2010: The Most Boring Year of the Decade
As 2010 draws to a close, for my final long post of the year, I want to talk about how 2010 was the most boring, ho-hum year of the decade.
In 2008, politics was exciting. In 2009, we were excited as we waited for the hope and change. In 2010, we realized it wasn't coming. The reality is President Obama is not that exciting a personality. He's far too normal. He doesn't fall down and make us laugh like Gerald Ford. He doesn't reek Hollywood like Ronald Reagan, and Mrs. Obama doesn't rely on astrologers and silly slogans like "Just Say No" as did Nancy Reagan to keep us snickering in amusement.
Bush I was boring too. It was like having a caricature of the white Protestant Male from the yacht club for President. But, it was still the 80's, so he doesn't count in this competition. [More...]
And then we had Bill Clinton who decidedly was not boring. MonicaGate kept us abuzz for years. The sideshow of Paula Jones was entertaining. And perhaps because we were so focused on his voracious appetite for fast food, his drug-using brother Roger, and his undeniable charm, so many among us failed to realize he had implemented some of the most draconian and unfair criminal laws in history, from the increased number of crimes that brought a mandatory minimum prison sentence, to his near-obsession with 100,000 cops on the street, to AEDPA's absurd one year statute of limitations for bringing habeas claims. Perhaps in need of holding Newt Gingrich and his 1994 Contract On America at bay, Clinton upped the ante to be the toughest on crime.
Clinton also had to deal with TWA Flight 800 and the Oklahoma City Bombing. His method was obvious: Strike fear of terrorism in the heart of every American, so they'll gladly give up their rights with barely a whimper. He oozed charisma, with that southern drawl he had at the time, and we followed him down whatever path he led us on.
GW Bush was a cartoon, the former drunk, partying, draft-evading kid of a rich and privileged father, who as President had to rely on advisers because he had no idea how to make policy decisions on his own. Lo and behold, he gave us Dick Cheney, no boredom there. The two of them, along with John Ashcroft and their neocon cronies kept us awake at night with two wars, warrantless surveillance and a decimation of privacy rights. Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper can speak volumes on that last one. He also gave us Karl Rove, and Valerie Plame-Gate, the Scooter Libby trial and torture memos, Abu Ghraib and the likes of John Yoo. He gave us so much he ended up giving us a big mission: Send Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and company packing and out the door. We had a purpose, we sure weren't bored.
Bush also had 9/11 which kept us busy for a while. And there were sideshows like Rudy Giuliani trying to own the event, and then encouraging his sidekick Bernie Kerik to apply for Homeland Security Secretary. That sure went well, didn't it? And we had real terror trials, in federal courts, like the trials of the Blind Sheik, Richard Reid, John Walker Lindh (The "American Taliban") and the out-to-lunch Zacarias Moussaoui. All convicted in federal criminal court, with no martyrdom. We haven't heard a peep from them since. They have no one to talk or write to, locked away in the bowels of Supermax. We also had Bush vs. Gore that kept things exciting for a year. Let's face it, the Bush years were the most exciting of the decade, even if it was just because of the horrible things he did to us and in our name.
Then we had 2007 and 2008. With Bush a lame duck who had a tendency to hide out in Texas when things got rough, where we got to see him fall off his bicycle, we turned to Hillary vs. Obama. And we had to worry that Rudy G. was trying to sneak back into the limelight, with his nobody wife Judy, who seemed to be the only person he surrounded himself with (along with her massive pocketbook collection that gets its own seat on the airline) since he no longer has any friends. (Even his "bromance" with Bernie Kerik busted up and neither of his kids want anything to do with him, no surprise there.) Again, hating Rudy gave us a purpose -- to see that he never holds a national elective office -- which made for exciting times.
We got a real release from boredom when Sarah Palin showed up in 2008. This most uneducated, unpolished, underbody (my term for someone who is less than a nobody) comes along and rattles our cages good. The half of the country that still had a modicum of common sense left in their brain were able to spring into action, mobilize and tear her to shreds. She was left holding the only costume that didn't have to go back to Saks: the one for the Emperor with no Clothes. She's not nearly as interesting this time around, and since she will never again become a nominee for either one of the two highest offices in the land, laughing at her has become so last year. This year, we can just tune her out. She's just boring now.
