2023 Turkeys and Drumsticks: The Year of Finding Out
Over at the old Right-Thinking blog, I would take advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkeys of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I sometimes give them out to someone who is evil; but they are mostly reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making snarky tweeting easier. Past winners can be found here.
This has been a crazy year and we still have a month left. It was a year when China misplaced a balloon and the US misplaced an F-35. It was a year when people flipped out because Bud Light sent a few cans to a transgender influencer. It was a year when M&M’s put their mascots on pause because people thought they might not be sexy enough.
Mostly, this was a year when those F’d Around finally Found Out. Fox News Found Out when they had to pay nearly a billion dollars for their lies about Dominion. Alex Jones Found Out repeatedly for his lies about Sandy Hook. Ken Paxton kinda Found Out when he got impeached but ultimately slithered out of culpability. Rudy Giuliani and OANN found out at the hands of two Georgia election workers. Dinish D’Souza found out when he got sued over his election documentary. George Santos is Finding Out in a big way. Ron DeSantis is Finding Out with Disney’s ongoing lawsuit.
But the person who Found Out the most was the former President, current Truth Social CEO and future GOP nominee/federal prisoner number 85 Donald Trump. Let’s just list the ways Donald Trump Found out in 2023:
- He lost a civil suit at the hands of E. Jean Carrol, being found liable for sexual assault and ordered to pay $5 million in compensation. Highlights included misidentifying Carroll as his former wife and continuing to claim he didn’t know her, incurring additional judgements.
- A judge found his organization was rife with massive fraud and began to break up his business empire. The trial section is ongoing with Trump foaming at the mouth about how unfair the process is because [checks notes] the judge’s aide is passing him notes.
- He was indicted in four districts on 91 felony counts ranging from tax fraud in concealing his payments to Stormy Daniels to espionage for mishandling classified documents to RICO conspiracy for the attempts to overturn the election. It’s unclear how these trials will play out and, if he’s re-elected, he can make some (but not all) of the charges vanish. But, as I have pointed out, no one is really arguing that he’s innocent.
I can’t give Trump Turkey of the Year every year. But it’s becoming clear that he’s going to be around for a while and he’s going to be a turkey until the day he dies. So I hereby decree that Donald Trump is the first recipient of the Lifetime Turkey Award that recognizes a Hall of Fame worthy-level of arrogance, stupidity, bloody-mindedness and vanity.1
So with that put aside, here are your Turkeys of the Year for 2022.
Kevin McCarthy: McCarthy made a deal with the devil to get the Speakership that he’d long craved. And then, as most deals with the devil do, it blew up in his face when they ran him out of office and replaced him a factory-standard generic Religious Right figure. McCarthy is determined to keep making an ass of himself, though, with a recent scuffle with a fellow Republican.
George Santos: The recent House report on Santos’ corruption reveals him not only to be corrupt as hell but dumb as a bag of rocks.2 I still am not sure why anyone would hand Santos a baby.
The Republican Vice Presidential Candidates: Yes, Vice Presidential candidates. Because Trump has such a huge lead in the primary, it’s clear that they’re mostly running for Vice President. Vivek Ramaswamy is particular running for Vice President, constantly shoving himself into every conversation, metaphorically photobombing every issue and trying desperately to get Donald Trump to notice him despite having the personal charisma of a condescending cactus. Ron DeSantis may have had actual Presidential ambitions at some point. But as his campaign has faded faster than a Dolphins’ playoff push, he’s been frantically raising his hand, trying to get Trump to pick him.
The thing to notice about the field is how rarely they attack the frontrunner. In most elections, if you’re trailing another candidate, you attack that candidate. But, with the exception of Chris Christie, they are too terrified to attack him. There’s an old saying that you can’t dance with the champ; you’ve got to knock him down. The GOP field isn’t even dancing with the champ. They’re posing for selfies with him.
