TPM is pleased to announce the winners of the Tenth Annual Golden Duke Awards recognizing the year’s best purveyors of public corruption, outlandish behavior, The Crazy, nonsense and all relevant betrayals of the public trust. The awards are named in honor of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who epitomizes the iconic modern scandal.
Our celebrity judges—Susie Bright & Jon Bailiff, Megan Carpentier, Jeb Lund, Simon Maloy & Charles P. Pierce—waded their way through all 32 finalists in seven categories, and selected the winners.
Check out the lucky nominees and the reader emails that selected them here. And now, without further ado, the winners:
Click any of the links below to go directly to the category:
BEST SCANDAL—GENERAL INTEREST: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who got 4 of 5 votes — for lifting Bridgegate to grand new heights
Susie Bright & Jon Bailiff: Chris Christie
Big Boy wins it, finally.
The special part about Christie’s big lie was that no one bought it, not even for a second. Once the bridge traffic rolled to a stop, the treads were bald.
So, vengeance served on cold exhaust. Was it fun, babe? Was it a huge laugh for five minutes? God, I hope you have it on video.
You hung tough, Guv. No one issues an denial like you.
Pranksterism, Gangsterism, what’s the diff? Anyone’s who’s not using a chopper to commute to work is a loser.
Christie is said to want a book deal now. I know just the genre where he could make a killing. It’s not biography, it’s Tragic Bromance — with extra sauce.
Megan Carpentier: Chris Christie
Maybe this is just the nature of the beast in 2016, but I have to give this one to Chris Christie: to the general population, a “cunt” is one of the least awful insults people called Hillary Clinton on Twitter this year, Lewandowski is too inside baseball, a white nationalist at the RNC is trumped by the specter of more than one in the Administration and that someone from inside Trump Tower sent the Times his tax returns is the least nutty conspiracy theory Roger Stone has ever floated.
On the other hand, who among us hasn’t sat in traffic on the Jersey side of the GW Bridge, listening to scores and scores of people ineffectually honking their horns like they are the mechanically-reproduced bleat of one large, dying animal away from being raptured directly into Harlem, car and all, and thought to ourselves, “It’s time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — and then realized you were repeating something the devil said to the modern-day Faust?
Christie’s team of sycophantic rage-monsters directly fucked over scores of people who had nothing to do with the person who supposedly slighted their boss, and then spent ages covering their collective asses only to be hoisted, along with their soul-trading team leader, on their own petards. The only real surprise in all of this is that none of them were nominated to run the federal Department of Transportation.
Jeb Lund: Corey Lewandowski
Sadly, too many of the nominees in this category feel like garden-variety obscenities if you’re one of those unfortunates who is obligated to borg-jack your brain into the Twitter politics trash matrix.
Chris Christie and his coterie of stooges behaved the way we expect crooked northeastern politicians to behave. If anything, I’m sort of let down that Sid Miller didn’t call Clinton “Shitlery Cunton.” White nationalist William Johnson leaves me cold when I know there are pictures of Ron Paul out there with Stormfront founder Don Black and when the man who shot up the DC Holocaust Museum transferred ownership of his white supremacist website to the household of a guy with a “1488” email address and woman who was a Ron Paul campaign coordinator. And Roger Stone’s conspiracy theory about Trump’s tax returns is less of a scandal than the fact that the mainstream media did not hammer the shit out of Trump every single day that he did not release his tax returns.
So Corey Lewandowski’s strong-arming Michelle Fields takes it for me. Maybe meeting Lewandowski helps. He’s a bullet-headed man in a sharkskin suit and wraparound shades whose demeanor is so thoroughly ex-coply that I can easily picture him catching a toddler in the pantry before dinnertime, wrestling him to the ground, twisting his arm behind his back and shouting, “I’M GOING TO REACH INTO YOUR POCKETS. DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING SHARP OR SWEET IN THERE?” His family’s Christmas form letter is probably printed in block letters on carbon copies of arrest reports.
The Lewandowski scandal is great because of everything that surrounds it. The sheer obviousness that Lewandowski did it. The sheer brazenness of the denial and the utter balls it took to blame Fields. But the real kicker is the fact that Breitbart News sold out their own reporter to defend the reputation of the fused-necked adjutant for Dear Leader and then, incredibly, it still took another few months for most of the mainstream media to realize that Breitbart is what happens when you combine the Volkischer Beobachter with Highlights™ for Children.