So we're back to President Obama. His idea of excitement is to play in a private basketball game with a few friends. He doesn't mingle with the people. Michelle has a garden and campaigns against childhood obesity. She could do both of those in Chicago. For all we see of their kids, they could be ensconced away at a boarding school in Switzerland rather than the Sidwell School, and 99% of us wouldn't know the difference. They are just not social creatures. They're family people. That would be okay, but when Pops is the President, it means the whole family needs to be a little accessible, so we can be excited by the first family. It's not happening.
2010 was also a dud crime-wise. Obama didn't keep his promises to close Guantanamo or equalize the penalties for crack and powder cocaine. He gave stingy pardons to those who least needed them. The biggest excitement he generated was unintentional -- in medical marijuana policy-- where he caused big spats between the DEA and DOJ over the loop-hole-filled Memo that was supposed to say the feds would stop the raids and let people comply with state law. The end result was the memo got turned into a piece of swiss cheese, with its many loopholes and an undefined term ("clear and unambiguous compliance with state law") that people would have to be a mind-reader to figure out what's legal and what isn't. The reality is, what's legal is decided on a case by case basis after DEA agents fight it out with the U.S. Attorneys, and the DEA has been winning. It's running roughshod over the memo by substituting its definition of "clear and unambiguous compliance" for the one AG Holder (probably intentionally) left out.
By 2010, even the crime stories were boring. On the terror front, all Obama got was Captain Underpants. We had no Saddam, no more Oklahoma City bombing trials, not even a Jonbenet Ramsey. We had no Patsy Ramsey to push around any more. We had no more Gary Condit; no more O.J. trials of the century; not even a biting, cross-dressing Marv Albert, a case that was entertaining for the spats between Gloria Allred and Roy Black.
Face it, we got stuck with missing white girls and their mothers crying on TV night after night and Nancy Grace screaming at people to the point one committed suicide afterward. For 2010, the most exciting cases may have been Paris Hilton's coke bust, Charlie Sheen's domestic squabble in Aspen and Joran VanderSloot's arrest in Peru.
Maybe it was to generate excitement that Obama unleashed the DEA on the rest of the world. Like its excellent African adventures, where it brought men back to the U.S for us to pay for their trial and likely decades of incarceration, when they weren't even intending to bring drugs here. The perps had people in South America ship cocaine to Africa so they could then transport it to Europe. How is that our business? It's not. So as part of the sting, a DEA agent gets a bright idea and convinces one of the men to agree to send his portion of the cocaine to America. Voila - Jurisdiction! Like we don't have enough traffickers in our own country to worry about, we have to fly around the world finding more?
Or the teenage Somali pirate who kidnapped a crew in Africa. Because the boat belonged to the U.S., the FBI dragged him here to stand trial. We'll pay for his lawyers and trial and his likely 20 years of incarceration too. All this at the same time we hear over and over from our government how broke we are and how we may not be able to afford the social security benefits we've already earned and paid for our entire adult lives.
Also this year, cable news destroyed itself, mostly from its inability to figure out how to use journalists and pundits at the same time and produce an exciting, informative show -- something it did quite well for a decade --and from keeping the same old (and aging) stable of pundits around way too long after we heard everything they could think of to say, at least a dozen times.
With a few exceptions like Breaking Bad, Weeds and Nurse Jackie, even TV went downhill this year. No more Sopranos. Even Jake Pavelka and Ali Fedotowski as the Bachelor and Bachelorette were as bland as mayonnaise. TV fare was so boring, merely passable shows got elevated to "good." Movies didn't fare much better. How many great movies did you see that came out in 2010, and by great, I mean a movie you still thought about every day for a week after you saw it?
Facebook got clunky, old and boring. Twitter is better, but its filtering system isn't sophisticated enough. Who wants to sift through 2,000 stranger's identical tweets on a subject just to get to the pearl you find interesting or the update on a news item you've been waiting for? Not me.
Yes, 2010 was the most boring year in the decade, for politics, for crime and for entertainment.
2011 can't possibly be worse....or can it?
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