- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

In its third year, the Noble and Knaves Contest has become something of a tradition here on the editorial page. If not quite as highly regarded as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, our contest is absolutely more democratic, since you the readers decide. And you didn’t make it easy for us: This year’s vote tally was the closest in the contest’s history. With the frontrunners changing every day, we recalled John Kerry’s concession-speech promise to make every vote count. Fortified by his words, we labored on. And just as the ball was about to drop in Times Square, the winners finally emerged.

For Knave of the Year, the contest proved tightest. Perhaps this was because in an election year any number of silly things can be said, and many are. Knave of the week twice in 2004, former President Jimmy Carter earned numerous nominations for using a child’s funeral to bash the Iraq war, as well as calling the war that won us our independence “unnecessary.” Also earning top marks was another two-time Knave of the week, Mr. Kerry. Not only did Mr. Kerry slap every National Guardsmen in the face by comparing them to draft dodgers last February, but he also suggested during the campaign that President Bush might reinstate the draft if re-elected. Mr. Kerry’s campaign team revealed a similar shamelessness when it tried to silence the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth by filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was a crowd favorite, as was also-ran Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. A lot of readers were quite upset at Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, for leaving out “under God” while he led the House in the Pledge of Allegiance. But more readers were steamed at Sen. Harry Reid for some uncouth comments about a sitting federal judge on the Senate floor — a Knave-of-the-week moment he recently surpassed by calling Justice Clarence Thomas an “embarrassment.” For consciously ignoring the swift boat veterans’ ads, the mainstream media was at varying times a frontrunner. Closing out the top, however, was Sen. Ted Kennedy, who lost by just two votes. Readers remembered with apparent opprobrium how Mr. Kennedy equated the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal to Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers; and were equally upset when he asked for his own commemorative library at the University of Virginia.

Here are your top knaves, followed by the votes they received:

• Howard Dean: 26

• The Kerry campaign: 33

• Rep. Jim McDermott: 36

• Sen. Harry Reid: 40

• U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: 47

• Former President Jimmy Carter: 53

• Sen. John Kerry: 73

• The mainstream media: 81

• Sen. Ted Kennedy: 84

As 2004 was an election year, numerous clowns demanded the spotlight. No one, perhaps not even 2003’s Knave Michael Moore, spewed as much hatred and foolishness as the billionaire who financed them all. The liberal cavalier, who fancies himself at times a high-browed scholar and America’s moral voice, bankrolled every left-wing outfit from MoveOn.org to America Coming Together. But his most egregious offense came when he equated some shameful soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison with the September 11 hijackers, and their prisoners — lest we forget, many of them terrorists — with the victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

With a total of 86 votes, George Soros is the Knave of the Year.

Before listing the top nobles of 2004, several readers wanted to know why certain individuals (Mr. Bush) and groups (the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) were not included. The easy answer is because neither Mr. Bush nor the swift boat vets were ever Nobles of the week. Both earned numerous full-length editorials (one even received our endorsement) that applauded (and at times criticized) their actions.

While 2004’s top nobles are by no means marginal figures, the Saturday feature is intended as a space to honor those individuals whose accomplishments might otherwise go unheralded. A classic example of the kind of accomplishment the editorial board appreciates was found in Judge Raad Juhi, the Iraqi who has questioned Saddam and many of his former cronies in the Ba’ath regime. So dangerous was his job (he has survived numerous assassination attempts) that Western media outlets honored Judge Juhi’s request for anonymity, until he consented to be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. We are happy to see his name among the top ten. The Iraqi citizens of Thul Fiqar al Battar, who rose up against renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, also received scant attention by media outlets, but are here honored by our readers.

Many of the top nobles seemed to have one common characteristic: They inspire others to do great deeds. There was Sgt.-Maj. James Jordan choosing to go with his troops to Iraq rather than retire; Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi standing firm while terrorists held his citizens hostage; the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division for a year-long tour in Iraq; and Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal who gave up fame and fortune to serve in Afghanistan. He was killed in action in April.

Others arose from the depths of an election year. There was senior White House political adviser Karl Rove, who, by designing Mr. Bush’s successful campaign, showed that he understands America better than anyone on the left; Rear Admiral William Schachte Jr., for uncompromising resolve in the face of Mr. Kerry’s attack dogs; and of course the bloggers, the scourge of the mainstream media, for their dedication to honest reporting.

Here are your top nobles, followed by the votes they received.

• Judge Raad Juhi: 17

• Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: 18

• The Iraqi citizens of Thul Fiqar al Battar: 22

• Sgt. Maj. James Jordan: 27

• Karl Rove: 30

• The Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division: 72

• The bloggers: 75

• Ret. Rear Adm. William Schachte Jr.: 86

• Pat Tillman: 102

But in the end, of all people, it was a celebrity, or in this case, an artist, who readers most admired. There are few works of art that capture a moment as perfectly as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” While the rest of Hollywood campaigned, Mr. Gibson created, and with his own $25 million produced a film that awed the world. For his sacrifice, he was attacked as an anti-Semite, yet he refused to answer the cheap shots leveled at his father, Hutton.

With a total of 114 votes, the Noble of the Year is Mel Gibson.

We would like to thank our readers who participated in the contest as well as wish all our readers a Happy New Year.



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