End of the year with Dave Barry

I heard somewhere that President Obama gave himself a B or maybe it was a B- for his first year.  Despite everything that we wished he would do but didn’t and that we wished would happen but hasn’t yet, I think that ends up about right.  While President Obama was grappling with where to even begin to try to change things, it at least appeared that he and the family were having some fun and doing some normal family stuff.  It is so much better to see the President and First Lady doing Halloween or doing a date night or getting ready to attend an event at their kids school than to see W. cutting brush or riding his bike. 

So we should also have some fun looking back at the year.  Last Sunday the Washington Post ran a long recap of the year by Dave Barry

It begins

It was a year of Hope — at first in the sense

of “I feel hopeful!” and later in the sense of “I hope this year ends soon!”

It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result, Washington, rejecting “business as usual,” finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it, and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.

To be sure, it was a year that saw plenty of bad news. But in almost every instance, there was offsetting good news:

Bad news: The economy remained critically weak, with rising unemployment, a severely depressed real-estate market, the near-collapse of the domestic automobile industry and the steep decline of the dollar.

Good news: Windows 7 sucked less than Vista.

Bad news: The downward spiral of the newspaper industry continued, resulting in the firings of thousands of experienced reporters and an apparently permanent deterioration in the quality of American journalism.

Good news: A lot more people were tweeting.

Bad news: Ominous problems loomed abroad as — among other difficulties — the Afghanistan war went sour, and Iran threatened to plunge the Middle East and beyond into nuclear war.

Good news: They finally got Roman Polanski.

In short, it was a year that we will be happy to put behind us.

The year began with the inauguration

… during which history is made in Washington, where a crowd estimated by the Congressional Estimating Office at 217 billion people gathers to watch Barack Obama be inaugurated as the first American president ever to come after George W. Bush. There is a minor glitch in the ceremony when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., attempting to administer the oath of office, becomes confused and instead reads the side-effect warnings for his decongestant pills, causing the new president to swear that he will consult his physician if he experiences a sudden loss of sensation in his feet. President Obama then delivers an upbeat inaugural address, ushering in a new era of cooperation, civility and bipartisanship in a galaxy far, far away. Here on Earth, everything stays pretty much the same.

And so it goes, month by month.  Here is a sample from from June

In political news, the Minnesota Supreme Court, clearly exhausted by months of legal wrangling, declares Al Franken the winner of “American Idol.” Meanwhile, the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, goes missing for six days; his spokesperson tells the media that the governor is “hiking the Appalachian Trail,” which turns out to be a slang term meaning “engaging in acts of an explicitly non-gubernatorial nature with a woman in Argentina.” The state legislature ultimately considers impeaching Sanford but changes its mind upon discovering that the lieutenant governor, who got into office through some slick legal maneuvering when nobody was paying attention, is Eliot Spitzer.

And August

California, in a move apparently intended to evade creditors, has its name legally changed to South Oregon.

In an alarming technological development, hackers shut down Twitter, leaving a desperate and suddenly vulnerable America with no way to find out what the Kardashian sisters are having for lunch. The Federal Emergency Management Agency urges the nation to “remain calm” and “use Facebook if you can.” Twitter service is eventually restored, but most of the estimated 875 million thoughts that went untweeted during the outage will never be recovered, making it the nation’s worst social-networking disaster ever.

Don’t forget September

… Obama, speaking on health care before a joint session of Congress, is rudely interrupted by Kanye West, who grabs the microphone and declares that Beyoncé has a better health-care plan. No, wait, sorry: The president is rudely interrupted by Republican congressman Joe Wilson, who shouts, “You lie!” Wilson later apologizes for his breach of congressional etiquette, saying, “I should have just mooned him.”

And in sports

In sports, the New York Yankees, after an eight-year drought, purchase the World Series. But the month’s big sports story involves Tiger Woods, who, plagued by tabloid reports that he has been hiking the Appalachian Trail with a nightclub hostess, is injured in a bizarre late-night incident near his Florida home when his SUV is attacked by golf-club-wielding Somali pirates.

