Here are my picks for "The Golden Dukes Awards" at TalkingPointsMemo, celebrating the year's biggest crooks and liars in American politics.
However, I'm only one of five judges!
Go to TPM to see the final verdict... It turns out we were unanimous in the "Local Scandal" category, but we had controversy in all the other areas.
Nominees came from TPM readers and staff... and the judges are John Dean, Dahlia Lithwick, Jack Shafer, Paul Kiel, and myself.Here's my picks below, but I'm sure you'll enjoy reading the other judges' arguments at TPM...
Meritorious Achievement in The Crazy
Orly Taitz, Attorney at Loose
A litigious dentist who might rival Hunter Thompson in ether-delusions, Orly Taitz is the craziest birther of them all.
Her television presence is what really tilts the DSM manual. Every time Taitz opens her mouth, she sounds like Zza Zza Gabor bitching out a Beverly Hills cop. Is there an Orly Taitz bobble-head available, with subtitles?
Forget her contempt of court citations— Orly epitomizes the racial contempt that underlines the birthers’ demand for a birth certificate from a man they don’t even think of as a human equal, let alone the President. This mob does nothing but come up with new ciphers for White Insecurity, and Orly is their Platinum Homecoming Queen.
Best Public Policy-Based Fib
Sarah Palin’s Death Panels
Most lies get one big chance. Their mendacity blooms, everyone takes a big sniff, and then it gets cut off or withers away.
Not Death Panels.
This notion, most passionately co-opted by Sarah Palin, was the Hydra-Headed Hysteria the VRWC always dreamed of. As soon as one head got cut off, another opened its yap.
Palin’s Death Panel posturing did more to screw “healthcare reform” (a phrase now forever captured in quotation marks) than any other effort the insurance industry poured into their venal lobbying.
Of course, Sarah didn’t originate the idea— she steals everything. But because she invoked the vision of her INFANT CHILD being sent off to Death Camp by Obama’s Public Option gas chamber, she wins the Crown of Skulls.
Outstanding Achievement in Corruption-based Chutzpah
Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona
"America's Worst Sheriff" wins it.
Joe doesn’t just steal, cheat, lie, ruin innocent lives, and boast about it— he also arrests you if you cross him and then he throws away the key.
In fact, the real threat to the Golden Dukes this year is that if Joe wins the Duke, every judge on the TPM panel may be wearing pink underwear and toting pick axes out on a chain gang in the Arizona desert by next week. Consider my choice: courageous.
Best Scandal, Sex and Generalized Carnality
Gov. Mark Sanford, South Carolina
Few scandals rise to the level of elevating the English vernacular. “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” is one of the best euphemisms of the decade, not just the year.
Sanford is a peculiar tragic figure because he wore his deluded heart on his sleeve, a trait his mistress in Argentina did not share. I’ve been waiting for the other hiking boot to drop on his story— not Jenny Sanford’s divorce proceedings, but Mark’s inevitable realization that Miss Argentina may not feel the same way about him that he feels about her.
Markie doesn’t see politics, sex work, and marriage for what they are. Instead, he lives in a boyish dream world cosseted with Divine Blessings from the C-Street Commune. Their entire fraternity should be getting this Dukey, but for now, Sanford can carry the Lubed Scepter.
Best Scandal, Local Venue
Ciavarella & Conahan, Pennsylvania:
The Judges who Sent Kids to Jail for Kickbacks
Does the phrase “beneath contempt” have any meaning to predators like these two?
I don't care how much sex or cash the other nominees stuffed in their pie-holes— no one else thought it would be a great idea to poach thousands and thousands of kids— many of whom had done nothing whatsoever criminal— and throw them away in a prison with no release date, all so they could get a tidy little taxpayer check for each victim. $2.6 million, to be exact.
The Duke Statuette is too good for them— could crowns of fanged serpents be arranged?
Best Scandal, General Interest
Jack Bonner (& Associates!)
If someone ever finds the smoking speculum in the Palin Baby-Go-Round, which explains the implausible circuitry of Palin family pregnancies, illicit affairs, and gothic revenge schemes,THAT would indeed be the scandal of the year, given the Second Coming platform upon which Palin has nailed herself.
But Andrew Sullivan is not quite Sam Spade and we don’t have the Black Bird in our hands. Perhaps another year!
Instead, I’d like to nominate a dark horse who epitomizes the kind of people who think the voting booth is for suckers: Jack Bonner.
If you want to know how traction is gained by any of the “crazies on the right,” you need look no further than “Bonner and Associates.”
Through the use of “white collar sweatshops”— Jack’s own term for his underpaid temps— Bonner engineered “astroturf campaigns,” a concept he virtually invented. His mouth-dropping machinations produced cover for Congressmen, be they GOP-kook or Moderate (Cough-Cough) Democrat, to vote foursquare against the interests of their constituents.
Health care, bank reform, labor law, consumer protection— what area of public good and welfare hasn’t been hatcheted by this man and his ilk? This is the kind of "lobbying" that puts democracy in a wood chipper.
Cash for Kids Judges