It was a banner year for the pompous and peculiar

January 01, 2004|By Clarence Page

WASHINGTON - It was the year when Britney and Madonna kissed, the Cubs and Red Sox missed and Saddam Hussein fizzled.

Yes, it is time to announce (drum roll, please) the winners of the "Pippies," the Page Prizes for Peculiar Achievements in 2003, a year that offered an abundance of nominees.

Loser of the year: No contest, right? Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, alias "Baghdad Bob," Mr. Hussein's minister of information. That skilled, stay-on-message spin doctor assured us that "there are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!" even as TV cameras captured M-1 Abrams tanks rolling into town behind him.

A job opportunity may be waiting for the notorious spinmeister in California. I hear Michael Jackson needs a new media strategist.

Evidence that he really, really is caught: After Mr. Hussein was nabbed in his hidey-hole, former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz started calling his youngest son - named Saddam - by the name Zuhair, according to the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

What about Mr. Aziz's other boys, Osama and Bin Laden?

Winner of the year: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Just ask CNN's Tucker Carlson. The conservative Crossfire co-host imprudently promised, "I will, in fact, eat my shoes" if Mrs. Clinton's memoir Living History sold more than a million copies. When it did just that in July, the former first lady surprised Mr. Carlson by appearing from backstage during the show with a giant chocolate cake shaped like a shoe - "a right wingtip," she explained.

Ah, the sweet taste of compassionate liberalism.

The "On Second Thought" Award: Speaking of eating one's words, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh gave up his job as an ESPN sports panelist after he described Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb as overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed. Mr. McNabb subsequently led the Eagles on a 10-game winning streak and earned his fourth Pro Bowl berth. Mr. Limbaugh went into rehab for a pain pill addiction.

If I were Mr. McNabb, I would send Mr. Limbaugh a "Get well" card, but that's just me.

Blunder of the year: The Bush administration's decision to disband Iraq's army left thousands of men jobless, angry, resentful and well-armed. The United States scrambled to enlist and train new military and police forces while the ex-soldiers were eagerly recruited by terrorists. According to an unnamed Pentagon civilian official quoted by Time magazine this month, "We shouldn't have disbanded the army."

Thanks, guys. Tell that to our troops.

Unintended quote of the year: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's declaration on Sean Hannity's radio program in December: "I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."

Mr. Schwarzenegger is barely in office and already he's asking for the impossible.

New signs of civilization's decline: Three days after Mr. Hussein was captured, The Simple Life, Fox TV's reality show starring celebutante Paris Hilton and her potty-mouthed partner Nicole Richie, drew almost a million more viewers in the ratings than Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with President Bush on ABC.

Maybe next time the president should conduct the interview in his barn while trying to milk a cow.

The Saddam Hussein Press Freedom Award: Fox News Channel sued Al Franken for using the Fox slogan "Fair and Balanced" on the cover of his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, claiming it had copyrighted the phrase. Fox dropped its lawsuit in August after an unfavorable ruling from a federal judge. Mr. Franken's book rode the publicity wave to sell 670,000 copies. "I was hoping they'd keep [the lawsuit] going for a few more news cycles," Mr. Franken said.

The "I Never Forget a Face" Award: A transgender woman introduced herself to President Bush at a Yale class reunion at the White House with, "You might remember me as Peter when we left Yale."

The president's response, according to an account by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik: "Now you've come back as yourself."

And it's not always easy to be yourself, is it?

And I hope you're happy with yourself. Nominations for next year's Pippies begin immediately. It's an election year. Something tells me that, human nature being what it is, we will have no shortage of nominees.

Happy New Year.

Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. His column appears Thursdays in The Sun.

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