Simon Maloy: Chris Christie
How does anyone other than Chris Christie take this one home? I mean, my god. Bridgegate has one of the most insane and satisfying arcs of any political scandal you’ll encounter.
It has cartoonish super-villainy, with government employees sending each other mustache-twirling texts as they watched their handiwork unfold. You have the galling hubris of Christie offering himself as a candidate for president even as his top aides came under investigation and indictment. There’s the frantic desperation of Christie making a last grasp for political relevance as a fast-food bagman for Donald Trump. And just when it seemed like that all that humiliation would perhaps pay off, Trump unceremoniously booted Christie from the train just in time for his former aides to testify that he knew everything about Bridgegate as it was happening.
It’s a poetic comeuppance for a swaggering lout who built his political profile by berating and humiliating his own constituents. Had Christie known that Republican primary voters would gravitate towards an openly corrupt strongman, he might have owned his petty cruelty instead of trying to hide it.
Charles P. Pierce: Chris Christie
This is like Titanic at the 1997 Oscars. This scandal reached so many different parts of our politics that it could walk away with every category. It buried Christie’s chances at ever being president, which drove him in sweaty desperation to become Donald Trump’s button man against Marco Rubio. Later, when it looked like five solid months of sucking up was going to land Christie a sweet gig, his former aides got convicted, the scandal flared again, and the working title of Christie’s autobiography forever became, To The Best Of My Recollection: My Life In Politics.
BEST SCANDAL—SEX & GENERALIZED CARNALITY: Donald Trump (3 of 5 votes) for turning “grab ’em by the pussy” into a successful campaign slogan
Susie Bright & Jon Bailiff: Donald Trump
“When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. They let you do anything you want.”
In previous Duke awards for Sex scandals, our winners were motivated by sheer determined horniness.
Donald Trump breaks the mold. When he bullies lesser beings — i.e, younger men and women — he does it for the pure sadistic thrill of watching them buckle under. Ha-ha! He will push them until there’s nothing left— and that’s the sweetest prize of all.
Trump has no orgasm in his quest—there’s no sexual satisfaction at the end of the shame-bow. For Donald, it’s merely the sweet-if-fleeting knowledge that he has reduced a bright young thing to a suicidal self-loathing shell of their former selves.
Megan Carpentier: Donald Trump
With the exception of Robert Bentley, whose late-in-life lust would almost seem sweet had he not been both married and one of the worst sexy-talkers in the whole of Alabama (if not the entirety of the American south), this year’s crop of horndogs leans rather heavily on the unconsensually pervy side. But I hesitate to attach the moniker “best” — let alone “sex” — to the act of a grown-ass man allegedly sending pictures of his dick to a high school sophomore, let alone the two nominees whose scandals are their serial acts of groping. Thus, insofar as the Access Hollywood tape is the act for which he is nominated (and not the women who have accused Trump of making good his word), I have to hand this one to Donald Trump, for giving Billy Bush — of all the sophomoric airheads in all of Hollywood and the Hollywood-adjacent areas whose only hurdle to getting more ass would’ve been the questions by the uninitiated about for which team he played — advice on how to finger-bang a lady when she’s not expecting it.
Jeb Lund: Anthony Weiner
There’s something kind of grand about the terrible tenacity of Anthony Weiner’s dick. At that age, most men’s dicks are starting to falter, lose a step, shrink from the spotlight. Not my man Tone and his buddy Little T. They wound up front and center for a renewed manufactured FBI scandal that might have sabotaged a candidate and a country.
A couple weeks ago, I unsettled a friend of mine by suggesting that Weiner might have been basically normal. Not the sexting of an underage person—that is, of course, criminal, repellent and unacceptable—but just that he behaves like an average geek who won the dick lottery. Here you have basically a gangly, garden-variety nerd—ostracized from a career that amounts to society’s version of a high school math club—who overnight became internationally jock-level famous for clumsy-ass photos of his hog. Suddenly women crawled out of the internet woodwork to get some more of that, the horny merry-go-round of sexless male teen daydreams instantly spinning at 10,000 RPMs, with nothing left in his life but for him to just ride it out. It probably permanently broke his brain.
