2003: What a great year for politics. In December, we normally give out awards for the year’s best and worst political acts, stunts, and twists and turns. But this year, there were no worsts. Only bests. A real bumper crop. In 2003, everything about politics was great. Here then are the 10 best — and only the best — political awards for 2003.
10 — Best metaphor for a career move: Soon as he announced for president, Wesley Clark had trouble trying to decide whether he would have voted for or against the Iraq war resolution in Iraq. Clark’s explanation: “I bobbled a question on the first day of the campaign in the back of an airplane.” Hopefully the grilling got easier when the flight attendant asked him if he wanted a bag of peanuts.
9 — Best campaign tactic, fun division: Arnold Schwarzenegger's wrecking ball dropped on cars at rallies to dramatize cutting the car tax. Schwarzenegger: “In the movies, if I play a character that didn't like something, you know what I did? I destroyed it. I wiped it out. When I get to Sacramento, I will immediately destroy the car tax. Hasta la vista, baby, to the car tax.”
8 — Best campaign tactic, serious division: Dick Gephardt’s success in bashing Howard Dean over Medicare. It gave Dean seven weeks of headaches, and made Gephardt the first to draw Dr. Dean’s blood.
7 — Best campaign announcement: John Edwards on “The Daily Show with John Stewart.” Stewart: “You're the first to ever do this on our program. We wanted to give it an extra juice. If you could just say it one more time. We want to add something, so if you could make the announcement, if you could, make it one more time, if you would, Senator Edwards.” Edwards: “Now, Jon, they promised me if I did this, you would not make fun of me.” Stewart: “I would never. I just want to add something special to it.” Edwards: “Well, I am on your show to announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States.”
6 — Best mantra: President Bush repeatedly telling his campaign fund-raising events: “The political season is going to come in its own time. I'm loosening up and I'm getting ready. But I've got a job to do for everybody who lives in this country. And I'm going to continue doing that job.” The president will be saying that until he reaches $200 million.
5 — Best photo op: Vanity Fair’s photo of John Kerry plunging into the ocean in a wetsuit. Exactly what we needed.
4 — Best photo flop: John Kerry failing the Philly cheesesteak test. Philadelphia Daily News: “We may have just witnessed the unraveling of the Democratic front-runner's campaign for the White House right here in South Philadelphia, at 9th and Wharton. Let it be recorded: At lunchtime on Aug. 11, 2003, under the familiar awning of Pat's King of Steaks, Sen. John Kerry attempted to eat a cheesesteak. … Kerry, you may have heard, failed miserably. He ordered a cheesesteak with Swiss cheese.”
3 — Best candidate for diversity: Wesley Clark. Born to a Jewish father (his ancestors, the Kannes, were members of the priestly caste of Cohens ), his mother married a Southern Baptist and he was raised that way, then he converted to Roman Catholicism after marrying a Catholic whom he met at a New York dance in 1964. About as confusing as the retired general’s position on Iraq. Still, America sure could use a Jewish-Catholic-Baptist president.
2 — Best fantastic candidate: Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said at various times: “We have to bring back businesses to California and make sure everyone in California has a great job, a fantastic job.” … “I want to thank all the people that's worked on this campaign. I want to thank them for manning the phones, to stuffing the envelopes, to handing out the fliers, handing out the yard signs, handing out the bumper stickers, raising the money. A fantastic job they've done.” … "The governor has been very gracious and absolutely fantastic." … “All the parties in Austria, from the left to the right, they all came together and, you know, have sent me congratulatory notes and — and letters and e-mails and all these things. Which was fantastic to see outpour of support from Austria.” … "This scene with the enlargement of the breasts was fantastic (Terminator 3 DVD commentary track)."
1 — Best metaphor for a career move: Al Gore joined the board of directors of Falcon Waterfree Technologies. What is Falcon Waterfree Technologies? In their words: “The cornerstone of Falcon Waterfree Technologies is our proprietary cartridge, installed at the base of the urinal. The cartridge is what allows us to save water and eliminate urinal odor.” Too bad it does nothing for a hanging chad. But that’s a different great political year.
Howard Mortman is a producer for “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”