Best of the worst on parade; 2013’s honor most fowl goes to …

Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

There are turkeys, and then there are Turkeys. The former end up as Butterballs. The latter end up as trophies to homo sapiens, distinguished for being outstanding losers.

A human variety of the turkey family has been recognized annually in this space since 1996. So pull up a plate of leftovers from the big feast and learn who strutted away with the Turkey of the Year award.

Spoiler alert: A favorite for the 2013 Turkey was the lame Barack Obama bird in the White House. But in the end, he couldn’t come through, couldn’t roll out his signature Edsel, sputtered when he should have soared. He was passed over.

Many two-legged turkeys merit distinction as above-average losers, but only a chosen few rise to the level of breathtaking disaster. Only premium losers who sail spectacularly below expectations can be called the best of the worst.

A handful earn the dishonor in back-to-back competitions. A former Buckeye governor, the hugely unpopular and convicted Bob Taft, was head and shoulders above the field of failures in 2004 and 2005. Like a bad penny, he keeps returning for affirmation.

The discredited past Turkeys preen on the perp walk into the pageant. Arriving amid deafening catcalls from the crowd is the 2006 Turkey of the Year winner, Donald Rumsfeld.

The former Defense secretary to President George W. Bush was renowned for his arrogance and murky military thinking. He still elicits derision for perpetuating the shock-and-awe lie that led to the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and more than 4,000 American deaths.

But stuff happens. Like the subprime mortgage catastrophe and financial meltdown. Wall Street institutions and big investment banks were infamous for bailouts and bonuses. American International Group Inc. and friends were the hands-down Turkeys in 2009.

Behind them march the owners of another Turkey served with a cup of tea in 2010. The erratic turkeys in the Tea Party flock flap incessantly about taking the country back from whomever to wherever.

Up next is last year’s Turkey, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. The state’s chief elections officer outdid himself. In a key battleground state, with a crucial role overseeing a close presidential election in 2012, the Republican worked to confound and discourage voters by playing with poll hours, ballot language, and vote-counting rules.

The intent was to affect election turnout and outcome, especially in Democratic-leaning precincts. Despite Mr. Husted’s machinations, Ohio went blue in 2012. But his fowl reputation as a reliable party player was sealed.

His breed of birds, who control the pecking order in the General Assembly, are runners-up in the 2013 Turkey competition. They’re that contemptible.

Whether it’s rejecting billions of dollars in federal funding to help the poorest of the poor in Ohio receive Medicaid coverage, or approving regressive “stand-your-ground” legislation that eliminates requirements to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense, Republican lawmakers are bona fide fiascos.

They routinely act with the political abandon only gerrymandered birds of a feather would risk. Public wrath doesn’t bother them, but the threat of a potent primary challenger does.

So in the interest of job preservation, GOP incumbents give core conservatives outsized influence to dictate policy-making. The same goes for their counterparts in Congress.

The 2014 midterm congressional elections clearly motivated the juvenile behavior of House Republicans during the 16-day government shutdown last month. Spineless colleagues let children have the run of the lower chamber.

The dysfunction that pitted Republican against Republican, disrupted federal services, inflicted an economic toll, and exposed what’s wrong with Washington to the world, would not have occurred but for the foot-stamping ideologues who put politics ahead of the public interest. In a few weeks, they may do it again.

For earning the unsurpassed disdain of a nation, which already regards Congress as worthless, House Republicans take the Turkey in 2013.

Hold your applause.

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade.

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