The 2010 Public Misconduct Awards

    There’s an old song about show biz that begins, “The clown, with his pants falling down/ Or the dance, that’s a dream of romance/ Or the scene, where the villain is mean/ That’s entertainment!”That also sounds like a salute to national politics, where clowns and villains abound. So let’s put our hands together for the 2010 winners. The envelopes, please…The “Get Off My Lawn” Award goes to Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning. The notoriously cantankerous Republican blocked President Obama’s nominee for the post of Deputy U.S. Trade Representative. Why? Because Bunning wanted the trade office to file a protest against Canada. Why? Because Canada has a law that bans candy-flavored cigarettes. So why would Bunning care? Because his Kentucky tobacco pals don’t like that law. But Bunning’s finest moment was in February, when he single-handedly blocked an extension of jobless benefits. When Senate Democrats begged him to cease his obstruction and, in essence, to stop screwing around with people’s lives, the esteemed senator uncorked his fastball. He told his colleagues: “Tough s–t.”The “Talk to the Hand, Girlfriend” Award goes to Sarah Palin (of course), for demonstrating at a tea-party event that she’s cognitively incapable of conversing spontaneously about lifting the American spirit without first peeking at her palm and finding the ink-etched words, “Lift American Spirit.”Least Likely To Appear on a Navy Recruitment Poster: Democratic congressman Eric Massa. He quit his House seat in March, and showed up on Glenn Beck’s show to explain why: “They’re saying I groped a male staffer. Yeah, I did. Not really grope him. I tickled him ’til he couldn’t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday…I should have never allowed myself to be as familiar with my staff as I was. I never translated my days in the Navy to being a congressman.” He also said that “tickle fights” are common in the Navy, and he even brought some visual aids, promising Beck that “I’m gonna show you a lot more than tickle fights…It looks like an orgy in Caligula.” This was too much even for Beck, who heretofore had seemed impervious to embarassment.Environmental Citizens of the Year: The folks at British Petroleum. When BP filed its emergency plan in 2009, it listed Peter Lutz as a go-to wildlife specialist, a guy who should be called in the unlikely event that BP fouled the Gulf of Mexico. Turns out, Peter Lutz died in 2005.Corporate Servant of the Year: Texas Republican congressman Joe Barton, who last summer took it upon himself to apologize to BP for the rough reception that the corporation was receiving in Washington. The White House had prodded BP to set aside $20 billion, to be paid out to victims of the disaster. Barton said he was “ashamed” that the Obama administration was treating BP in such a fashion. As he told BP’s CEO: “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House…I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown.” This was too much even for the Republican leadership, which forced Barton to apologize for his apology. So the next day, Barton said his remarks may have been “misconstrued,” which is the Washington definition of an apology.Ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush wins Best Metaphor for his description of Democratic strategist James Carville: “He looks like a fish that swam too close to a nuclear reactor.”The “Top This One, John Edwards” Award goes to Mark “I am an evangelical Christian” Souder, an Indiana family-values conservative who quit his House seat in May after confessing that he had long been shacking up with a paid staffer. Yeah, I know, that’s standard stuff. But the best part was the video that he taped in November ’09, in which he bragged to constituents about his strict morality and his commitment to abstinence-only sex education. On the video, the aide who fed him the softball questions was his paramour.The Sharron Angle Award for Chewing One’s Own Foot naturally goes to Sharron Angle, the tea party’s gift to Harry Reid. It’s tough to identify the one remark that epitomized her Senate swan dive, but her autumn appearance at the Rancho High School Hispanic Student Union is arguably the tops. Gazing at her audience of young Latinos, she declared: “You know, I don’t know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me.” You go, white lady. No wonder Latinos- the fastest-growing ethnicity in the electorate, particularly in the populous west – have been loathe to cozy up to the GOP.Speaking of Harry Reid, he gets his own Angle Trophy for the way he spun the economic news late last winter. The advance forecast was that 75,000 Americans would lose their jobs in February; turned out, the job-loss tally was 36,000. Reid took the news to the Senate floor, and here’s how he framed it: “Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good.” Yeah, it was a really good day, Harry…except for those 36,000 people.And Do You, Trigger, Take This Man To Be Your Lawful Wedded Wife? J.D. Hayworth, the conservative talk show host who challenged John McCain in the Arizona Senate primary, offered the year’s most creative argument against gay marriage: “Now, how dangerous is that? I guess that would mean if you really had affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse. It’s just the wrong way to go.”Fox News Phantasmagoria of the Year: So many choices, so hard to choose. Maybe it was the lie about how President Obama’s India trip supposedly cost $200 million a day (the fake stat was floated by one Indian news agency, quoting an anonymous Indian province “official” who didn’t know anything). Or maybe it was the lie about how health care reform would supposedly compel the IRS to hire and unleash 16,000 new agents on the American public (the stat was invented by House Republicans). But I vote for the Fox-induced hysteria over the president’s Nuclear Security Summit logo. You don’t remember that one? In April, Fox and Fox’s friends at the New York Post reported that the logo featured a circular shape resembling a crescent – much like the crescent featured on Muslim nation flags. Turned out, the logo was inspired by Danish scientist Neils Bohr’s 1915 depiction of an atom. So much for that freakout…But wait, don’t the Danes have national health insurance?The Too Many Fastballs to the Head Award goes to Baltimore Orioles first-sacker Luke Scott, who strayed too far afield earlier this month on a sports website. Referring to President Obama, Scott opined: “He was not born here. That’s my belief. I was born here. If someone accuses me of not being born here, I can go — within 10 minutes — to my filing cabinet and I can pick up my real birth certificate and I can go, ‘See? Look! Here it is. Here it is.’ The man has dodged everything, he doesn’t answer anything. And why? Because he’s hiding something.”As the old song goes:Hip hooray, the American way,The world is a stage,The stage is a world of entertainnn…ment!I’m off tomorrow. Party on this weekend – safely. See you Monday on the flip side.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.