12/27/2013 04:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Plays of the Year: From the Savvy Leaker to the Wacko Birds

For more on this post listen to Alan Kelly on SiriusXM POTUS 12.26.13

2013 was a year for playmakers and politics, no doubt. But among these 17 awards -- some serious, some tongue-in-cheek -- it's clear enough that it was not a year to brag on the merits of influence strategy. 2013, in other words, was more a year for abuses than good uses of the things we call plays. Here's our list and how they came to light:


PLAYMAKER OF THE YEAR To NSA leaker Edward Snowden for his remarkable campaign of civil disobedience (or anarchy). His cache of Call Outs, Mirrors, Peacocks and Baits were cunning plays on a monster competitor, the U.S. intelligence community. Honorable mention goes to his ultimate enabler and another playmaker of note, Russian President Vladimir Putin for drawing and holding this diplomatic wild card. And, oh yeah, for his savvy timing play to solve Obama's Syrian redline snarl.

STUN AND RUN AWARD To Hillary Clinton for her January what-difference-does-it-make congressional testimony on the Benghazi imbroglio. By way of the Crazy Ivan, she seemed large and in charge at the time, but the video won't wear well when she runs in 2016.

THE DONALD AWARD Also to Hillary Clinton for her year-long application of the Trump play -- creating another candidacy of inevitability through myriad award acceptances, a CNN docudrama and selective interviews.

LIGHT ME UP AWARD To GOP chairman Reince Priebus for his party's release of its Growth and Opportunity Project (AKA autopsy report). His March play, a well-timed Lantern, cleared the decks for a target-rich 2013.

NO-PLAY PLAY AWARD To Barack Obama for holding his tongue on the IRS targeting scandal and staying clear of the Congressional budget battles. His play was a restrained Pause, though not without compromise to his political command and control.

CARLOS DANGER AWARD To Anthony Weiner for his desperate summertime Deflects, Red Herrings and Discos, all to stay in the NYC mayoral race.

LEAD BALLOON AWARD To Larry Summers for his failed Trial Balloon, lofted in July by a willing president to test his pal's Fed Chief candidacy. It hardly got past the rose garden before intra-party watchdog, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, pulled out her peashooter.

BAD REFLECTION AWARD To the GOP oppo machine for nailing up Obama's 37 you-can-keep-your-insurance promises on the press room wall. The play was originally a Mirror, later manufactured into a killer Label, "The Big Lie."

AIR BALL AWARD To Barack Obama for trying, in vein, to accept responsibility for the ACA roll out. It's on me, he said, to no one's applause. His attempted November play, a Disco, was meant to ask the public's forgiveness and move ahead.

DIVERSION EXCURSION AWARD To White House strategists for their diversion of the media machine. They shipped the POTUS to the Holy Land, toured him through the tornado-stricken heartland, and booked commemorations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. By way of the Red Herring strategy, their play was to get Obama (and the press corp) away from the no-win hairballs of Syria, IRS-gate, Snowden's leaks, the government shutdown, and ACA DOA launch.

WIZARD OF ODD AWARD To Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) for head-patting HHS Secy. Kathleen Sebelius during her October congressional grilling. "Madam Secretary...we're not in Kansas anymore," he lectured. It was the worst-written line of the year, a very bad Label by an out-of-touch lawmaker.

BULLY FOR YOU AWARD To N.J. Gov. Chris Christie who bear hugged the Tea Party in his landslide win for the N.J. governorship and hip-checked his prospective rivals, including Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker and Hillary Clinton. It was the best year for a political player, but rivals are watching the film and Christie's sophomore year in the National Political Football League is coming.

AHEM AHEM AWARD To VP Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for keeping their names in the 2016 hat. By way of the Ping play, Biden's Being Biden videos was charming political art and Warren's probable puppetry of The New Republic was masterful media management.

WACKO BIRD AWARD To Ted Cruz (R-TX) who in March was dubbed a "wacko bird" by fellow Senator John McCain. The play, a Label, was at first over the use of drones, a harmless quip. But it stuck to Cruz through his September anti-Obamacare all-nighter and paved the way for his unofficial censure.

WACKO BOY AWARD To the enigmatic, supreme leader of a badly-run nation, North Korea. Who among us understands the plays that Kim Jong-un ran in 2013? Honorable mention goes to another enigmatic, supreme leader of another badly-run nation, Dan Snyder, owner of The Washington Redskins.

TOAST AND JAM AWARD To the amorphous but ever-present Tea Party for its ability to clog the arteries of Congressional progress and Obamacare. As Jams are designed to do, this strategy was used -- to a fault.

BEST SURROGATE AWARD To House Speaker John Boehner who, until recently, did the Tea Party's bidding in House majority efforts to freeze the Democrat party agenda. Honorable mention goes to Hillary Clinton's mobilized masses, all in line, all on-message, and yet, we are told, all on their own. Not!