trump, of course, had many nominations for Worst Photo Op. From the generic (him screaming at reporters in front of a helicopter) to the specific (dry-humping a United States flag), Trump was well represented in the nomination pool.

Either of Trump's meetings with Kim Jong Un were up there in the running for Worst Photo Op, for obvious reasons. This got so bad that by the end of the year, Kim was the one denying Trump a meeting so he couldn't just use it as an empty photo op. That's a pretty astounding reversal of positions, when you think about it.

Funniest entry:

In a speech in from of "Turning Point USA," a conservative group hosting a Trump speech to students, an image of the presidential seal was projected behind Trump. Except it wasn't the official seal at all. It was a spoof with a double-headed Russian eagle clutching a set of golf clubs (rather than arrows) and a wad of cash (rather than olive branches). Above the eagle's two heads was the phrase: "45 is a puppet" in Spanish.

And then, for sheer stupidity, there was "Sharpiegate," where Trump used the federal government to cover up his own idiocy and refusal to admit he was wrong. I want that Sharpie-edited hurricane map to be the first thing people see in the Trump Presidential Library, personally.

But we have three finalists for Worst Photo Op. The first happened recently, after the president tweeted his rage at not being named Time magazine's Person Of The Year. He attacked 16-year-old Greta Thunberg a week after his wife got on her high horse about "attacking minors" when a witness at the impeachment hearings cracked a joke: "Trump can name his son Barron but he can't make him a baron."

In response, some hapless staffer in the White House thought it'd be a great idea to paste the face of Our Dear Leader over Greta Thunberg's body on the Time cover. This was so cringeworthy it's hard to put into words. But it was surpassed by two bad photos that were far worse.

Our runner-up for Worst Photo is that yearbook image on Ralph Northam's senior page showing a person in blackface standing next to a person in Ku Klux Klan robes. Obviously, this photo speaks for itself.

But our winner of Worst Photo Op of the year came from Mitch McConnell. Here's how we wrote it up as a talking point:

Mitch McConnell -- hours after the El Paso shooting -- tweeted a photo he found amusing, of a display of gravestones, one of which had the name of his political opponent on it. This was his response to a mass shooting -- to find it funny that someone put Amy McGrath's name on a tombstone due to her political beliefs. This is absolutely despicable, and it is definitely not funny. I call on Mitch McConnell to apologize for promoting an image of a gravestone of his opponent mere hours after one of the worst mass shootings in recent American history. This is absolutely unacceptable behavior from any elected official, period. Mitch McConnell should know better, but apparently he needs the rest of us to remind him of what is and what is plainly not acceptable in political discourse.

Absolutely beyond the pale, and completely indefensible. Which is why it wins Worst Photo Op of the year. For shame, Mitch, for shame.

Enough Already!

One of the catchall categories, without a single winner. Feel free to add to the list if we've forgotten any!

Government shutdowns -- Enough already!

Blackface photos -- Enough already!

Stonewalling Congress -- Enough already!

Trump on Twitter -- Enough already!

Republicans defending the indefensible -- Enough already!

Democrats using Republican talking points -- Enough already!

Jim Jordan -- Enough already!

Devin Nunes -- Enough already!

John Bolton -- Enough already!

Donald Trump -- Enough already!

And finally, in the most literal sense possible: Twenty-freakin'-nine Democrats running for president -- Enough already! Please?

Worst Lie

There is no shortage of lies to choose from this year, of course. After all, Trump's up to 15,000 documented lies during his time in office.

How about "The Mueller Report cost the American taxpayer millions" when in reality it recovered so much in fines from convicted felons that it actually made money for the Treasury?

Or "China pays the tariffs" when in fact the American people are the ones who directly pay it?

Then there's the perennial favorite, trotted out by Trump once again this year: "I've got a great healthcare plan, but I'm not going to reveal it until after the election." That one's a real knee-slapper. Or Trump promising he'd get rid of both the deficit and national debt, only to make both of them much worse.

Again, for stupidity's sake: Sharpiegate.

"No quid pro quo" -- that's another belly-laugh.

Trump almost caused an international incident when he lied about a meeting with India's leader:

"I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago," Trump recalled. "He actually said, 'Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?' I said, 'Where??' He said, 'Kashmir.' Because this has been going on for many, many years. I was surprised at how long it's been going on," Trump added, revealing his lack of knowledge about the history of the conflict.

Trump added: "I'd love to be a mediator."

India immediately called Trump a big, fat liar afterwards, since this did not in fact happen.

Then there was Trump telling three members of the Democratic "Squad" to "go back where they came from" even though all three were born in the United States. That was a contender for Worst Lie, obviously.

Our runner-up in this category, however, was Trump attempting to self-deify, looking up at the heavens while proclaiming "I am the chosen one." That was pretty jaw-dropping.

But for sheer "lower than a snake's belly" disgracefulness, we have to give Worst Lie to Trump for a story he's actually told for many years now, even though it is not even remotely true. Because for Trump, nothing exists unless he is the star of the show. So after Jon Stewart shamed Congress into finally doing the right thing and passing a permanent funding bill for the first responders to 9/11, Trump said at the signing ceremony:

Many of those affected were firefighters, police officers and other first responders. And I was down there also. But I am not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you.

Back on the campaign trail, Trump was even more petulant about not being in the spotlight: "Everyone who helped clear the rubble -- and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit."

