Sunday, January 1, 2006

The votes are in and it’s official. This year’s Noble and Knave of the Year contest was the most popular to date. Readers from Hawaii to Baghdad weighed in with their nominees, as well as to express how much they enjoy our Saturday feature. The Editorial Board is humbled by your support and wishes to thank everyone who participated.

As in years past, for Knave of the Year, the contest proved tightest. Although not as close as last year’s, when George Soros beat out Sen. Ted Kennedy by a mere two votes for the top dishonor, nearly every voter included the two frontrunners on his or her ballot. But before we get to them, let’s reminisce on some of 2005’s lesser Knaves — though that’s a relative distinction — like Al Gore.

It’s tough in today’s political environment to stay in the headlines, especially when no one’s quite sure what you do. Thus is Mr. Gore’s plight. After a stint in the vice presidential mansion, inventing the Internet and growing a beard, Mr. Gore has morphed into America’s greatest crusader for the well-being of Mother Earth, which means the Editorial Board won’t be in need of a Knave of the week in the foreseeable future. Another perennial Knave of the week is the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, which didn’t fail to amuse when it chose International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei as 2005’s greatest peace-monger. The Iranian mullahs are laughing especially hard.

On the less humorous side is Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff. Readers weren’t too happy that the colonel described Vice President Cheney as a war criminal to a foreign audience. That’s pretty knavish, but not as knavish as sometime professor Kamau Kambon, whose solution to the world’s problems is to “exterminate white people,” as he told an audience at Howard University. Call it a final solution. Elsewhere on America’s campuses, the forecast called for conservative speakers with a heavy downpour of pies, as students attempted to silence alternative points of view with flour and sugar. Nor did readers overlook the transgressions of two Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee staffers, Katie Barge and Lauren Weiner, who pilfered a copy of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele’s credit report. You can call that a felony.

Like Mr. Kambon, a lot of Knaves of the week earn their mark by the silly things they say. Take Leah Hodges, a New Orleans community leader, who testified before a congressional committee that the plight of blacks in her hurricane-ravaged city was on par with the Holocaust. Or Rep. Charles Rangel, the Bush-bashing firebrand who compared the Iraq war to the Holocaust; or Harry Belafonte, who compared blacks in the Bush administration to Hitler’s purported promotion of Jews. Here’s a hint, Knaves: When you get the itch to compare anything to Hitler and the Holocaust, don’t scratch it.

The year that just was also happened to be a year of a particularly acute case of delirium in the upper echelons of the Democratic party. With so many knaves to choose from, the Editorial Board, in its benevolent wisdom, just lumped them all together as the Democratic leadership: Chairman Howard Dean, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, not to mention a handfull of lesser lights like Sen. Dick Durbin and everyone’s favorite, Sen. Ted Kennedy. No need to run down the list of knavery here, since readers seem to have a longer memory than Democrats would like.

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

• Nobel Prize Committee/Col. Lawrence Wilkerson: 15

• Katie Barge and Lauren Weiner: 20

• Kamau Kambon: 26

• Leah Hodges: 30

• Al Gore/Campus Pie Throwers: 36

• Harry Belafonte: 42

• Rep. Charles Rangel: 47

• The Democratic leadership: 160

If elections consumed the news cycle in 2004, then the Iraq war filled the void in 2005. Taking its cue from the Democratic leadership mentioned above, the U.S. media was notable only for its refusal to be fair. Champagne corks popped across newsrooms with each uptick of the public’s seemingly growing disapproval of the war. That’s to be expected, especially when bad news is the only news deemed fit to print. A case in point: Left-wing stooge Cindy Sheehan draws hundreds of cameras and is on the front-page of every major newspaper in the country, while three successful elections in Iraq are somehow cast as a prelude to civil war. Americans have come to expect media bias in political matters, but when it’s about our soldiers and the cause they’re fighting for (and winning), the media’s performance in 2005 was despicable. With a total of 176 votes, the U.S. media is the Knave of the Year.

A general pattern has emerged in the few years the Editorial Board has conducted this contest: Readers respect sacrifice. Whether on the battlefield or at the ballot box, man’s divine ability to set aside his individual needs for the greater good is the mark of true nobility.

Another pattern that has emerged is that readers really don’t like Jane Fonda. And so many were delighted to hear the story of theater-owner Ike Boutwell, who as a younger man trained military pilots during the Vietnam war. Considering Miss Fonda had some fun on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, Mr. Boutwell decided he would not show her new movie at his theater. A similar story took place in Denmark, where pizzeria owner Aage Bjerre refused to serve French and German tourists, because of their governments’ appeasement of Saddam Hussein. Some might call that discrimination. Our readers called it noble. As was District Court Judge Loretta Preska’s decision to throw out a ridiculous “global warming” case brought by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer against energy companies. Posthumous honors went to Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal, whose lifelong crusade to bring Hitler’s henchmen to justice stands in marked contrast to those willing to allow dictators a place at the negotiating table.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina also brought out the best in many. Readers thanked the first-responders with a top ten nomination, as well as the American people for the selfless donation of millions of dollars, not only for Katrina victims but also for victims of the tsunami which struck Southeast Asia late last year.

The Editorial Board was happy to see readers honor a heroine of last century, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who turned 80 this year. With Ronald Reagan now departed, Lady Thatcher remains as an iron symbol of the West’s defense of freedom.

But the Iraq war loomed above all else. The Marine Corps silenced its critics when it acquitted a soldier of murdering a Fallujah terrorist last year. In war, it’s called fighting, and no one has ever done it better than U.S. Marines. Readers were even more inspired by the determination of the Iraqi people, as they work alongside U.S. soldiers to build a better nation. Iraqis have come through decades of villainous tyranny, endured a insurgency that kills more of them than U.S. soldiers, and still their courage has yet to waver.

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

• Aage Bjerre: 23

• Judge Loretta Preska: 26

• The first responders: 31

• Simon Wiesenthal/Margaret Thatcher: 35

• The Marine Corps: 46

• Ike Boutwell: 75

• The American people: 78

• The Iraqi people: 115

Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith was in an engineering unit supporting the 3rd Infantry Division’s advance toward Baghdad in the early stages of the Iraq war. On April 4, 2003, while attempting to take Baghdad Airport, Sgt. Smith and his men were pinned down by advancing units of Saddam’s elite Republican Guard. When his unit was hit by both a rocket-propelled grenade and a mortar, wounding three soldiers, Sgt. Smith’s situation became desperate. “That was when Sgt. Smith made a decision with the gallantry of the Medal of Honor,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Smith, Sgt. Smith’s commander. “He got in the M-113 [armored vehicle] … and had [the driver] back up to just the point where he could cover all three of the Republican Guard targets … We know he went through three boxes of ammunition.” Sgt. Smith’s heroism saved 100 of his men, while costing his own. President Bush posthumously awarded Sgt. Smith the Medal of Honor in April — the first of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. With a total of 172 votes, it gives the Editorial Board no greater pleasure than to name this year’s Noble Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith.

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