- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

A little introduction. Throughout the year on my website, I solicit nominations for various “awards” for sundry literary and political excrescences. And at the end of the year, a distinguished panel of judges (okay, it’s me) select the winners. So, here’s a Hall of Fame of Idiocy for 2002. Enjoy, and here’s hoping next year will bring fewer nominees.

Begala award winner:

For excessive liberal rhetoric.
Bush’s ‘mandate’ “includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich. It includes giving corporations a free hand to eviscerate the environment and control the regulatory agencies meant to hold them accountable. And it includes secrecy on a scale you cannot imagine. Above all, it means judges with a political agenda appointed for life. If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what’s coming. And if you like God in government, get ready for the Rapture. These folks don’t even mind you referring to the GOP as the party of God. Why else would the new House Majority Leader say that the Almighty is using him to promote ‘a Biblical worldview’ in American politics? So, it is a heady time in Washington a heady time for piety, profits, and military power, all joined at the hip by ideology and money.” Bill Moyers, paid for in part by your tax dollars, on PBS.

Begala award runner-up:
“Give the Republicans credit. They know what they stand for. Tax cuts. Guns. Bombs. Oil. Big business. Old boy networks. Privatization. Plundering the earth. Pillorying and padlocking the poor. Party-line votes.” Derrick Z. Jackson, the Boston Globe.

Sontag award winner:
For egregious anti-Americanism in the war on terror.
“It is not enough for Bush to be President of the United States, he must become the Emperor of the World. This unclothed emperor is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no brains. In the years before us, I fear there will be causes worth dying for. There will be tyrants so unstoppable that we will have to fight them to preserve our own freedom. But that is not the case now. Instead of standing up against tyranny, we are bringing it to our own doorstep. We have met the enemy, and it is us.” Glenda Gilmore, professor of history, Yale University.

Sontag award runner-up:

“Having swept the Palestinians into the arms of the supreme terrorist Ariel Sharon, the Christian Right fundamentalists running the plutocracy in Washington, now replenish their arsenal in preparation for an attack on the 22 million suffering people of Iraq. Should anyone need reminding, Iraq is a nation held hostage to an American-led embargo every bit as barbaric as the dictatorship over which Iraqis have no control. Contrary to propaganda orchestrated from Washington and London, the coming attack has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’, if these exist at all. The reason is that America wants a more compliant thug to run the world’s second greatest source of oil.” John Pilger, The Observer.

Derbyshire award winner
For right-wing hysteria and hyperbole.
“In fact, Andrew McKelvey’s network [Americans for Gun Safety] kind of operates and sounds a lot like Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda. A billionaire with an extremist political agenda, subverting honest diplomacy, using personal wealth to train and deploy activists, looking for vulnerabilities to attack, fomenting fear for political gain, funding an ongoing campaign to hijack your freedom and take a box-cutter to the Constitution. That’s political terrorism, and it’s a far greater threat to your freedom than any foreign force.” Wayne LaPierre, at the NRA Convention, according to Americans for Gun Safety.

Derbyshire award runner-up:

“It counts as evidence that Fr. Maciel unqualifiedly and totally denies the charges. It counts as evidence that priests in the Legion whom I know very well and who, over many years, have a detailed knowledge of Fr. Maciel and the Legion say that the charges are diametrically opposed to everything they know for certain. It counts as evidence that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and others who have looked into the matter say that the charges are completely without merit. It counts as evidence that Pope John Paul II, who almost certainly is aware of the charges, has strongly, consistently, and publicly praised Fr. Maciel and the Legion. Much of what we know we take on trust. I trust these people.” Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, still trusting whatever the Catholic hierarchy says about its members.

Poseur alert winner

For stupendously pretentious writing:
“If there’s anything that confounds the British more than American optimism, it’s baseball, which brings together on one bright pastoral greensward those twin nineteenth-century American deliriums: industrialization and individualism. Baseball turns into fun the oppressions of industry management, productivity, accounting, specialization, even stealing and yet the pageant of winners and losers in this proto-corporate world also allows for goodness to be measured, made immutable, and, thanks to the eternal vigilance of statistics, kept alive. Baseball is a game some would say a ritual of hope.” John Lahr, The New Yorker.

Poseur alert runner-up:

From Vanity Fair’s “Proust Questionnaire” of Gary Hart:

“What is your idea of perfect happiness?
HART: Reading The Odyssey in classical Greek on board a three-masted schooner off the island of Chios.”

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