Which makes it all the more amazing that one dude’s unmoored Long Weekend might be a proximate cause of America’s Long Four Years. Anthony Weiner’s dick broke the law, his brain and now, potentially, the social contract—one man putting his best half-foot forward and taking us all miles and decades back, his hedonistic dumbfuck pursuit of a little death greasing the long low road to potentially thousands or millions more. Thanks so much, little dude.
Simon Maloy: Roger Ailes
I was badly torn between Roger Ailes and Donald Trump, but ultimately I had to give the Duke to the Fox News founder/Hutt gangster for making workplace sexual harassment a cornerstone of his media dominance strategy. That’s not to diminish from Trump’s sexual predation scandal — quite the opposite, actually, as Trump was a player in the Ailes scandal in addition to his own “grab ‘em by the pussy” imbroglio.
One aspect of the Ailes scandal that stands is the degree to which accountability was both achieved and undermined at the same time. Ailes was forced out of his insanely powerful position atop the conservative movement’s chief propaganda outlet, and he was exposed as the grotesque, lecherous gremlin that everyone knew he was. At the same time, he was able to negotiate his own exit and was paid $40 million to be fired for gross misconduct towards his female employees. Ailes’ corporate masters were more interested in having him quietly go away than in meting out the punishment he deserved.
Then there’s the Trump angle. It is shocking and unbelievable to me that the ongoing relationship between a major-party presidential candidate and a media executive fired for rampant sexual misconduct wasn’t treated as the monstrous scandal that it was.
Charles P. Pierce: Donald Trump
I gave this category long and thoughtful consideration and I realized that, in this case, the worst is probably yet to come. He might win this every year. Then I spent a few hours wondering whether I could find a Thorazine tablet the size of manhole cover.
BEST SCANDAL—LOCAL VENUE: Maine Gov. Paul LePage (3 of 5 votes) for his heartfelt voicemails
Susie Bright & Jon Bailiff: Rick Snyder
Nothing says Black Lives Don’t Matter, (not to mention White Trash Hoopdie Die-Off) than The Great Flint Water Poisoning— courtesy of their governor, The Man with the Heart of Molten Lead.
Snyder is an paid expert at discerning whose lives in his state are worth a plug nickel. If you’re not bobbing on your yacht at Lake Winna-Fuck-It-All, drinking Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Fourth Dementia with your best golfing pals, trading jungle-fever jokes with Mike Pence, how do you matter, at all?
“Hey Rick! I wonder what the poor people are doing today?”
“Ah geez, you’re killin’ me!”
Megan Carpentier: Paul LePage
Maine Gov. Paul LePage isn’t just the comment section of a blog come to life, but legitimately the physical manifestation of that terrible commenter who you’ve had to ban half a dozen times and then blacklist his IP address because he will. not. stop. This isn’t the worst thing he’s said in 2016 — that distinction comes from his January comments that African American drug dealers were coming up to impregnate white women and his follow-up in August just before he made this phone call — but the truth is that being an unreconstructed racist isn’t a scandal in 2016, and leaving unhinged, threatening voice mails suggesting that your political opponent has oral sex with other men is. (Who says America wasn’t great before Donald Trump was elected?)
Jeb Lund: Rick Snyder
It is by now an exhausting cliché to point out that the party that considers the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” portion of the Declaration’s preamble to be legally binding on the government of the United States for fetal purposes also considers it a total irrelevancy once we all complete that trip down the birth canal. Further, I don’t need to tell you, Mandrake, that water is the source of all life. Seven-tenths of this earth’s surface is water. Why, you realize that 70% of you is water. And as human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids.
So Rick Snyder’s contempt for the health of his constituents regarding this fundamental building block of life, long before liberty or that other business, eclipses any other local scandal this year. It is the loudest and clearest shot in the Republican Party’s assault on your fundamental right to be alive. Not two or ten decades hence, as with climate change; not a few years from now when a chronic illness and lack of health care fells you—but now, right now, when you go to the tap in your kitchen and mix a pitcher of concentrated orange juice for you and your kids.
