Best Scandal — General Interest
Winner: U.S. Secret Service
The motto of the Secret Service is literally, “Worthy of trust and confidence.” In fact:
“Each point of the Secret Service star represents one of the agency’s five core values: justice, duty, courage, honesty and loyalty. These values, and the Secret Service adage “Worthy of Trust and Confidence,” resonate with each man and woman who has sworn the oath to uphold them”
These five points from the Columbia trip are not included on the Secret Service star:
There is a five-pointed star with those things on it, but it’s not the Secret Service logo. It’s this one.
Predictably, this great nation responded with the deep well of tolerance and reserve for which it is known:
The core mission of the entire Secret Service organization is to be worthy of trust and confidence. On this trip, it wasn’t and while that may not have compromised security it was embarrassing and damaging.
Elimination Notes: The GSA scandal is runner-up solely on the strength of this classic photo. Really, that image is the essence of taxpayer-funded-excess and requires no supporting text. I don’t see the Cialis in the photo, but I have no doubt it is within reach.
It’s tempting to pick, but Mitt Romney lambasting the 47% as irredeemable layabouts is not a “scandal” — it’s Mitt Romney telling the truth as he sees it. I’m not like TIME magazine with its Person of the year, bending the category willy-nilly to suit my wishes. I judge with dignity and precision, ultimately earning your respect and, yes, love.
Best Scandal — Sex and Generalized Carnality
Winner: Scott DesJarlais
There is hypocrisy. There is depravity. There is injustice. And then there is Scott DesJarlais, the all-of-the above embodiment of them all, this year’s earthly incarnation of the unholy trinity. DesJarlais believes, “Our shared values and ideas are what we use to craft the legislation that defines who we are as a nation.” In particular:
Abortion – All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life..
Marriage – Marriage is traditionally defined as being between a man and a woman and we feel this distinction is important to the wellbeing of the American family.
Let’s see how DesJarlais is doing on our shared values. You need to read all of this in order and be prepared to Hulk out into a green shirt-ripping rage:
- First wife accused him of “violent and threatening behavior.”
- He had at least four affairs according to court filings.
- Wait, there’s more! DesJarlais, a doctor, had those affairs “with at least two patients, three coworkers and a drug representative.”
- Not done! One patient/mistress ” said she and the family values congressman smoked marijuana during their relationship and remembered DesJarlais prescribing her pain medication on dates at his home.”
- We’re just getting started. Desjarlais, strong pro-lifer, supported his wife’s decision to have two abortions.
- Still more! DesJarlais allegedly pressured a patient/mistress to get an abortion.
- Despite all this, he won re-election.
- Now he faces ethics charges.
- Think about the implications of this for our democracy, and then: do this.
Elimination Notes: David Petraeus is obviously a strong runner-up. You’d think a commanding general and CIA Director spending some time in the Flirt Locker with his biographer would at least get you first place in the Golden Dukes Sex category, but not this year. The Petraeus affair has been talked to death, but a few lesser-discussed points bear emphasis:
If your strategy for keeping an affair secret involves Gmail, maybe being the nation’s top spy isn’t the right job for you.
Think hard about the wisdom of having your secret mistress publish your sanctimonious “Rules for Living” for everyone to follow.
All scandals spawn “the real scandal” articles, which are often the most useful.
Best Scandal — Local Venue
Winner: D.C. City Council
I am not a D.C. resident, but the D.C. City Council wins this going away based on sheer size and scope, with a nod to historical precedent. You can’t help but be impressed at corruption so vast the media has to take a step back and just give 30,000-foot views of the thing:
- Washington Post interactive guide to the scandals.
- DCist “Get To Know Your (Ethically Challenged) D.C. Council“
- WTOP “Timeline of DC.’s troubled political past“
When a scandal requires media outlets to assign a special team of writers and graphics people just to lay out the boundaries of your wrongdoing, you know you have really accomplished something.
Meritorious Achievement in The Crazy
Winner: Clint Eastwood
As a presidential candidate, the one thing you can completely control is your convention. Everything else is a daily circus of unpredictable stimulus and response. But, a convention — that can be planned. Choreographed. Everyone agreed that Team Romney put together a great biographical video. The major networks and their millions of viewers began GOP convention coverage at 10:00 pm. At that time, the Romney biographical video was already over and the potential voters saw this:
There’s a word for this.
It must be sad and frustrating to be a GOP event planner. I get that. They get Springsteen and Jay-Z. You get Kid Rock and Meat Loaf. Clint Eastwood was/is cool and you need cool. Mitt Romney is kryptonite to cool. So, you roll him out and hope for the best. It didn’t work. Romney got almost no convention bounce.
As an aside, I’m also worried about the GOP’s monkey problem. These guys really hero worship man-monkey interaction. I don’t have the heart or expertise to unpack the fixation, but it needs to be noted:
We should all be on the lookout for more of this disturbing trend, perhaps in the form of an Ikea Monkey keynote in 2016.
