Best Scandal — General Interest
Mitt Romney, 47 percent video
Looking over this year’s offerings for best generalized scandal, I couldn’t help but feel a little… disappointed. Think back for a second to the glory days of 2011: the year Anthony Weiner inadvertently cc’ed all of America on his dick pix, the Craigslist Congressman prowled the interwebs shirtless for transgendered sex partners; a sometimes catatonic, tiger-costume-wearing congressman was forced to resign for “aggressive and unwanted” sexual advances towards a campaign donor’s daughter. It was the year of Herman Cain, in all of his Grady Washingtonesque glory. This year’s scandals feel uninspired by comparison. A big, faceless government bureaucracy spent a lot of money on frivolous things. A Chicago politician reminded us, in a manner invoking more pathos than outrage, what it means to be a Chicago politician. A couple of Secret Service bros behaved badly in a foreign country. Even the Petraeus scandal, with its Shakespearean webs of deceit and its delightful supporting cast members (the Kardashians of Tampa!) failed to deliver, despite massive public interest, on the juicy bits of the mind-boggling carnality that make a sex scandal truly memorable. I mean, really: sex under a desk? That’s the dirtiest thing Petraeus could come up with? That’s your grandma’s sex scandal.
So I’m going to go with the thing that shocked me the most, and that’s the secret video recording of Mitt Romney at the Boca Raton fundraiser, where he referred to 47 percent of Americans as people who “are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” Before I saw this, I was aware that there were people out there who believed this sort of hateful crap, but I always gave Romney the benefit of the doubt. This video, and the way it perfectly distilled all of the worst assumptions about him into a single, self-inflicted soundbite, made me feel very, very naÃ¯ve–not to mention insulted. I remember going to dinner with a friend after, and trying to sort out the question of whether this was the Real Mitt Romney or just more pandering to his audience. He convinced me that trying to find the Real Romney was a fool’s errand. He was right. Genuine or not, hating on half of the population you’re running to represent should always be a disqualifier. Obviously.
Best Scandal — Sex and Generalized Carnality
Okay, maybe I need to revise my previous remarks a little bit: 2012 was not as good 2011 in terms of tawdry sex scandals, but it’s not because Scott DesJarlais and Paul Babeu didn’t try! Both men deserve recognition for their incredible exercises in hypocrisy. DesJarlais treated us to some laughably lame excuses about why he not only supported but in at least one case pressured a former lover to have an abortion (“I guess as a physician, I was a fairly objective person,” he said. “I try not to be a judgmental person. [Abortion] was just not something that I put as much thought into as I should have, in retrospect.”) He inspired subtly hilarious, ripped-from-The Onion news copy like this sentence, from TPM’s Eric Lach: “He now looks back with regret, he says, on the sexual relationships he had with two patients, three co-workers and a drug company representative while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper.” But Paul Babeu threatened to deport his undocumented gay lover. I had such a hard time judging this category I shared both stories with my mom. (It’s Christmas Eve as I write these, and she’s doing last minute tree redecorating to steel drum Christmas carols with a large mug of amaretto-spiked coffee in her hand.) “Men,” she said, as she finished the second article. “What the hell’s the matter with them?” Good question, Mom. Anyway I’m picking Babeu for that shirtless selfie revealing his horrible tribal tattoo. Have you no shame, sir?
Runner up: Scott DesJarlais, by a hair.
Best Scandal — Local Venue
It’s Babeu again, because imagine the schadenfreude in Pinal County.
Runner up: DC City Council – Corruption is DC’s kraken. It has the government in its clutch, spreading its tentacles into the far reaches of our operative class and threatening to take the whole thing under. Any Washingtonian who had the rare pleasure of stepping into the voting booth this year and choosing from a variety of a la carte charter initiatives to keep us from being governed by the most flagrant crooks knows why I think it deserves special recognition.
Meritorious Achievement in The Crazy
I wasn’t entirely sure who to pick here, so I had to consult with the empty chair next to me and I think–wait, what’s that, invisible chair pundit?–I really think that–What do you mean, shut up?–No, I’m sticking with this: consulting with an empty chair was the straight up battiest thing anyone said or did this year.
Runners up: Todd Akin, the Romney surrogate/Obama troll whose name shall not be mentioned, the news media for indulging aforementioned troll
Biggest Campaign Freakout
Republicans for making “you didn’t build that” a centerpiece of their entire party convention
You have to hand it to the Republicans, because they really made hay out of this fairly mundane quote about the interconnectivity of people in a society. No matter that Romney had expressed similar sentiments; all it took was a little selective video editing and a lot of phony outrage to create one of their top campaign themes. It was really a very thrifty campaign tactic, if you think about it.
Runners up: Hilary Rosen for the Ann-Romney-never-worked-a-day cloudburst
Most Hilariously Wrong Campaign Prediction
I’d really like to choose Dean Chambers and all of the Nate Silver agonistes for this award, but since they’re not on here I’ll go with Jennifer Rubin. It’s not really that her predictions were more wrong than anyone else in Romlandia, alternate universe where Romney was for sure going to be our next president, so much as her fierce and steadfast homerism, conveniently discarded in the days following the election like yesterday’s Washington Post.
Runner up: Dick Morris, for authoring basically a Twitter version of Jennifer Rubin’s blog
Most Over-The-Top Campaign Ad
Newt Gingrich Super PAC’s King of Bain ad
Because it was so long ago, it’s easy to forget how awesomely brutal and anti-corporatist this ad–with its gathering storm clouds, trembling seniors and ominous voiceover–was on Romney’s time at Bain Capital.
Runner up: Pete Hoekstra’s Debbie Spend-it-now ad, for racial stereotypes so offensive the actress who starred in the video repudiated it.