One of this people might end up being the VP nominee. Tapping someone like DeSantis would be one way for Trump to win over the “Not Trump Again” conservatives.3 But it’s sad to watch these people — any of whom would be a better (and more conservative) President than Trump — preen for his attention like he’s the high school quarterback.
Elon Musk: When Gaza attacked Israel, it really brought home how badly Elon Musk has wrecked Twitter. In the past, Twitter would prioritized regional experts, first hand accounts and reliable sources. But X prioritized blue checks and grifters. Videos and images from Assad’s atrocities in Syria were put out as supposed images of Palestine. Arguments raged over just how many babies Hamas had decapitated. And the moderate middle was nowhere to be found.
Musk has waged fights against the ADL, trumpeting liars who claimed Leo Frank was guilty. He has embraced conspiracy theories. And he’s started paying out cash to those who draw tons of clicks, exacerbating the problems of people lying and rage-bait posting to get attention. I have one foot mostly out the door and it’s only the few friends I have left that keep the other foot from leaving. I suspect I will be gone by New Year’s.
Stockton Rush: Getting yourself killed stupidly is stupid. If you take other people with you, you’re a bastard. Rush insisted he could do deep-sea diving on the cheap. And suddenly one of the safest endeavors in human history became one of the deadlier ones.
Dishonorable Mention: Tucker Carlson, Bob Menendez, Steve Kirsch, Xi Jinping, Kamala Harris, the David DePape conspiracy theorists, Lauren Boebert and her boyfriend.
And now the Golden Drumsticks for those who embody the better parts of public life.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: Rosalynn passed away just a couple of days ago and I suspect that Jimmy, who had been with her for an unimaginable 78 years, will follow soon. The two have exemplified charity, class and honor in their post-White House lives and when Jimmy finally goes, it will be one of the last of the Greatest Generation.
Damar Hamlin: What happened to Hamlin on January 2 was one of the horrifying things I’ve seen on a football field. What’s happened since has been inspiring. First responders saved his life. The community — in Buffalo, in Cincinnati and in the NFL as a whole — rallied to support him and flooded money into his charity. Many people, including me, used the moment to learn the basics of CPR. And Hamlin himself was humbled by the whole thing, repeatedly deferring attention to those who saved his life. I don’t want to say we need more of this. Commotio cordis is usually fatal. But seeing something horrible turned into something good and inspiring? Yeah, we could use more of that.
Barbenheimer Even as the usual gauntlet of sequels, spinoffs and franchise tentpoles foundered, two wildly different movies — Barbie and Oppenheimer — reminded us that movies don’t have to be a slog. Both were good movies, featuring talented actors under the guidance of outstanding directors. And both did extremely well, despite … or maybe because … they were in competition. This was the first time since the pandemic and really the first time since The Force Awakens hit, that I felt like movies were back. Shows were sold out. Everyone had a good time. And maybe, just maybe, Hollywood will look to this and realize that original movies will draw audiences.4
Jamie Raskin: Raskin is one of the few House members I respect. Among other things, he voted against expelling Santos on principle, and then responded to Santos’ thank-you note with a red-pen corrected missive that reminded Santos that he could always do the honorable thing and resign. Rasking also triumphed over cancer a second time this year
Jack Smith: The Trump indictments have been a media circus and it seems that at least a few prosecutors are enjoying the limelight. But Smith has stood out for his narrow focus, solid legal arguments and concise explanations. His indictment of Trump over the election conspiracy laid out, in detail even I could understand, exactly what his case was and why it mattered. That’s doesn’t guarantee success in Court, of course. But he seems to be taking this job with the seriousness it deserves.
Honorable Mention: John Fetterman, Ke Huy Quan, Salman Rushdie, Mr. Beast, Dolly Parton.
- I had originally planned to name it the William Jefferson Clinton Memorial Award, but someone reminded me that Clinton is, technically speaking, still alive.
- Apologies to the bagged aggregate community for this comparison.
- The other way being just wait until their inevitable cave.
- I wouldn’t bet on it, though.