- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

We are pleased today to present the results of the 2007 Noble and Knave of the Year contest. Enormous thanks are in order for the readers of The Washington Times, without whom this contest wouldn’t be possible. Without further ado, your winners:

In an unusual three-way tie for eighth place in the Knave of the Year category were Ted Turner of CNN, Marine Sgt. Timothy Allen DeBusk and George Washington University President Stephen Knapp. Readers may remember any of Mr. Turner’s boneheaded comments about the state of affairs in North Korea, but his most recent — that North Koreans are “all thin. And being thin is healthier than being fat” — earned him a top spot on our list. Perhaps Mr. Turner ought to watch his own news station. He might learn that many North Koreans are thin because they are starving.

DeBusk is another deserving knave. He forged documents to claim that he had been injured in Iraq in order to obtain special vanity license plates. Aside from the illegality of his actions, for which he is now serving 18 months of probation, DeBusk tarnished the good name of the Purple Heart.

It was surprising to editors that Mr. Knapp received nearly twice the votes for Knave of the Year than did the seven GW graduate students whose actions paved the way for Mr. Knapp’s knavery. The students plastered satirical anti-Muslim posters around campus to paint a conservative group, the Young America’s Foundation, as racist for hosting Islamo-fascism week. Muslim students were offended and the wrong students were blamed for the posters. Once the real perpetrators were fingered, though, Mr. Knapp wavered. Many readers felt that the students who put up the posters should have been expelled, but a call to the university this week for an update suggested that punishment may have fallen by the wayside. While it is understandable that student disciplinary records would be kept confidential, when asked if the perpetrators were still in attendance at GW, university spokesman Tracy Schario said yes, “to the best of my knowledge.”

Coming in at No. 7 is D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who broke tradition by accepting an invitation to sit with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the State of the Union address and snubbed First Lady Laura Bush. Local readers were disgusted by Mr. Fenty’s obvious partisan stunt and called it inexcusable.

Another mayor earned the ire of readers by pandering to illegal aliens. No. 6, New Haven, Conn., Mayor John DeStefano, announced a program to turn his into a sanctuary city by providing illegals with identification cards for access to public services. Like most pro-illegal lawmakers, Mr. DeStefano claimed this was in the name of public safety, but we know it’s because he doesn’t want to enforce the laws.

What is there to say, really, about No. 5, Michael Vick? The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback was busted for running a dog-fighting ring and sentenced to 23 months in prison. His presence on this list is self-explanatory.

When a UCLA student exposed the illegal practices of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles — which encouraged underage girls to lie about their age to avoid reporting potential statutory rapes — they turned around to sue the young reporter. Not only were the employees breaking the law, but they were jeopardizing the safety of young girls and trying to deflect their own culpability. Readers voted Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles to the No. 4 position.

The top three slots for Knave of the Year were separated by only one vote each. The Iraqi insurgents who used children as decoys to set off car bombs eked out a third-place finish. This heartbreaking story showed the extreme violence the insurgents are capable of. A car passed through a Baghdad security checkpoint with little suspicion because of the two children in the backseat. But the driver parked the car and bolted, leaving the children to perish as the bomb detonated. Readers concurred that enemies like these solidify our resolve to finish the job we started in erasing global jihadist terror.

The top scorers for Knave of the Year are both members of the press. They both made foot-in-mouth statements and they both should have known better. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC said, in an interview with Playboy magazine, that Fox News is “worse than al Qaeda” and “as dangerous” as the Ku Klux Klan. We’re not aware of the news organization’s involvement in deadly terror attacks or white supremacy, so we’ll just assume that Mr. Olbermann is misinformed. His statements were crass and vulgar, and he is fitting company on this list of fools.

Without further ado, we give you the Knave of the Year: William Arkin. Although it was a narrow victory, voters pointed to Mr. Arkin as the worst offender for his remarks about American troops. In a column on The Washington Post Web site, Mr. Arkin referred to the troops as mercenaries and it wasn’t only readers of our paper who were insulted. An editor’s note above the article now explains that because of the incredible quantity of comments posted on the site, the comments section was actually shut down for that particular story. Mr. Arkin has since apologized for his use of the word “mercenary,” but clearly he has not yet been forgiven.

Considering the dismal approval rating of President Bush, it was surprising to see him make it to the top 10 in the Nobles category. Perhaps that is a testament to just how much our readers dislike the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Mr. Bush was commended for vetoing.

Many of you also wanted to recognize the efforts of rescue workers across the country. When disasters strike, these tireless men and women spring into action to lend a hand, sometimes losing their own lives. They are truly selfless and truly deserving of their No. 9 spot on the Nobles list.

Several “everymen” made it to the list this year, and perhaps it is because we find exceptional inspiration in ordinary folks who do extraordinary things. Take F. Keith Miller, the Virginia high-school food-services manager who spends his extra cash on a student scholarship. Or Jeanne Assam, the ex-cop and volunteer security guard with nerves of steel who faced off against a crazed gunman in a Colorado church. Tied with Miss Assam for the No. 7 spot was Capt. Daniel Rooney, a fighter pilot in the Oklahoma National Guard and a professional golfer. Readers applauded Capt. Rooney for organizing Patriot Golf Day, which charged golfers across the country an extra dollar to go to the families of wounded soldiers. This year, Patriot Golf Day raised $1.1 million.

Just barely sneaking into the No. 5 position is North Carolina State’s Attorney Roy Cooper, who dismissed the ludicrous lawsuit against three Duke University lacrosse players. The story made national headlines for months and turned into a media circus, with (former) runaway prosecutor Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong at the helm.

The No. 3 spot finds another tie between Norman Borlaug, also known as “the apostle of wheat,” and Hal Koster, the restaurateur fondly known for his Friday-night dinners for wounded soldiers. Mr. Borlaug’s agricultural developments helped prevent millions from starving. Mr. Koster was honored by the American Legion for his work with the nonprofit organization Aleethia, which raises money to fund outings for the men and women recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

This year’s top honorees received more than double the votes of the next closest winner. The trend, unsurprisingly, was toward recognizing those who sacrificed themselves to save others. Were it to have a different name, this column could be called Heroes and Knaves of the week. At No. 2 is Liviu Librescu, a professor at Virginia Tech, who blockaded his classroom door to allow his students to escape while Cho Seung-Hui ravaged the school. In his lifetime, Mr. Librescu survived the Holocaust and a brutal Romanian dictatorship but will forever be remembered for giving up his own life to save his students.

And, at last, we are pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Noble of the Year contest. On Jan. 11, Cpl. Jason Dunham became the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor in the war on terror. Nearly three years after he used his body to smother an insurgent’s grenade to save two fellow Marines, President Bush posthumously honored Cpl. Dunham for his incredible bravery and dedication to his mission. At the ceremony, Cpl. Dunham’s father said “Jason believed that all men on this earth should be free. He also believed in his friends.” We could not think of a more appropriate remark, nor of a man more deserving of the title Noble of the Year.

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