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Rothenberg’s best and worst of 2023

The year in politics and its betrayals, failures and disasters

Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville garnered a dubious honor from columnist Stuart Rothenberg this year.
Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville garnered a dubious honor from columnist Stuart Rothenberg this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Somehow, we’ve nearly made it through another year. And what a year it was.

You’ve been called “vermin,” but you’ve also seen Donald Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis plead guilty.

Former President Trump was indicted four times, and a pathetic Republican Party has been unable to stand up to him no matter how stupid and outrageous his comments.

As 2024 approaches, it’s time to separate the winners from the losers, the best performers from the worst. I’ve selected a handful of categories and a handful of nominees for each category. And, of course, I’ve picked my winners. But feel free to disagree. It’s a free country — at least for a few months more.

Worst campaign this year by a candidate running for the GOP presidential nomination

The nominees:

(a) North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum

(b) Former Vice President Mike Pence

(c) South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott

(d) Vivek Ramaswamy

(e) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

The winner: Burgum and Ramaswamy never had a chance. They had money and outsider messaging but little else. Plus, Ramaswamy has been obnoxious. Pence never had a lane because he alienated pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans. Scott was in over his head from the start and sounded more like a candidate for preacher than for president. That leaves DeSantis, who has suffered through heavy staff turnover and proved to be much weaker on the stump than former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. DeSantis “wins” the category.

Most ridiculous and untrue George Santos claim about his life

The nominees:

(a) His grandmother was a Holocaust survivor.
(b) He attended Baruch College on a volleyball scholarship.
(c) He never claimed to be Jewish, only “Jew-ish.”
(d) He worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
(e) His mother was in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The winner: I don’t even know what “Jew-ish” means. Is it someone who eats chopped liver on white bread? Matzo balls in clam chowder? Beats me. Anyway, that “Jew-ish” comment gets the “win-ish” for its ridiculousness.

Authoritarian of the Year

The nominees:

(a) Viktor Orban (Hungary)
(b) Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey)
(c) Xi Jinping (China)
(d) Vladimir Putin (Russia)
(e) Donald Trump (United States)

The winner: Putin and Xi obviously have a lot of experience as authoritarian leaders, but the other three have worked to transform their countries from secular democracies to burgeoning authoritarian regimes. Alas, there are no winners when autocrats are involved.

Best hopeful for House speaker this year

The nominees:

(a) Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
(b) Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.
(c) Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
(d) Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio
(e) Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.

The winner: Jeffries remained dignified throughout the chaos, and Democrats remained united. House Republicans, on the other hand, looked foolish. McCarthy was dumped, while Scalise never got to a floor vote. Johnson was elected speaker because his party simply ran out of gas and nobody knew who he was. That made him the ideal GOP candidate. Can I cast a write-in for former Speaker Paul D. Ryan?

Political party most likely to throw Ukraine under the bus

The nominees:

(a) The Republican Party
(b) The party of Ronald Reagan
(c) The GOP
(d) The party of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida
(e) All of the above.

The winner: You don’t need me to tell you.

Dimmest bulb in the Senate chandelier

The nominees:

(a) Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
(b) Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
(c) Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
(d) Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.

The winner: It’s a close call, but I’ve got to go with Tuberville.

Menendez most likely to have gold bars in the house

The nominees:
(a) Sen. Robert “Bob” Menendez
(b) Nadine Arslanian Menendez
(c) Lyle Menendez
(d) Erik Menendez

The winner: Out of an abundance of caution, I’ll pass.

Former speaker I miss the most as 2023 comes to an end

The nominees:

(a) Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
(b) Former federal prisoner Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
(c) Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
(d) John A. Boehner, R-Ohio
(e) Tip O’Neill, D-Mass.

The winner: I’ll be bipartisan here — Pelosi and Boehner tie.

Most likely non-major party presidential candidate to help elect Trump in 2024

The nominees:

(a) Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
(b) Cornel West
(c) Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.
(d) Jill Stein

The winner: I don’t know that any of these will in some way “win,” but I’m certain the American people will be the biggest losers.

Worst member of the House of Representatives

The nominees:

(a) Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.
(b) Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
(c) Ralph Norman, R-S.C.
(d) Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
(e) Jim Jordan, R-Ohio
(f) James R. Comer, R-Ky.
(g) Mike Johnson, R-La.
(h) Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
(i) Bob Good, R-Va.
(j) Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.
(k) Scott Perry, R-Pa.
(l) Nancy Mace, R-S.C.

The winner: Too many to choose from.

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