Elimination Notes: Todd Akin is runner-up here only because he is less crazy than ignorant and vile. These are fine lines, but I bear the heavy responsibility of drawing them. “Rape is horrible.” There. That is the complete set of “Things A Candidate Should Say About Rape.” Did you see how it’s just three words?
Biggest Campaign Freakout
Winner: “You didn’t build that”
President Obama doesn’t think you didn’t build your business. He thinks we rely on things like roads and bridges in particular and shared sacrifices in general to thrive. The last time this self-evident thought erupted into a nontroversy was with Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes A Village” and it was just as silly then.
Now, put yourself in Mitt Romney’s fine leather shoes. The country has just gone through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression Everywhere, everyone is hurting from causes beyond their control and not their fault. There is a fundamental sense that the elite have let the middle-class down through a toxic mix of greed and neglect. You are running to lead a government that people look to for hope and solutions to get past this crisis. What do you do? If you’re Mitt Romney, you make the inability, even unwillingness to help the centerpiece of your campaign and convention.
The GOP convention was like “Atlas Smug,” the way less popular sequel to”Atlas Shrugged,” featuring an endless series of haves-to-have-nots mansplaining about how less regulation and taxes would do what it clearly cannot.
For starters, the convention was held in a 62% publicly financed facility with a hurricane outside reinforcing Obama’s call for shared responsibility and drenching the event with irony like rain on Alanis Morrisette’s wedding day.
Then came Hurricane Sandy. Just before the election, people were literally watching the flooding of the very roads, bridges and infrastructure Obama talked about us all relying on destroy the businesses Romney wanted simply left alone to magically thrive. It became unmistakably clear that businesses and people count on a lot of things they didn’t personally build during tough times. Even crusading, tough guy Republican governors drop the partisan pretense and deal with government as a partner for progress. In the aftermath of Sandy, the petty arrogance of “You didn’t build that” was laid bare. People had a hard time identifying with a candidate whose central philosophy was that the government only gets in the way when even leaders of his own party were looking to it for help.
Thirty-six percent said it (“You didn’t build that”) made them feel more positively about Obama, 32 percent said it made them view him more negatively and 26 percent said it made no difference.
When the 47% tape came along, it was like a bookend to the “You didn’t build that” convention, forever shelving Romney as an out-of-touch millionaire. It stuck, he lost, The End.
Most Hilariously Wrong Campaign Prediction
Winner: Karl Rove
- Just 1 percent of the more than $100 million spent by American Crossroads achieved its desired results.
- In the aftermath of the election, the political world gathered Nelson Muntz style to point and laugh at his failure.
- Legendary GOP direct mail guru Richard Viguerie: “In any logical universe,” he argued, “no one would give a dime to their ineffective super PACs, such as American Crossroads.”
- Enjoy the full range of “biggest loser of election 2012 articles” all naming Rove at or near the top.
I sympathize with the moment Rove faced on election night when he couldn’t face the fact everything he believed was wrong and he had lost. It’s a slow, sad epiphany. It’s like getting surprise friendzoned at a fancy candlelit restaurant. “Oh my god, we’re not really on a date here are we? This can’t be, everything was going to be perfect.” I can only imagine how painful that is when the date cost $300 million and the rejection was total and in front of the entire nation.
You do have to feel a little sorry for Rove given the slate of candidates he had. He’s like the poor salesman stuck with selling fax machines today. He gets up every morning, half believing his own schtick, determined to stress the benefits: “Fax technology is a superior transmission experience, you can rely on the time-tested performance of facsimile reproduction!”
Rove’s failure cannot be fully appreciated without mentioning Nate Silver’s success, the light that chased away Rove’s darkness. He must still have nightmares of Silver — floating like the Minority Report precogs in a pool of raw data slime, divining an Obama victory:
Background Music: “I heard there was a secret poll Nate Silver scored that pleased the Lord, but you don’t really care for math now do you?”
Elimination Notes: Dick Morris, while consistently, spectacularly wrong, is only a runner-up because he is just a guy who is bad at his job. On any given day, you could read a few articles on Memeorandum and know more than Dick Morris about anything and everything.
Most Over-The-Top Campaign Ad
Winner: Mitt Romney Jeep Ad
In a crowning achievement, Mitt Romney simultaneously lied and failed the hardest with his ad suggesting Jeep was moving production from its assembly complex in Toledo, Ohio, to China.
Both Chrysler and GM sharply criticized the ad (“politics at its cynical worst”) because it wasn’t, you know, true. Obama piled on. Worst of all, media in Ohio — the key swing state Romney had hoped to reach with the ad — were unanimously brutal. Ohio saw it for exactly what it was: a desperate hail mary.
In the end, it won in only one respect, as Politifact’s Lie of the Year.