Make no mistake, water is a commodity to Snyder and his ilk, not a right, and they hope that your indifference to the chloracne scarring and brain damage of people too poor or too brown to fight back engenders a broad national indifference toward water becoming a tiered, privatized profit vector. The fact that most of us have been drinking clean water all our lives because our governments believed we were entitled to it represents a galling abdication of market opportunities for Rick and his jackal pack. In their better, future world, you can pay more to be on the Clean Water Premium Plus Tap Plan, or you can just hook your house up to the Dow Chemical/electric-orange-coal-runoff sluice and get wet off PCB.
And so can your miraculous new infant.
Simon Maloy: Paul LePage
I have always been deeply suspicious of Maine. The wooded isolation and 11-month winters breed a collective insanity that has been channeled into the state’s Tea Party governor, Paul LePage. No 2016 scandal retrospective can be considered whole unless it carves out some space for this nut.
The voicemail scandal is thoroughly ridiculous, as it involves a high-ranking elected official recording a profanity-spiced voice message for a political rival, which he then follows up with a threat to commit old-timey murder. In politics, that’s generally seen as sub-optimal messaging.
But let’s not give short shrift to the fact that LePage’s vigorous insistence that he is not racist is belied by other comments he made earlier this year about out-of-state drug dealers named “D-Money” and “Shifty” who sell Mainers heroin and “impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.”
So LePage gets the Duke and the state of Maine gets to live with the shame of being New England’s Florida.
Charles P. Pierce: Paul LePage
Any opportunity to give recognition to the human bowling-jacket whom Mainers have elected twice must be seized. The man who enlightened his constituents about the designs that Swifty, Smoothy, and D-Money had on their flaxen-haired daughters simply will not be called a racist — at least not by little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksuckers, anyway. If Paul LePage really were Hamilton, the Constitutional Convention would have been held in a pool hall.
MERITORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT IN THE CRAZY: TIE – William Johnson and Katrina Pierson (2 of 5 votes each)
Susie Bright & Jon Bailiff: William Johnson
The award must go to William the White. His tortured logic shines in apolo-splaining his actions as a bulwark against declining white birth rates in Utah— so low that “Western Civilization might cease to exist!”
That’s an explanation only the founder of a white nationalist Super-PAC-for-Trump could love. Breed on!
Megan Carpentier: William Johnson
William Johnson’s robocalls suggesting that conservative alternative candidate Evan McMullin is gay as a way to encourage more Mormons to vote Trump is not only fairly ignorant of Mormon theology (essentially, like Catholics, you can “be” gay as long as you don’t “act” on it, which is… what Johnson’s robocalls suggested McMullin was doing). Johnson’s half-hearted, crazy-filled apology is yet further evidence that rampant, demeaning homophobia remains politically incorrect even in this Trumpian, post-political-correctness world while his naked, disgusting racism became a side note to the scandal, suggesting that it’s apparently more crazy in America to be a homophobe than a racist. And… if you define “crazy” as that which is non-normative, that’s probably fairly accurate.
Jeb Lund: Robert Morrow
Katrina Pierson’s bullet fetishism takes its place in a broad and well-represented American death cult. Her willingness to lie her ass off about something easily fact-checked also fails to surprise anyone who’s watched virtually any Republican talking head for at least a decade. Donald Trump conducting a screwheaded stunt with zero real-world effect and a high personal-profit opportunity defined his campaign and his budding presidency. And homophobic robocalls from a Nazi might not faze anyone even if they specifically threatened each recipient by name. (Enough of us have open DMs on Twitter and basically play a roulette version of this every time we log on.) So this is another category in which the sheer ubiquity of the other atrocities hands this one to a nominee that has the decency to make his abhorrence sui generis.
Travis County GOP Chair Robert Morrow stands in the center of one of those hazy Internet venn diagrams of massive asshole and bugfuck lunatic, and I salute him for it. He talks about his dick and Hillary Clinton’s bisexuality and Marco Rubio FOAM PARTIES and Bush family homosexuality and Rick Perry collecting rentboys and Bill Clinton rape stories and HE LOVES TIG OL’ BITTIES. If you could anthropomorphize this dude’s entire inner life, it would be the motorcycle from a body shop’s bikini-calendar photo firing a gun at the workers of a Planned Parenthood while asking out the patients inside because “they seem like they’d let him raw dog it.”
Simon Maloy: Katrina Pierson, for her aviation-truther argument
Both of Katrina Pierson’s nominations in this category are well deserved, but Armrest-gate stands out as one of the more insane and despicable things she said in her capacity as Donald Trump’s chief cable-news conversation derailer.
