We’re wrapping up a very serious and somber year. There’s been a gloom hovering over these United States that’s only occasionally lifted by widespread escapism, alternate realities and hashtags.
We care more about comparing John Boehner’s fake tan to Snooki’s than his economic policies to President Obama’s. But that’s fine. For many of us, it hurts too much to laugh, and we’re too big to cry. So we try to find comfort in the offbeat, the inane, the completely absurd.
So indulge yourself in this list of the Top 10 Political Facepalms of 2010. Then, if it’s not too much trouble, go solve all our nation’s problems when you’re done reading, k thx bye.
10. This Way to the Egress: Charlie Rangel Exits Own Ethics Hearing
The entire political spectrum in mid-November came together to share a post-partisan laugh at Rep. Charlie Rangel’s abrupt exit from his own Congressional ethics hearing. Rangel stood, made a short speech declaring he wouldn’t take part in the proceedings, and bolted for the door. A House ethics panel later found Rangel guilty on 11 counts of breaking House rules, including his failure to properly disclose rental income on his Dominican villa and improper usage of his rent-stabilized apartments.
9. Big F*&kin’ Deal: VP Joe Biden Contributes to the White House Swear Jar
It’s a story that will be re-told for generations: Harry Truman’s vision for universal health-care finally realized more than 50 years later. Well, not quite. But it’s close enough for government work.
Here’s the scene: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden walk side-by-side to the podium, surrounded by journalists and photographers all eagerly positioned to capture this historic event. The vice president introduces the president as they share the customary embrace. Obama’s about to take the microphone. Biden leans closer to whisper something in the Obama’s ear and…he said what?!? Yes, Biden known for putting his foot in his mouth, summed up the landmark legislative achievement the only way he knew how: “THIS IS A BIG FUCKIN’ DEAL,” he whispered. Into a hot mic.
It’s understandable when a politician says something stupid without knowing there’s a mic nearby. But this was a press conference! Still, the best part came months later when Biden told GQ: “Well, it was!”
8. And, Now, Introducing: Jimmy McMillan
Gubernatorial debates have never traditionally been national events. But New York’s mid-October debate at Hofstra University made national headlines by transforming itself into a three-ring circus.
Frontrunner Andrew Cuomo and his hotheaded Republican challenger Carl Paladino showed up. But so did five other candidates, including the former madam who booked girls for former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer, a former Black Panther, and a guy who looked entirely too much like Hollywood Hulk Hogan in blackface. Rent Is 2 Damn High Party candidate Jimmy McMillan stayed on message more than any politician in history, repeating over and over that…well, you already know his mantra, but you can watch the highlights again here. We caught up with him after the debate for some word association and fill-in-the-blanks:
And if politics weren’t strange enough in 2010, McMillan last week declared that he’s running against President Obama in 2012: “Tell Obama I’m coming after his black ass,” he said. Seriously.
7. RNC Seeks S&M: The GOP Expense Account Just Got Weird
You almost have to feel sorry for Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. To say the guy hasn’t had a smooth run as chairman is putting it mildly. He’s sort of the Joe Biden of the right, a perpetually wince-inducing public speaker, only he doesn’t have Biden’s accomplishments or charm. Gaffes are one thing, but having $2,000 worth of bondage-themed nightclub fun charged to the RNC on his watch is another. Someone must’ve really taken some hot-fun advantage of the restraint chair that evening. The nightclub, Voyeur in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, promises “a destination for provocative revelry that combines eroticism and nightlife exclusivity.” And with a tagline like that, who could stay away? We’re all for eroticism, but these Republicans probably went for the “exclusivity” part.
6. What a Dick: Blumenthal Admits Making Sh!t Up About Vietnam
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal trounced WWE First Lady Linda McMahon during the Connecticut Senate race. But that certainly doesn’t mean he ran a blunder-free campaign; it just means McMahon was a lousy candidate who, despite spending $50 million to Blumenthal’s $8 million, couldn’t body slam her way into the Senate. Blumenthal won the race, but his political career took a huge hit when he, as Roger Clemens would testify, “misremembered” his Vietnam service. As in, he served:
Cue Lee Corso: Not so fast, my friend. The New York Times reported that he was only in the reserves and received five military deferments from 1965 to 1970, specifically to avoid going to Vietnam. Blumenthal acted quickly, called a press conference, stood tall with some military veterans, and said he misspoke: “On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and I regret that and I take full responsibility.” It’s damn near impossible to take full responsibility while continuing to lie, but that’s politics. Why we let politicians get away with the “misspeak” excuse is beyond comprehension. Lies.
Blumenthal also misspoke about the time he orbited Earth with John Glenn on the Mercury-Atlas 6 Friendship 7 spacecraft, the days he marched from Selma to Montgomery, the night he hit a dribbler through the legs of Bill Buckner and that time he told Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!”
5. Heil, Boehner: Republican House Candidate Enjoys Dressing Up Like a Nazi
Marcy Kaptur is a long-time Democrat incumbent representing Ohio’s 9th District. Finishing her 14th term, she’s now the longest-serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives. She’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, fights hard for the working class in this country, and pursues vigorously campaign finance reform as a member of the Democratic Party’s “non-money wing.”