Dave, I still miss reading you every Sunday in the Globe.  You claim to have made up most of the column, but maybe it would have been more fun if it all really happened this way.

The President and Joe Wilson

Another President plagued by another Joe Wilson.  This is not President George W. Bush and the Ambassador Joe Wilson who exposed part of the rational for the Iraq War and then had his undercover CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame, outed.  This is President Barack Obama heckled by a Republican Congressman Joe Wilson during a speech to a joint session of Congress.  And who is Congressman Wilson?  Aldele Stan has posted “14 Things You Need to Know About Obama Hecker, Joe Wilson” on Alternet.  So here are a few.

1. Like his ideological counterpart known as Mr. The Plumber, his real name is not Joe. It’s Addison. His middle name is Graves. That makes him Addison Graves Wilson.

3. Wilson served as an aide to the late segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond, who is credited with conducting the longest filibuster in Senate history — against the 1957 civil rights bill.

5. A large percentage of Wilson’s campaign contributions come from the health sector, according to OpenSecrets.org. Over the course of his eight-year congressional career, Wilson has collected $414,000 from the health sector, topped only by contribution from what OpenSecrets calls the “finance, insurance & real estate” sector, from which he has gleaned $455,000.

7. Wilson is an adamant opponent of health care reform. As reported by The Hill, his last Tweet before his heckling performance at Obama’s speech read, “Happy Labor Day! Wonderful parade at Chapin, many people called out to oppose Obamacare which I assured them would be relayed tomorrow to DC.” (Wilson is currently the top trending topic on Twitter, and has nearly doubled his number of followers since his outburst.)

8. A military veteran whose health-care coverage is set for life, even after he retires from Congress, Wilson has “voted 11 times against health care for veterans in eight years, even as he voted ‘aye’ for the Iraq War…, ” according to Adam Weinstein, an uninsured Iraq-war veteran, writing at Newsweek’s The Gaggle. “He voted to cut veterans’ benefits─not his own─to make room for President George W. Bush’s tax cuts,” Weinstein says. “He repeatedly voted for budgets that slashed funding to the Veterans Administration and TRICARE. And perhaps most bizarrely, he refused — repeatedly — to approve Democratic-led initiatives that would have extended TRICARE coverage to all reservists and National Guard members, even though a disproportionate number of them have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — and many lost access to their civilian work benefits when they did so.”

10. Wilson served in the Reagan administration as deputy counsel in the energy department.

Unfortunately, South Carolinians seem to like him and agree with him.  The New York Times reports

“Yeah, it was rude, but somebody needed to say it,” said Susan Wahl, 41, a homemaker in this town of 800 outside Columbia. “Ordinary people can’t just get up and tell Obama he lied. He said something we all wanted to say.”

Maybe Ms. Wahl wanted to say it.  I wanted to say rude things as I watched Representative Eric Cantor pay attention to nothing but his Blackberry or iPhone or what ever he was playing with.  And I did cheer when President Obama called out opponents of health care reform asking them to talk rationally about ideas and not spread myths about the contents of the legislation.  But, Ms. Wahl and I were watching at home and Representative Wilson was on the floor of the Congress where, I believe, calling anyone a liar is outside the bounds of established decorum.  Here is more from the Times

Some Republicans noted that President George W. Bush drew derisive hoots from Democrats when he made his case for Social Security changes during his 2005 State of the Union address. But Mr. Wilson’s Republican colleagues overwhelmingly took the position that he had exceeded the bounds of Congressional decorum and that he took the right step by quickly admitting it.

“His behavior was inappropriate,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader.

Other Republicans said the outburst was also counterproductive, providing a political bonanza for Democrats, feeding the party’s story line that the August uproar over the health proposals was fed by boorish Republicans and orchestrated attacks.

It is difficult to see how this will play out in the long run.  Those of us outside of South Carolina can contribute to Rob Miller, the Democrat who is running against Mr. Wilson – and people can contribute to Wilson.  Miller has a tough road to victory.  As for the fate of health care reform, that is a wait and see also.