It was half-assed detective work deployed as a “smoking gun” gotcha against a woman — one of many — who came forward to say that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her. If you watch the actual segment, you can see Peter Beinart breaking down in incredulous laughter as Pierson argues with affected seriousness that her boss can’t be a sexual predator because first-class armrests don’t move. It was the sort of investigative rigor you expect to encounter in fever-swamp message boards, not as official messaging from a major-party presidential campaign.
Charles P. Pierce: Katrina Pierson, in general
Personally, I would have nominated the Republican National Convention as a ensemble cast, the way they do at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. But now that Pierson apparently has passed from the public scene in favor of various blonde women whose names appear in the contact lists of every booker at CNN, we should make sure nobody forgets her unique contribution to our onrushing catastrophe. The bullet necklace was a highlight, for sure. As to the carnal inconvenience of airplane armrests, this is another thing with which Walter Lippmann never had to deal, that cowardly bastard, dying when he did.
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN EMBRACING DIVERSITY: Donald Trump took this one (3 of 5 votes) for his Cinco de Mayo taco bowl photo-op
Susie Bright & Jon Bailiff: Donald Trump
Loathe as I am to award more to Dear Leader, we have an Orange Winner.
This tone-deaf “ad” on Mexico’s independence holiday was crude, racist, and ridiculous. He made sure there was footage of him with his mouth full! A worldwide commercial for what some argue is the worst restaurant in New York.
It simply had to be seen, had to be acknowledged. The Taco Bowl Latinos, sprung out of Trump’s fertile mind, have been ignored long enough! The term “taco bowl diversity” will soon be bandied about in the halls of Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Megan Carpentier: Donald Trump, in general
Trump, Trump and Trump: look, I’m not trying to victim shame here. If a white supremacist started humping your leg at a party, it wouldn’t be your fault that your leg looked so fuckable to a crazed animal. But if you then look away from the dog and his tiny dog erection being enthusiastically slammed into your tibia, and then coat your other leg in taco meat while blowing on a dog whistle loud enough to be heard from sea to shining sea, and all the crazed leg humpers gather around and start barking, their tiny dog erections at full attention, I gotta tell you, you didn’t do yourself any favors in the less-leg-humping department.
Jeb Lund: Donald Trump
Once again, we have to knock down the other candidates and see what’s left.
Donald Trump’s open courtship of white supremacists should offend everyone, but it takes its place in a long conservative tradition that runs the gamut from the urbane National Review’s defense of segregation, to Nixon’s dog-whistle snarl, to Reagan’s dog-whistling sunny optimism, to Rick Santorum’s not wanting to give money to “bla…h people” to Ron Paul’s neo-Nazi pals (see above), to basically one-third of all GOP officials’ comments about Barack Obama. Kathy Miller is just a racist flunky in a bigger racist machine. Steve King has the brain capacity of a grape contemplating calves the size of cantaloupes. Pastor Mark Burns or Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald are updates on people we’ve seen before: the late-2000s GOP officials who likened escaped gorillas to Michelle Obama’s ancestors, or who passed out Obamabucks with Photoshopped images of watermelon and fried chicken.
Which leaves us with Donald Trump’s taco bowl, a magnificent gesture of shitheaded pandering that meets every criteria of absurd offense possible. It fails to work on every level, which perversely makes it perfect. If chowing down on some bastard American food version of another nation’s cuisine creates ethnic comity, the Italians must love Trump for eating Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza backward. Plus, eating “ethnic” cuisine erases ethnic hatred. The protagonist of House of Cards—Foghorn Cards—could never hate black people because he likes soul food. Frank Gaffney probably ate a gyro once. Is there such thing as homosexual food? Get The Donald some of that right now—and a dark chocolate Dove bar he can suck on for the ladies.
Plus there’s just Trump’s dead smile floating in the middle of the photo like boil-rippled trout floating in one of Rick Snyder’s public waterways. It could go with any product because it shows and feels nothing. Its grainy image could have been ripped from a full-page ad in a 1970s issue of Playboy. Take away the taco bowl and replace it with a mid-grade cigarette (Donald Trump for Vantage: “I didn’t have to sacrifice great flavor to get low tar!”) and the effect would be the same: all endorsement, no sale, and death death death.
