By Stuart Rothenberg
The end of the year is always a time to assess politics and politicians, which is simply another way of saying it’s time for another “winners and losers” column. Don’t get too excited if your guys won this year, though. Everything could change in 2006. The same goes for those who lost. Remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn.
So let’s get started. I’ll offer a number of nominees for each category and pick my winner.
Biggest Electoral Winner
• Sen. Jon Corzine (D), elected governor of New Jersey
• Ex-Reps. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), named to other posts
• Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D), elected governor of Virginia
• Wade Boggs, former third baseman, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
Analysis: The choice comes down to Cox/Portman and Kaine. Cox/Portman survived the House and moved out of it at just the right time. Kaine ran a solid campaign in Virginia, losing ground in the rural areas but exceeding outgoing Gov. Mark Warner’s (D) 2001 showing in the all-important suburbs. My choice: Kaine.
Biggest Bush Administration Loser
• President Bush
• Former Chief of Staff to the Vice President Scooter Libby
• Vice President Cheney
• Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
• Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown
Analysis: Nobody in the Bush administration, with the possible exception of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has had a good year, but things have been particularly rough for the White House. Sure, Libby has been indicted and Brown was fired, but the president’s job numbers have sunk dramatically and he ends the first year of his second term dramatically weaker than when he began it. That’s reason enough to select him as the “winner” of this category. My choice: Bush.
Biggest Inside-the-Beltway Loser
• Lobbyist Jack Abramoff
• Cristian Guzman, Washington Nationals shortstop
• Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas)
• Former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.)
• Public relations “expert” Michael Scanlon
• Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio)
Analysis: Wow, what a list of deserving contenders. I’m not sure I can pick just one winner. Can’t all of them share a piece of the award? Of the group, I’d guess that DeLay and Guzman are the least likely to do jail time, so I’d rule them out. The other four look like a photo finish to me. I can’t pick one. My choice: Let’s just call it a four-way tie.
Biggest Outside-the-Beltway Loser
• California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)
• Jerry Kilgore (R), nominee for governor of Virginia
• Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R)
• Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D)
• Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R)
• Actress Katie Holmes
Analysis: Nobody on this list had a good year, but Holmes and Taft stand out for being either particularly inept or noticeably delusional. But everybody in politics has piled on Taft already (as they should) so I’m picking someone who is a symbol of what is wrong with Hollywood and American popular culture. My choice: Holmes.
Flip-Flopper of the Year
• Rafael Palmeiro, Baltimore Orioles
• Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.)
• Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
• Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
Analysis: No contest here. Brown said he wasn’t running for the Senate, so Democratic insiders wooed unsuccessful Congressional candidate Paul Hackett into the race. Suddenly, Brown changes his mind, leaving Hackett out to dry. Not good in the karma department, Sherrod. My choice: Brown.
Weirdest Political Event
• Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) wins Powerball of $853,000
• Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) elected to the NFL Hall of Fame
• Indiana switches to Mountain Time Zone
• Harriett Miers’ Supreme Court nomination
• Wolf Blitzer forms his own 24-hour cable TV network
Analysis: OK, so only two of the things in this list really happened. But as the list proves, sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. The Miers selection was too, too strange. My choice: Miers.
Best Bush Administration Moment
• FEMA preparations for Hurricane Rita
• Judge John Roberts selected for Supreme Court
• Judge Samuel Alito selected for Supreme Court
• Dec. 31, 11:59 p.m.
Analysis: It’s a tough call between the end of a difficult year and Roberts, but I’m going to pick the judge. Nobody thought the president could find a perfect choice who could please conservatives and de-fang Democrats, but Roberts was that guy. My choice: Roberts.
MVP of 2005
• Alex Rodriguez, third baseman, New York Yankees
• Derek Jeter, shortstop, New York Yankees
• Mariano Rivera, pitcher, New York Yankees
• Hideki Matsui, outfielder, New York Yankees
• Gary Sheffield, outfielder, New York Yankees.
Analysis: Why? Because it’s my column. If you don’t like it, write your own. My choice: Rivera.
This column first appared in Roll Call on December 12, 2005. Copyright 2005 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
By Stuart Rothenberg