A look back on a year marked by audacities

January 09, 2002|By Gregory Kane

SHOULD I or shouldn't I?

At the end of every calendar year, I hand out the Chutzpah Awards to those who have shown the most gall and outrageous audacity for the previous 12 months. The column lampoons conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, and blacks and whites. It's usually written in a light, humorous style.

But I wasn't feeling particularly light and humorous at the end of 2001. Sept. 11 changed all that. How could I write a light and humorous summation of the year, given what happened?

Then I figured that perpetually morose Americans are just what O-Slimy bin Laden wants. That's why he had his minions attack the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon. I decided I would not give this Wahhabi varmint any further victories, so here are the Chutzpah Awards for 2001:

Ninth runner-up: Former President Bill Clinton. The winner for 1998 makes the list again for the Marc Rich pardon, trying to take everything not nailed down (and probably trying to pry up everything that was) when he and wife Hillary left the White House.

Eighth runner-up: Those souls who screamed to high heaven and wrote letters of indignation to The Sun when Baltimore housing commissioner Paul Graziano shouted the dreaded f-word in a bar but who couldn't find their sense of moral outrage when Sammy Thamavong, an Asian-American from East Baltimore, was beaten nearly to death on the street by two black teen-agers a few months earlier.

Seventh runner-up: My old friend, the Revvum Jesse Jackson, for vowing to remove himself from the public eye after revelations that his mistress had his baby. The hiatus lasted all of a weekend.

Sixth runner-up: The sportswriters who bashed, harassed and hounded Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis right up until he played in the Super Bowl with snide suggestions he was guilty of murder. You wouldn't have thought charges against Lewis were dropped or that his co-defendants were acquitted.

Fifth runner-up: The critics of Baltimore police Commissioner Ed Norris, who tried to paint him as a racist, a tyrant and a bully after he fired Deputy Commissioner Barry Powell and Col. James Hawkins, both African-Americans. These same critics all but canonized Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt, an African-American, after she canned city real estate officer Anthony Ambridge, who is white. It's interesting that Norris used the same reasoning as Pratt's supporters: that Powell and Hawkins served at his pleasure.

Fourth runner-up: The anti-war peacenik crowd's new devotion to freedom of speech. Criticizing President Bush's war effort is not disloyalty, they say, and those who accuse them of such have no regard for free speech. None of these folks rushed to the defense of conservative author David Horowitz, who tried to run ads in several college newspapers criticizing the idea of reparations for slavery during the spring semester and got called everything but a child of God for it.

Third runner-up: Horowitz himself, who wrote in the ad that America "gave" freedom to blacks and that President Lincoln "gave his life to sign the Emancipation Proclamation." Lincoln was killed nearly three years after signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed no slaves and, according to historian Lerone Bennett, actually re-enslaved some blacks who were free.

Second runner-up: Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy, who gave no reason why her office first opposed freeing Michael Austin, recently released from prison after no fewer than three former prosecutors expressed doubts about his guilt, and then refused to comment last week when telling reporters her office wouldn't appeal the ruling that ended his confinement.

First runners-up: Critics of Attorney General John Ashcroft who claim the guy is no friend to civil liberties. Heck, they knew that before he was confirmed. But few opposed him on that basis. Most fretted about his views on the Confederacy, affirmative action, race, abortion and gun rights.

The Common Sense for Drug Policy Legislative Group told U.S. senators during confirmation hearings that a bill Ashcroft proposed when he was Missouri's senator "would have empowered federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to enter your house, your office, your computer or your car without a warrant and without any obligation to inform you that a search or seizure had been conducted."

That sounds pretty much like what Ashcroft has asked for as attorney general, except that now he has a good reason. Those folks criticizing Ashcroft as the enemy of civil liberties should be made to answer why they didn't bring the subject up before he was confirmed.

The winners: Those O-Slimy lovers who praised the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Your one-way tickets to the terrorist-harboring, freedom-hating country of your choice await you.

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