Simon Maloy: Steve King
I was tempted to go with Trump here, but this Duke has to go to Rep. Steve King for his highly academic dissection of how the white race is, historically, the only worthwhile race.
While Trump just seems to fall ass-backwards into his racism, King is more of a studied bigot. This is a guy — and elected member of Congress, no less — who has researched the various “subgroups” of humanity and found that not only has his own “subgroup” proven itself superior, but it’s such a blowout that the other “subgroups” barely even merit mention.
If you go back and watch the segment, you half-expect him to whip out a phrenology chart and hold court on how the occipital ridge of your average white skull explains the Renaissance.
Charles P. Pierce: Steve King
Since nobody cares about conflicts of interest any more, I can say proudly that I was on set with Congressman King when he unlimbered his History Of The World, Part One. I did what I could to stick up for the Egyptians, but I also was trying to keep April Ryan, the third person at the desk, from beating him to death with a bottle of Aquafina. My gob was smacked into Lake Erie.
MOST ACCURATE CITATION OF FAKE NEWS: TIE – Michael Flynn and Donald Trump (2 of 5 votes each)
Susie Bright & Jon Bailiff: Michael Flynn
Who, even those amongst us with the highest of security clearances, could’ve seen how pear-shaped this one would turn out?
Flynn’s No.1 son tells him that he’s heard from a conspiracy fetishist, one Alex Jones, that there is a secret and encoded language deep in John Podesta’s colon, that if read correctly, is an Iraqi ass map to the treasure of the Sierra Madre of pedophilia! —And Hillary is down in the basement RIGHT NOW.
Why in the name of all that is fair in fake news would any mentally-ill Holy Roller want to get up in that shit?
Megan Carpentier: Donald Trump
Again, this one goes to the biggest winner, who’s going to win SO BIG for America now that we’re going to get tired of winning. Suggesting that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination is some amazing Roger Stone rat-fuckery made only more amazing by watching Trump call Cruz’s wife unattractive, after which Cruz rolled over and presented his belly because Trump promised that he would nominate a conservative to the Court. Like, the man besmirched the memory of your beloved father and called your wife ugly, but as long as there’s a chance to overturn Roe v Wade, fuck it? It almost makes you wonder what, precisely, Cruz’s father would’ve done to achieve his political ends…
Jeb Lund: Michael Flynn
Every candidate here is deserving, but only one sets a land speed record for sending you from hysteric laughter to sorrow and then back again like incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn claiming that the Hillary Clinton campaign was some nexus of pedophiles.
The key thing to remember is that ground zero for these theories is a bunch of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta about pizza, which basically every political campaign everywhere in the country eats a ton of, because it’s pizza. Only somehow these repeated pizza orders transmuted into an elaborate code for ordering various shapes and sizes of sexually attractive children, which is a rumor that gave enough Swastika-Chan kids on social media the means to terrorize anyone they oppose online.
That this kind of baseless smear instantly weaponized the totally made-up to try to destroy people’s careers and make them fear for their safety is the despair part. But it’s next to impossible not to whiplash back to the hilarity of all of this coming from Internet obsessives finding hidden pedophile symbols the way mailboxes supposedly used to be carved with arcane and secret hobo runes. Three diagonal lines mean this is an unsafe place. The cross says the homeowners are Christian. This pound sign next to Happycat means that the room is filled with lubricant and a Cub Scout troop full of disadvantaged orphans.
This is what McCarthyism would have been like if it had been run by teens who masturbate to tentacle-heavy lolicon and base their online investigations on a bulletin board from The Wire, geocaching, MSPaint and the McDonald’s Monopoly game. It’s also our future.
Simon Maloy: Donald Trump
“Fake news,” by its very nature, does not teach us anything or leave us better informed. But when Donald Trump started hyping the insane falsehood that Ted Cruz’s father was complicit in the Kennedy assassination, he somewhat ironically set in motion a series of events that ultimately ended up showing the world the real Ted Cruz.
Cruz’s initial reaction to Trump slandering his father as part of a relentlessly dirty primary campaign was righteous and unimpeachable disgust. Trump, after all, went after his family in a very personal and extraordinarily dishonest fashion. “I am not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my father,” Cruz said after he declined to endorse Trump at the nominating convention. But political pressure eventually won out over principle, and Cruz endorsed the guy who attacked his wife and father.
