Good riddance to a disappointing year

2011 was marked by economic doldrums and political foolishness

January 03, 2012|By Jules Witcover

Dear Year 2011: Goodbye and good riddance. Don't let the door hit you in the behind on your way out. Or, rather, let it hit you. You deserve it.

How bad have you been? Let me count the ways:

•The economy has been a nightmare. For all the new (insufficient) stimulus President Barack Obama tried to get to provide jobs and to rebuild the country's deplorably decaying bridges, roads and other infrastructure, his American Jobs Act has been pretty much a nonstarter.

•In the disgraceful tug-of-war between the president and the practically-do-nothing Congress over entitlement cuts, tax increases and keeping the federal safety net for the neediest Americans from being shredded, both branches of government came up with a whopper of a black eye.

•It took Mr. Obama nearly a year of knuckling under to the Republican obstructionists, particularly in the House, mugged repeatedly by the tea party freshmen, before he finally stood up to them in the final go-around on a paltry two-month extension of payroll tax and unemployment benefits.

•The level of political discourse sank to new lows as negative advertising flooded the nation's screens, fueled most notably by super-PACs authorized by a conservative Supreme Court that seems not able to comprehend what it has wrought by taking the lid off the politics of influence-buying.

•Approaching a presidential election year, the Republican Party served up such a bunch of turkeys for its nomination that favorites have been anointed and then quickly discarded like dirty underwear, with flavors of the month rising and falling with abandon.

•In a time of such economic woe, hardship and the eroding of the American middle class, these bozos have been unable to articulate an appealing program or strategy other than, in Mitch McConnell's memorably lofty goal, to make Mr. Obama "a one-term president."

•The situation has gotten so bad that one of the most disreputable Republican politicians in recent history, "historian" Newt Gingrich, he of the serial marriages and serial hot ideas that have quickly cooled off, remains in the mix in today's Iowa precinct caucuses kicking off the state-by-state selection process.

•Mr. Obama himself has convinced growing numbers of Democrats, especially of the liberal persuasion, that he is not and never was one of them in his interminable willingness to turn the other cheek to the GOP obstructionism in Congress and still pursue a patently unavailable bipartisanship.

•The Republican leadership's willingness to let the brash influx of freshman congressmen and congresswomen impose their brand of know-nothingness about the way legislative and policy sausage is made on Capitol Hill has ground the machinery to a halt. And in the House, they have discredited Speaker John Boehner as an effective party deal-maker.

•The news media covering all this mess, and particularly the rampantly biased motor-mouths of much of cable television and talk radio, have treated too much of it as some kind of reality show providing a barrel of laughs and gossip, when serious issues for Americans and the country are at stake.

•Journalistic standards that once were a source of national and local pride have been eroded by the infusion leakage of mere entertainment into serious news-gathering. Professionalism has slipped at the same time, undermined by sharp job reductions in reporting and editing as newspapers, particularly, struggle to stay alive in the era of the Internet and the new anything-goes social media.

As Cole Porter might put it in bidding farewell to 2011: If we'd thought a bit of the end of it, we might not have painted the town. But our love affair with Barack was just too hot not to cool down.

So goodbye, dear, and amen. Here's hoping we don't meet again. It was just one of those bells that now and then rings, just one of those things. For all our sakes, let the new year 2012 be a more hopeful and cooperative one for all concerned, and let it end with a presidential election that somehow does justice to our great traditions and ideals. But don't bet the rent money on it.

Jules Witcover's latest book is "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption" (William Morrow). His email is

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