All a despicable lie. What sort of egomaniac can't stand aside for the first responders to 9/11 and has to instead insert himself into the picture? What weakness of character would even allow such an attempt at self-aggrandizement? This is a shameful lie from a liar without shame, and it wins our Worst Lie of 2019 for the depths of depravity it took for Trump to utter it.

Capitalist Of The Year

Um... all of them? [see: Biggest Winner category....]

While we gave out Best Photo Op to a guy ridiculing billionaires running for president (one in particular), we have to agree with italyrusty once again and give the Capitalist Of The Year to Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, love him or hate him, shows that an enormous pile of money can indeed buy your way into a presidential election. When he announced his run, he became the 29th Democrat to do so. Many of these had already dropped out by the time Bloomberg finally threw his hat in the ring. And most of them had never polled even at five percent nationally.

Bloomberg showed what money can buy, by spending a whopping $30 million on his first ad blitz, which aired in almost every state across the country. In the space of a few weeks, he went from polling at zero to polling right around five percent.

Now, that's not a lot (four other candidates are still far out in front of him), but it is impressive when compared to the other two dozen Democrats who ran -- none of whom ever saw five percent.

Unlimited money may not buy an entire election, or even a primary nomination. We'll have to see how things work out. Bloomberg is also skipping the first four states which could be politically suicidal no matter how much he's got to spend. But for now, his first massive ad expenditure certainly bought his way into the top five. For that, we reluctantly have to admit Bloomberg wins Capitalist Of The Year.

Honorable Mention

Another catchall category. Again, feel free to add your own.

Richard Ojeda, for being the first (but definitely not the last) Democrat to drop out of the presidential race.

Michael Cohen, for his extraordinary performance during a House hearing. This is what it looks like when a Trump toady flips, folks.

Cartoonist Wiley for mistakenly printing a Non-Sequitur cartoon (not a political cartoon, it was actually about bears) with a scribble from his draft still in it which said: "Go fuck yourself TRUMP." His comic strip was pulled from many newspapers immediately after (including, sadly, the one I take).

Robert Mueller, once again, for running the only leak-free investigation ever seen in modern Washington.

Greta Thunberg, for being able to beat Trump at his own game on Twitter (as well as for, you know, everything else that she does).

The Democratic National Committee for adopting its debate rules as time went by. From all-inclusive, they've moved to a much more reasonable field, and they even adjusted along the way to avoid "kiddie table" second-day debates.

J. B. Pritzker, the new governor of Illinois, for running on marijuana legalization and then following through by getting it through the state legislature. The new Illinois law is more progressive than others, devoting a certain number of licenses to run marijuana businesses to minorities and for expunging the legal record of those previously charged with marijuana crimes.

Jon Stewart for personally shaming Congress into passing the bill for permanent funding for the 9/11 first responders. This should have happened a long time ago, as Stewart pointed out.

Hillary Clinton, for her tweet after the Ukraine story broke: "The president asked a foreign power to help him win an election. Again." Priceless!

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, for driving the right wingers crazy (from italyrusty).

The 1958 television Western Trackdown for predicting the future so well. The storyline revolves around a con man coming to town scaring all the residents into paying him to (you can't make this up) build a wall to protect them. His name? Trump.

And finally, the nameless Medieval stonemasons and master builders who designed and built the stone vaulting which held in Notre Dame, and which saved the ground floor from utter destruction in the fire.

Person Of The Year

We thought long and hard about this one, and in the end came to the conclusion that one man deserved Person Of The Year more than any other. And Donald Trump will be sorry to hear that, once again, it's not him.

Instead, we're going to hand Person Of The Year to Adam Schiff. Throughout the year Schiff has been constantly grinding away at investigating Trump, but it wasn't until the whistleblower fracas that he became the center of attention in Washington.

From this point on, Schiff absolutely shone. His handling of the investigations and hearings was near-flawless. Through it all he showed an almost-inhumane amount of calm, weathering the storms of idiocy blowing from the Republican side of his committee well. There's a reason why Nancy Pelosi chose him to lead on impeachment, and it quickly became apparent to all who watched any of the hearings he chaired.

Schiff is a rising star in the Democratic Party, and is being talked about as a possible replacement for Nancy Pelosi whenever she chooses to step down. That's about as high praise as you can get, in the House.

There have been other impressive House committee chairs in the past, but few remember their names now. I'd be hard-pressed to name more than a few of them myself. But I'd be willing to bet that ten or twenty years from now Adam Schiff's name will still be remembered, if for nothing else than his handling of the Trump impeachment hearings.

Person Of The Year is supposed to signify the one person who was central to the changes happening, and Adam Schiff certainly qualifies. Trump will now go down in history as the third president to be impeached, and Adam Schiff will go down in history as the man who made it happen. For that, he is our Person Of The Year.

{See you next Friday, for the conclusion of our 2019 awards!}

If you're interested in traveling down Memory Lane, here are all the previous years of this awards column:

2018 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2017 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2016 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2015 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2014 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2013 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2012 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2011 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2010 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2009 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2008 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2007 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)
2006 -- (Part 1) (Part 2)

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Dec 20, 2019, 11:24 PM

1. Good read.


If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Dec 20, 2019, 11:38 PM

2. thanks, chris


we have a lot to consider this year.
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Sat Dec 21, 2019, 12:44 AM

3. Astoundingly well-written summary of the year's political events - but aren't these the 2019 awards?


If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Joe Biden

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