It was an education in how “fake news” corrupts the process — an insane smear was introduced into a political campaign and the candidate responsible not only got away with it, he ended up bringing the target of his smear to heel.
Charles P. Pierce: Sean Hannity
Back during the Terri Schiavo fiasco, Hannity was famous for putting on “medical experts” who didn’t know fuck-all about the case under discussion. In the intervening years, apparently, he decided he didn’t need to outsource his neurological consults any more. My favorite episode of his nightly Grand Rounds was the one in which all the physicians he’d invited looked at him like he’d grown gills.
CRAZIEST CAMPAIGN AD: Gerald Daugherty and his liberated wife, Charlyn (3 of 5 votes)
Susie Bright & Jon Bailiff: Senate candidate Jason Kander (D-MO) for assembling an AR-15 blindfolded
Crazy-sexy like a mo-fo fox!
This is the best campaign ad of the political season.
We watched a battle-hardened veteran DEMOCRAT totally de-pantsing his pink-fingered opponent and possibly becoming the leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination in one smooth performance of manly mastery and command that was so, so above and beyond the elder-care candidates at the top of the ticket! Sir! Yes, Sir!
Megan Carpentier: Gerald Daugherty
The Charlyn and Gerald Daugherty ad, because, seriously, the whole pitch was “I don’t like my husband and he’s ruining my life, please vote for him.” It’s literally a gender-swapped “Take my wife… please!” joke and it worked. Good for them, and hopefully their pool boy.
Jeb Lund: Gerald Daugherty
First of all, Jason Kander assembling an AR-15 blindfolded was kind of badass. Other gun-related ads are old hat. So is out-and-out racism. But Charlyn Daughtry begging people to reelect her husband as commissioner of Travis County, Texas is something special. You have to love any appeal based on, “Please make this unbearable man 1,151,145 people’s problem instead of mine, the one person on earth who supposedly loves him more than anyone else.”
That said, I want you to look at this screenshot from the ad:
Just look at that plate of despair. I don’t even know where to begin.
First of all, next time you’re down at Pier 1, maybe nab some plates that don’t look like baked and glazed poi. Second, I don’t even know what’s going on with those sweet potatoes, but if you just ignore that wedge on the far right, the rest looks like the Venus of Willendorf sitting down, resting an elbow on one knee and facepalming. Third, those green beans are not fresh. I look at this dinner, Gerald Daughtry, and I think, “You didn’t build that.” I know who did: some foreigner named Del Monte.
And the steak? OH MY GOD, dude, you’re running for office in Texas, and the video shows you cooking on a kettle grill. You’re going to serve this? This is an abortion, Gerald. There are no grill marks—I need that maillard reaction, shitbird, and you’re giving me goddamn boil-in-a-bag—and no sign of texture anywhere on meat whose color palette could be subbed in for all the bureaucrats’ suits in Brazil.
In the stentorian Olbermann-knockoff voice of every well-heeled centrist hack looking to punch his ticket via four years of loud performative Twitter outrage on the way to a full-time TV guest gig: HOW DARE YOU, SIR? You did not deserve to win reelection, SIR, you deserved to win a contest over who could most make food look like that tubercular-ass plate.
Simon Maloy: Jason Kander
I have a big problem with Democrats who try to prove to voters that they are just as nutty about guns as their Republican opponents. You see this happen a lot. Alison Lundergan Grimes cut an ad where she shot some skeet and lectured Mitch McConnell on how to properly cradle a firearm. And, of course, Jason Kander assembled his assault rifle while blindfolded.
It bothers me because the ability to assemble a gun doesn’t actually say anything about how you’ll legislate. If you want to impress me, show me how you’re going to boost revenue for Social Security. You can put on a blindfold and juggle chainsaws while doing it, I don’t care.
And you’re never, ever going to outflank a hardline conservative on gun issues with transparent stunts like these. While you’re closing your eyes and assembling that weapon, you’re opponent’s calling for mandatory handguns in church and endorsing NRA checks.
You’re not going to win that fight. And an “I love guns too!” stunt will always come off as a pander, which is something you should strenuously avoid when your last name is Kander.
Charles P. Pierce: Charlyn Daugherty
She wrung my heart dry and threw it to the dogs.