Incompetence, sloppiness, greed, and outright dishonesty. As usual, 2013 saw more than its share of disappointing behavior by prominent public figures. And thanks to them, our trust in once-respected institutions like Congress and the media took yet another hit.
Who's responsible for this terrible, trust-shattering year? Well, without further ado, here are my, uh, winners, in alphabetical order, of the 2013 "Tricky Dick" Awards, named for our 37th president, Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon:
John Boehner. The House speaker says he has a "zero tolerance" policy for ethics violations among members of Congress. But this doesn't include Florida freshman Trey Radel, busted in October for buying cocaine from an undercover federal agent. Boehner made a mockery of his own policy by refusing to have the Office of Congressional Ethics investigate Radel's case. "The issue is between [Radel] and his family and his constituents," the speaker told reporters.
As for Radel, he said that his behavior was "selfishly fun," but that he won't quit.
James Clapper. Perjuring yourself during sworn testimony before Congress is never a good idea, unless you fancy the prospect of going to prison. But if you're America's most powerful intelligence official, it's apparently no big deal. Clapper, who as director of national intelligence oversees the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and 14 other government intel organizations, was asked at a Senate hearing in March if the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Clapper: "No sir … not wittingly." We now know that not only was Clapper lying, but that he knew he was lying. He apologized and remains on the job.
Bob Filner. The former San Diego mayor, who just couldn't keep his hands to himself, was sentenced earlier this month to three years' probation, and a series of fines totaling about $1,500, for assaulting three women while in office. The three were among 19 women who accused "Feely Filner" of offensive behavior during his time as both mayor and congressman. And speaking of offensive behavior: Filner insisted that the city of San Diego pick up the tab for his legal defense. The city council's response: Uh, no. Filner said he's sorry.
John King, Lara Logan, Jonathan Karl. Respect for journalists is low, and it didn't help that these three distinguished news veterans made some egregiously sloppy errors that further undermined trust in their profession this year. CNN's King said that a suspect had been named in the Boston marathon bombing when it hadn't. Karl, ABC's man in the White House, misrepresented key details in administration memos about public talking points in the aftermath of the attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans — including our ambassador — dead. Karl said he regretted his mistake — but never apologized. Benghazi also snared CBS's Lara Logan, who was put on a "leave of absence" by CBS News after a discredited 60 Minutes story about the attack.
Bob McDonnell. This time last year, Bob McDonnell was a popular governor of a hugely important swing state, Virginia, and mentioned as a possible GOP candidate for president in 2016 (he was on Mitt Romney's VP short list last year). Today his political career is in ruins, thanks to a brazen display of personal greediness involving his entire family. The governor and his wife Maureen took more than $120,000 in "loans and gifts" from Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in return for helping Williams and his struggling dietary-supplement company. The money — used for everything from catering for a daughter's wedding to a loan for a company owned by McDonnell and a sister, to a Rolex watch — has since been returned. McDonnell has apologized, but he's in for a rough 2014: Federal prosecutors are weighing felony charges against Virginia's soon-to-depart first couple.
Barack Obama. After being sworn in for a second term, it was pretty much all downhill for the president in 2013, as a series of scandals erupted, throwing his agenda off track and forcing the White House to play defense during the first two-thirds of the year. But the worst was yet to come: His signature domestic achievement — the Affordable care Act — came under fire after the administration rolled out a non-functioning website, and when millions of Americans learned to their dismay that the president's oft-repeated line "if you like your health care plan you can keep it" was a big fat lie. It was such a whopper that Politifact labeled it the "Lie of the Year." Obama apologized.
Beto O'Rourke. Last year, Congress passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, designed to keep members of Congress from trading on inside information and getting access to initial public offerings (IPOs) on Wall Street. But that didn't keep Texas Congressman O'Rourke, serving his first term, from snagging positions in seven — count 'em seven — IPOs this year. Records show that O'Rourke cashed in fast, and only reported himself to the House Ethics Committee, which ostensibly monitors such behavior, after the watchdog group Legistorm called his office to inquire about it.
Anthony Weiner. I'll give the former congressman this: He's got chutzpah. He quits his House seat in disgrace after a sexting scandal in 2011, then runs for mayor of New York a mere two years later. He actually led in the polls for awhile.. until reports of further horndog activity surfaced. One sexting partner, Sydney Leathers (yes, her real name), cashed in by shooting a hardcore porn flick. Take Weiner's abrasive, egocentric behavior, combine it with a stunning lack of self-awareness and it equals jerk.
Here's to a better 2014.