It's hard not to do lists at the end of the year, and I've succumbed to the temptation. Following are my personal picks for various 2003 titles:
Most Courageous: Former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Though his candid speech may change if he becomes the Democratic Party's nominee--for now, it is a breath of fresh air. Less "candidate speak" has come out of his mouth than from the mouth of any other major presidential candidate in memory.
Runner-Up: Private Jessica Lynch, who--despite walking a bit of a shaky road to do it--told the world that things just didn't happen the way the White House said they did.
Special Runner-Up: Pink, who turned down an invitation from Buckingham Palace to perform at Prince William's birthday party because the Prince kills animals for sport. The singer was William's first choice for a performer for his party. He has denied that he killed a small deer with a spear in Kenya, but he has nevertheless taken up hunting as a "sport."
Best Comeback: Ambassador Carol Mosely Braun, who finally revealed what she should have talked about years ago--that Carl Rove masterminded her demise as a Senator. Though it is true that Braun was not the best-liked person by her staff, she has been vindicated of any wrongdoing while she was both a senator and an ambassador. She is possibly the most articulate of all the presidential candidates, and has been a welcome addition to the debates and interviews.
Runner-Up: Ellen Degeneres, though--for many of us--she never really went away. DeGeneres's program is easily the best talk show on television, and one of the best that has ever aired.
Best Talking Head Show: The McLaughlin Group. Everyone on the show is intelligent, and they don't scream and yell at each other. John McLaughlin is a one-of-a-kind host--a real hoot.
Runner-Up: Washington Week. Gwen Ifill always has intelligent, articulate guests, and she is a pleasure to listen to.
Best Speech: Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who--during the federal judicial nominee hearings--stunned her audience with an old-fashioned filibuster-of-fire rant that was filled with history, indignation, local Louisiana color, and the senator's customary dry wit. "I will not yield!" may as well be engraved on her nameplate from now on. To quote the senator: "Take your dossier and...go somewhere else!"
Runner-Up: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, whose announcement of of his presidential candidacy was an eloquent mix of healing rhetoric and can-do pragmatism. Kucinich drew his inspiration from Franklin D. Roosevelt, the phrophet Isaiah, Theodore Roosevelt and the Statue of Liberty, and talked about not just the symptoms of an ailing nation, but also the causes and cures.
Most Impressive Performance: Justine Henin-Hardenne, who was about to drop out of the final part of the U.S. Open because of injury, but played anyway, in pain, and won the title.
Runner-Up: Meryl Streep, who played four different roles, each brilliantly, in HBO's Angels In America.
Most Scenic Fall: Rush Limbaugh. If I had a violin handy, I'd play it for him on his way down.
Runner-Up: Former Alabama State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who was stripped of his office because of civil disobedience in the interest of destroying the Constitution.
Biggest Disappointment: Senator John Kerry, an intelligent and solid liberal, who has used an inordinant amount of time and campaign energy either making unwarranted attacks on Howard Dean or aligning himself with the White House's war.
Runner-Up: Oprah Winfrey, who despite giving the appearance of being compassionate, continues, through her television show, to promote the wearing of fur.
Most Successful Lobotomy: MSNBC's Keith Olberman, the man who was once so disgusted by the news game that he asked to go back to the sports department. This time around, it appears his corporate bosses have successfully implanted the chip in his head.
Runner-Up: CNN's Soledad O'Brien. She used to be so intelligent, and now she doesn't even know that sexual assault is against the law in every state in the U.S. It really shocked and offended her to learn that the allegations against Arnold Schwarzenegger were criminal in nature.
Biggest Liar: George W. Bush, who lied about everything from weapons of mass destruction to his support of U.S. military veterans to his program to "reduce" mercury in the environment.
Runner-Up: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, who has been a major liar every year she has been in her position. This year's whopper--that she had never heard about Ambassador Wilson's trip to Niger--is the kind of tall tale we have come to expect from her.
Biggest Scumbag: Maria Shriver, who single-handedly insured the election (considering what a bunch of idiots were voting) of her misogynistic, criminal, vulgar, idiotic husband to the governship of California.
Runner-Up: Arnold Schwarzenegger, who not only left behind a string of sexually abused women and one probable statutory rape, but also secret meetings with Ken Lay, on his way to the California governor's mansion.
Least Courageous: The United States Congress, who--despite lip service to the contrary--keeps going along with the White House, thereby making it much easier to destroy what's left of the country.
Runner-Up: The women sexually assaulted by Arnold Schwarzenegger (including the otherwise admirable Dr. Joy Brown), who--frightened to hear "You'll never work in this town again"-- failed to report the assaults to the police.
Biggest Narcissist: Andra, that horrible woman on Boy Meets Boy who believed that everything that happened was about her, not about her friend, Jim. She did have one great Freudian moment, though, when she blamed herself (of course) for whatever might go wrong with Jim's choice of "the mates": "I'm the one," she said tearfully, "who's been shoving them down your throat!"
Runner-Up: Joe Jackson--father of Michael, Janet, Jermaine, etc. A world-class child abuser and exploiter, he has the nerve to take credit for his children's successes, and the gall to whine about how injured he is over Michael's problems.
Biggest Asshole: Bill O'Reilly, but we should just give him a permanent award and be done with it. The man who threatened to kill Jeremy Glick still has no clue about decent behavior, and his version of "no spin" makes my head spin plenty.
Runner-Up: Toby Keith, who, at a concert, used a split screen to display Natalie Maines' face next to that of Saddam Hussein. What can you say but F.U.T.K.?
Biggest Disservice to the Nation: The news media's refusal to report on stories that expose the deceptions and machinations of the White House and its allies. Diebold, Halliburton, and the continuous pack of policy lies are universally ignored by corporate-owned major "news" media.
Runner-Up: The news media's refusal to give serious attention to the best of the presidential candidates, most notably Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
The Fab Five's Best Makeover: Hardball's Chris Matthews, who still can't stop talking about George W. Bush's body in that flight suit.