Political Recap: 2011 Year in Review

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

2011 was a year of lowlights in Washington politics

Source: National Post, 12-26-11

Let’s just W say it – 2011 was an ugly year in U.S. politics. It began in tragedy and ended in farce.

The assassination attempt on Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January prompted a national discussion about political civility that began with good intentions but lasted, well, until the State of the Union Address.

After that, the divided government Americans voted for in 2010 became dysfunctional government. Here, in no particular order, the highlights and (mostly) lowlights of Washington’s annus horribilis…..

The ‘What Were You Thinking’ Award to a Member of Congress: Anthony Weiner, for tweeting photos of his genitals to a woman, then denying he did it, then admitting he did it, then resigning in disgrace.

Worst Use of Social Media by a Member of Congress: Anthony Weiner. See above.

Most (sadly) entertaining political event: The three-ring circus campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Without Sarah Palin, Chris Christie or Jeb Bush in the race, GOP voters got a parade of flavourof-the-month front-runners. Mitt Romney is the most unloved potential GOP nominee since, um, John McCain.

Most Embarrassing GOP Candidate Blooper: When Rick ‘Oops’ Perry forgot which three federal departments he would eliminate.

Most Unlikely Rise of a Republican Presidential Candidate: Herman Cain/ Newt Gingrich.

Most Predictable Fall: Herman Cain/Newt Gingrich.

Most Incoherent Quote from a Member of Congress: Democrat Emanuel Cleaver, via Twitter, after the U.S. debt-ceiling agreement. “This deal is a sugar-coated Satan sandwich. If you lift the bun, you will not like what you see.”

Biggest Political Tease: Sarah Palin spent 10 months fuelling speculation about whether she was going to run for president before finally saying no in October. By then, no one was paying attention.

Gutsiest Obama Decision: The raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound. If it goes wrong, there’s a lot of dead Navy Seals, and Obama looks like Jimmy Carter after the botched Iran hostage rescue attempt in April 1980. It didn’t.

Saddest Political Trend: Congressional paralysis. Congress brought the government to the brink of shutdown in April. Then, for a second act, lawmakers ignited a global market meltdown with a self-induced debt crisis. In December, small-minded bickering produced one of the worst pieces of kitchen-sink legislation – the two-month payroll tax cut/Keystone XL compromise – Washington has seen in years.

Year in Quotes: White House and Congress

Source: WoodTV, 12-22-11

‘The world is safer’

“It’s like lighting the match that could burn down the house.”–Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., describing a scenario in which a debt ceiling agreement was not met by May. April, 2011

“It’s not going to get easier, it’s going to get harder. So we might as well do it now. Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas.”–President Obama, in a press conference urging House and Senate leadership to come together to pass a debt ceiling bill. July, 2011

“Get your ass in line. I can’t do this job unless you’re behind me.”–House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to fellow Republicans who were holding out against his debt ceiling deal for one with more spending cuts. July, 2011

“I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics. I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy.” –Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., after returning to the House chamber to cast her vote for the debt ceiling bill. It was her first appearance to Congress since she was shot in the head in Jan. 8, 2011. August, 2011

“At a time when spending is out of control, giving the federal government more money would be like giving a cocaine addict more cocaine.” –Speaker Boehner, in response to the president’s proposed deficit reduction plan. September, 2011

“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline.”–Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., co-chairs of the debt “supercommittee,” a congressional group tasked with identifying $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. November, 2011

“The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden.”–President Barack Obama, hours after U.S. forces killed the al-Qaida leader in the middle-of-the-night raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. May, 2011

“All I will say is that for three years the president has been harvesting the successes of the very strategy that he consistently dismissed as a failure. I imagine that this irony was not lost on a few of our troops at Fort Bragg today, most of whom deployed and fought as part of the surge.”–Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after President Obama marked the end of the Iraq War at Fort Bragg, N.C. December, 2011

“I’m not sure I want to put national, federal resources into trying to figure out who posted a picture on Weiner’s website, uh, whatever. I’m not really sure it rises, no pun intended, to that level.”–Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., as a media storm continued to swirl surrounding a lewd photo sent from his Twitter account to a female college student in Seattle. June, 2011

“There isn’t anything that I can imagine doing after this that would be as demanding, as challenging or rewarding.”–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after indicating she would step down in 2012. March, 2011

A year of oops: five big political gaffes of 2011

Source: CS Monitor, 12-29-11

There’s nothing like a presidential campaign cycle to bring out big political gaffes – at times injecting doubt about candidates, but also offering some much-needed comic relief and glimpses of humanity. 2011 had some doozies, and some of the most memorable actually weren’t on the campaign trail.

GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who said the “shot heard round the world” was fired in New Hampshire (correct answer: Massachusetts), nailed the politicians’ dilemma perfectly: “People can make mistakes, and I wish I could be perfect every time I say something, but I can’t.”

Here are five of the biggest political “uh-ohs” of 2011:

1. Anthony Weiner’s bizarre Twitter lesson

In the digital age, sexual missteps no longer even have to be in person, as former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) of New York proved with “Weinergate” – the tale of a suggestive Twitter photo that led to revelations of other indiscretions….READ MORE

2. Rick Perry: cutting bureaucracy straight out of memory

Don’t you hate that tip-of-the-tongue moment, when that obvious thing you just meant to say vanishes from thought? Now imagine standing on a lit stage in front of millions of your potential voters, bloodthirsty journalists, and a group of people who have vowed to defeat you: This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s epic brain freeze at the GOP presidential debate on Nov. 9….READ MORE

3. How Joe Biden sums up the tea party

Vice President Joe Biden denied it to the nth degree, but Politico said it had five sources to confirm its story – that during an offline discussion with House Democrats on Aug. 1, the loquacious Mr. Biden not only agreed with a characterization of tea party voters as “terrorists,” but actually chimed in, saying, “They have acted like terrorists.”…READ MORE

4. Mitt Romney’s hefty bet

“Rick, I’ll tell you what – 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet,” GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said to Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a Dec. 10 presidential debate. Mr. Romney was arguing that he most surely hadn’t supported an individual mandate as part of national health-care reform – and in the process he wagered enough money to buy a solid gold iPhone case….READ MORE

5. Herman Cain takes a twirl

Book tours, bigwig fundraisers, endless bus rides – when does a candidate just have time to let his mind rest? Preferably not while meeting with a group of newspaper editors who are peppering him with foreign-policy questions….READ MORE

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