And she damn near almost lost her 2010 House race to a Tea Party favorite named Rich Iott, who The Atlantic uncovered to be part of a fantasy group that calls itself Wiking, which is devoted to re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division. Wait, huh?
Yup. He’s a Nazi enthusiast. Uniform and all (pictured second from right). His enthusiasm for donning a German SS uniform is purely historical, Iott says. But when you think of people who, for amusement and entertainment, in their spare time, regularly dress up as members of an army that slaughtered millions, you can only think of one word: extremism.
The craziest part? Soon-Speaker John Boehner went to Ohio and campaigned for the guy, and barely anyone in the national news media thought that to be a bizarre scheduling move.
4. Best. Slogan. Ever.: “I’m Not a Witch”
Mainstream Republicans had to have been a little pissed with their party’s nomination of all those Tea Partiers in 2010. Sure, it paid off big in the House, but the GOP threw away what should have been easy Senate seat pickups. Nevada, Colorado and Pennsylvania all should have been gimmes. But whoever conducted the background check on Christine O’Donnell prior to the Delaware Republican nomination for Senate has probably since lost his/her job, because Christine was a train wreck from start to finish. Let’s just say that in her youth, despite her vow of chastity, Christine was a bit of a media whore. Video clips were continually surfacing throughout the campaign with O’Donnell denouncing masturbation, claiming that American scientists were breeding mice with “fully functioning human brains,” and, infamously, admitting she “dabbled” in witchcraft. In response, the O’Donnell campaign released this, now equally infamous, “I’m Not a Witch, I’m You” ad, hoping to right the ship. It sank.
3. How “Lifting My Luggage” Became the New “Wide Stance”
A free weekly newspaper called the Miami New Times had the LGBT scoop of the year: It caught one of this nation’s most prominent anti-gay activists, George Alan Rekers, with a rent boy twink.
Photo by Brandon K. Thorp
That’s great and all, but why is this about politics? It’s not like he’s a sitting senator cruising for sex in a bathroom stall, right? True, but it’s just as bad. Rekers throughout his career has been paid by Congress and local/state governments to provide his expert opinion on why gay people don’t deserve equal rights. Since co-founding the Family Research Council with James Dobson in 1983, Rekers has taken huge sums of money to influence political leaders. Arkansas paid him $60,000 for his expert testimony on why gay people shouldn’t be able to adopt. Florida paid him $120,000 for the same gig.
But instead of going down with dignity, Rekers concocted an excuse as poor as Sen. Larry Craig’s wide stance: Asked why he hired a young male prostitute to travel to Europe with, Rekers said: “I had surgery, and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” And that, friends, is the Euphemism of the Year!
2. And, Now, Introducing: Alvin Greene
For all his obstructionism, his gay-bashing and his misogynistic ways, someone needs to take down Senator Jim DeMint. That someone was not going to be Alvin Greene.
In a year in which the Democrats needed the strongest possible candidates in every possible race, the nomination went to this guy: an unemployed-in-dad’s-basement military veteran who somehow upset primary opponent Vic Rawl despite making no campaign appearances, no yard signs, and no website. Nobody has a clue where he got the $10,000 registration fee to even enter the race, and if all that’s not enough, shortly after the primary he was indicted on criminal charges of showing pornographic pictures to an 18-year old female college student. Greene also conducted three of the most bizarre interviews in recent political history, one in which MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann treated him like a child, and one in which CNN’s Don Lemon literally asked him if he was “mentally sound,” and one in which he repeated over and over to Lawrence O’Donnell that Senate Jim DeMint started the recession. Classic Democrats.
1. A Tickle Fight. A F*&king Tickle Fight. And Glenn Beck.
It was the Tickle Fight Heard ‘Round the World. Ticklegate. Tickle-me-Massa. It’s all just too easy. Whatever you call it, Former Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY) abruptly resigning from the House of Representatives has to be considered the oddest political story of 2010.
First, he resigned for health reasons. A cancer-survivor, Massa regretfully announced that a recurrence of the disease would force him to leave our nation’s lower legislative body. Next, perhaps eying the potential right-wing media publicity, he story shifted to a political maneuvering by the Democratic establishment to force him for his not backing health-care reform (including a naked shower fight with Rahm Emanuel). Okay, a little stranger. Last, but certainly not least, came Massa’s infamous interview with Glenn Beck in which he admitted why he really resigned: the increasingly-common groping of a male staffer.
But hey, it was his 50th birthday, and doesn’t everyone have tickle fights with their staffers while celebrating a half-century of staunch heterosexuality? Listen, there may be more important stories out there, but step back for a moment and think about it: A sitting representative resigned from Congress because of a tickle fight. That’s your winner right there. Can’t be topped.
There are certainly others we missed — no Sarah Palin, no Jan Brewer, no Carl Paladino. They get honorable mentions, though. What do you think? Who’s your top political facepalm of 2010? Tell us.