The late-night comedians may have made an early exit from the scene,
but fortunately there was no shortage of political punch lines in
2007. From tapping toes and UFO encounters to prostitution scandals
and $400 haircuts, it was a year in which politicians did their best
to satirize themselves. As a salute to our nation's fine public
servants, here's a look back at the year's most memorable feats and
foibles. The envelopes, please.
Winner of the George Orwell Award for Outstanding Achievement in
Historical Revisionism: Karl Rove, for claiming that Senate Democrats
prematurely forced President Bush to go to war in Iraq when Congress
passed the war resolution in 2002. It was the White House's position,
Rove insisted, that the issue should not have been politicized right
before an election. On hearing that claim, Andrew Card, former White
House chief of staff, laughed and said sometimes Rove's "mouth gets
ahead of his brain."
Runner-up: Bill Clinton, for claiming he opposed the Iraq war from
the beginning, although fortunately in Clinton's case, at least it was
only his mouth that got ahead of his brain.
Best Debate Sound Bite from a Republican: "In case you missed it, a
few days ago Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the
Woodstock concert museum. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I wasn't there.
I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at
the time." --John McCain, referring to the years he spent as a P.O.W.
Best Debate Sound Bite from a Democrat: "I mean think about it, Rudy
Giuliani, there's only three things he mentions in a sentence--a noun
and a verb and 9/11, and I mean, there's nothing else." --Joe Biden
Best Exhibition of 9/11 Tourette's Syndrome: Asked why he interrupted
a speech to the NRA to take a cell phone call from his wife (a stunt
he's pulled many times during campaign events), Rudy Giuliani
explained it was because of 9/11. "Quite honestly, since Sept. 11," he
said, "most of the time when we get on a plane, we talk to each other
and just reaffirm the fact that we love each other."
Least Surprising Revelation: Dennis Kucinich's admission that he once
communed with a UFO, confirming an account in Shirley MacLaine's book
that said he "felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in
his mind" as an otherworldly, triangular craft hovered above him. As
David Letterman joked, "Dennis Kucinich doesn't seem like the type of
guy who would see a UFO; he seems like the kind of guy you'd see
coming out of a UFO."
Best Fodder for the Late-Night Comedians: Senator Larry Craig
(R-estroom) gave "new meaning to the word caucusing" (David Letterman)
when he was caught playing footsie in the men's room with his infamous
"wide stance." Craig announced his resignation, then later reversed
his decision after "talking it over with guy in stall number 3" (Conan
O'Brien), angering his Republican colleagues, some of whom "stopped
having sex with him" (Jimmy Kimmel). The staunchly anti-gay lawmaker
denied being a hypocrite, saying, "Hey, I wasn't trying to marry the
cop in the bathroom" (O'Brien). Later, he was inducted into the Idaho
Hall of Fame -- not the entire hall, "just the men's room" (Jay Leno).
Best Sex on the City: While Rudy Giuliani was carrying on his
extramarital affair as New York mayor, he reportedly billed taxpayers
for security expenses incurred during his love romps in the Hamptons;
attempted to hide those expenses by billing obscure city agencies; and
enlisted the N.Y.P.D. to serve as a personal taxi service to chauffeur
around his mistress on long trips and walk her dog.
Best Example of Why the Joke-Telling Should Be Left to the
Professionals: Responding to a questioner who asked whether she was
capable of handling evil-doers like Osama bin Laden, Hillary Clinton
grinned as she answered, "What in my background equips me to deal with
evil and bad men?" It was unclear what she may have been implying
about dealing with her husband, but as Conan O'Brien speculated, it
may explain "why Hillary wants to look for bin Laden at the nearest
Information We Most Assuredly Could Have Done Without: A toss-up
between Michelle Obama's disclosure that her husband has such bad
morning breath that their children won't crawl into bed with him
because "he's too snore-y and stinky"; and John Edwards' intimation
that his wife's rib cracked during some good lovin'.
Most Likely to Flunk a High School Civics Test: Dick Cheney, who in
an attempt to shield his records from the National Archives, claimed
that the office of the vice president is not a part of the executive
branch, but rather a part of the legislative branch. It was also
revealed that Cheney has invented his own secret document designation
("treated as" secret) to shield his everyday papers from the scrutiny
of posterity, and keeps several man-sized safes where he can hide the
rest of his secrets, or, if need be, his waterboard.
