Reviewing the constant variety of political and cable news hackery from a year that was so thoroughly clogged with incredibly ridiculous performances that we barely avoided a massive eruption of liquid hot crazy, we can easily find more than a few quotes that were almost totally overlooked, along with too many hacks, hoopleheads and outright doofs who weren't given a full turn at the flogging pole.
For instance, I'm hoping that in 2009 TIME blogger and MSNBC contributor Mark Halperin is finally recognized as not just another very serious haircut amongst a media gaggle of masturbation-addicted cardboard standees, but in fact as a Drudge-caliber hackery-factory providing the establishment media with absolutely the most unforgivably ridiculous pearls of conventional wisdom in an already super-stupid media world.
Out of all of the various lists documenting the year's worst this or that, I haven't spotted any of Halperin's greatest hits for some reason. His insufferably decrepit posts include the daily "Five Important People Who Aren't Obama" lists which appear to be five totally random names blurted out in numerical order without any explanation or insight -- ostensibly proving that he can both spell and count. The parasitic hackery twin to his "Halperin's Take" posts are his PageCast videos in which he tells us about news events, and that we should "watch out for them." For example: Congress! Watch to see what happens with it and what the congressional members say in Congress.
Yeah... and...? This is sort of like a doctor telling you, "You have a thing. Watch to see what happens. Bye!" Naturally there isn't anything after the "and..." because it would ruin the illusion that Halperin knows something.
He's also famously responsible for hands-down the most ridiculous establishment media blog post from all of 2008: "Things McCain can do when running against Obama that Clinton has been unable to do well or at all." In it, he lists a series of recommendations to the McCain campaign for how it could defeat the Obama campaign in the general election, including these very serious tips:
6. Allow some supporters to risk being accused of using the race card when criticizing Obama.
7. Exploit Michelle Obama's mistakes and address her controversial remarks with unrestricted censure.
Remember, this is TIME. Not some fringe far-right conspiracy blog -- wait, or maybe it is. Either way, how else do you explain the kicker:
11. Emphasize Barack Hussein Obama's unusual name and exotic background through a Manchurian Candidate prism.
In other words, embrace the false whisper campaign rumors labeling then-Senator Obama as a one-man terrorist sleeper cell. Later, after Media Matters and others called him out, Halperin updated this post with the truly lame excuse: "This is analysis of what is likely to happen, not advice or endorsement." Uh-huh. So "things McCain can do" isn't advice? Halperin also deleted an entire paragraph which indicated advice to McCain's staff and replaced it with two backpedaling paragraphs -- neither of which was noted as a correction or update.
But Halperin aside, there was one jaw-droppingly ridiculous quote that went almost entirely overlooked, perhaps because it was one of seemingly hundreds of nincompoopish displays of nincompoopery -- all of which were unforgivingly compressed into a dense, rapid-fire three months of political insanity.
This means only one thing. The quote comes from Governor Sarah Palin.
As I'm sure you'll recall, Sarah Palin had trouble with things like "facts" -- specifically and most shamefully, she had no idea what the Vice President of the United States does. I mean, no clue. Which is fine, I suppose, unless you're actually running to become, you know, the vice president. On several public occasions (I can't even imagine the verbal fumbling during private rehearsals), she was specifically asked to describe the job and I'm reasonably certain she never once got it right. For example:
...a Vice President has a really great job, because no only are they there to support the President agenda, they're like a team member, the team mate to that President. But also, they're in charge of the United States Senate, so if they want to they can really get in there with the Senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom. And it's a great job and I look forward to having that job.
Yeah, it sounds like a great job, if she had been running for Senate Majority Leader, that is.
And during the vice presidential debate -- the vice presidential debate! -- she was asked to describe the role of the vice president, and this was one of her two answers:
Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation.
What about that agenda and there also? Cooperative with the president's... whah? And yet the post-debate conventional wisdom was that she somehow nailed it. Mark Halperin gave her a "B" and wrote: "...she succeeded enormously. She had a solid 90 minutes of rapid, confident discourse... didn't leave Tina Fey much to work with."
Yeah, she couldn't accurately or coherently describe the job for which she was campaigning, but since she didn't choke on her own tongue, well then, great success! And as for Tina Fey? The vice presidential debate sketch was probably the funniest of the year. Good call, Halperin.
But that wasn't the worst of it. Here now, The Most Ridiculous Political Quote of the Year, courtesy of Sarah Palin on October 4, 2008:
Q: One of the things you talked about last night was the flexibility the vice president has--
Q: --Uh. What did you mean by that?
PALIN: Uh. That thankfully our founders were wise enough to say we have this position and it's constitutional -- vice president will be able to be not only the position flexible, but it's gonna be those other duties as assigned by the president. A simple thing.
That last sort-of sentence -- "a simple thing" -- was actually correct, believe it or not. The vice president's job description, according to the Constitution, is an extraordinarily simple thing. Which, consequently, makes it unbelievably difficult to butcher. Like Sarah Palin did. Multiple times. But in this instance, on the FOX News Channel with Carl Cameron, she couldn't even form actual sentences using words that line up to form a coherent thought. In fact, I would love to see the sentence structure for "vice president will be able to be not only the position flexible." Position flexible?
That she wasn't summarily laughed off of the national stage right then and there is a testament to the forgiveness of horny middle-aged white Republican men. Yes, in 2008 the Republicans nominated for vice president a person who on multiple occasions couldn't accurately say: The vice president breaks ties in the Senate, and succeeds the president if he or she is killed or incapacitated. Instead we got something about "position flexible" and a lot of winking.
And she's already being championed as a favorite for the Senate in 2010 -- not to mention as a serious contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. This naturally means we'll get to hear more from Sarah Palin for many years to come as a de facto leader of the Republican Party. We can only hope that she'll be asked to describe these jobs many, many times along the way.
Happy New Year Position Flexible There Also!
Order my book: One Nation Under Fear, with a foreword by Arianna Huffington. Also available in stores.