Runner up: White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who admitted she
had never heard of the Cuban missile crisis. "It had to do with Cuba
and missiles, I'm pretty sure," she said.
Most Expensive Poverty Tour: After John Edwards billed his campaign
for two $400 haircuts, the anti-poverty crusader was roundly ridiculed
by the late-night comics and various Internet hecklers, as well as by
GOP rivals like Mike Huckabee, who scored a twofer when he quipped,
"We've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty
Most Invertebrate: Congressional Democrats, who in their steadfast
determination to end the Iraq war, valiantly passed a series of
non-binding resolutions and hosted a pajama party before ultimately
rubber-stamping bills to continue funding the war at a cost of some $2
billion per week. Their approval rating bottomed out at 11 percent,
which, it should be noted, is substantially lower than Michael
Jackson's (25) or O.J. Simpson's (29). "Democrats were so stunned at
this number," Bill Maher joked, "that it sent a chill up and down
where their spine used to be."
Best Upholder of Traditional Republican Family Values: Senator David
Vitter (R-Hookers), who admitted to frequenting prostitutes after
Hustler magazine identified his phone number on the "D.C. Madam's"
client list. This from a guy who had called for Bill Clinton's
impeachment during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Vitter explained it
away by saying he had already "asked for and received forgiveness from
God," but more important, he received forgiveness from his wife, who
once said she would pull a Lorena Bobbitt if her husband ever cheated
Most Estranged: Dick Cheney and Barack Obama, who discovered that
they are eighth cousins, thanks to a common ancestor who came to
America from France in the 17th century (presumably driven by imperial
blood lust, yet tempered by boyish idealism). A spokesman for Obama
noted that "every family has a black sheep."
Least Likely To Win Votes From Dog Lovers: Mitt Romney, who once
strapped the family dog to the roof of his car during a long road
trip. As the Boston Globe reported, the dog apparently was not happy
with the arrangement, and registered its protest with excrement on the
roof and windows.
Least Likely To Win Votes From Duck Lovers: Mike Huckabee, who said
in a speech to the NRA, "I'm pretty sure there will be duck-hunting in
heaven and I can't wait!" To which Jon Stewart quipped, "Are you
saying that our heaven is duck hell? Is there any place a duck can go
to not get shot?"
Worst Theme Song: After inviting the public to cast their votes,
Hillary Clinton announced that "You and I" by Celine Dion would be her
official anthem. It was a shame because there were so many more
imaginative possibilities floating on the Internet, like "You Can't
Always Get What You Want," "Devil With a Blue Dress On," "Fool on the
Hill," "First We Take Manhattan (Then We Take Berlin)," "I Got a Crush
on Obama," and "Springtime for Hitlery."
Least Likely To Be Seen on "Dancing with the Stars": A toss-up
between Karl Rove, who gyrated and flailed around on stage at the
White House Correspondents' Dinner as he regaled guests with the rap
stylings of "M.C. Rove"; and President Bush, who got down and boogied
in the Rose Garden alongside African dancers during an event to
promote malaria awareness.
Biggest Enemies of Freedom: South Carolina's Democratic Executive
Council, which denied Stephen Colbert's request to be placed on the
Democratic primary ballot. It argued that he wasn't a "viable
candidate" -- unlike, say, Dennis Kucinich, or Mike Gravel, both of
whom were allowed on the ballot. Given that Colbert was polling fifth
nationally among Democrats at the time of his rejection, it's clear
those cowardly, America-hating pantywaists simply couldn't handle the
Best Bushism: During the 2000 presidential race, candidate George W.
Bush famously asked, "Is our children learning?" Seven years into his
presidency, the Great Pronunciator finally arrived at a conclusion:
"Childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured,"
Bush declared as he touted the success of No Child Left Behind.
Clearest Evidence That Our Childrens Isn't Learning: After being
asked during the Miss Teen U.S.A. competition why one out of five
Americans can't locate the United States on a map, Miss Teen South
Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton, responded: "I personally believe that
U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, um, some people out there
in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh,
education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and
everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our
education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help
South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will
be able to build up our future."
This piece originally appeared in the New York Times Laugh Lines blog.