Ten who failed to make a difference in 2004

With Congress in recess, elections over, and editorial weariness from correcting every “Merry Christmas” into a “Season’s Greetings” having set in, end-of-the-year columns are usually replete with the old chestnut of honoring people who “made a difference” the expiring year. Heck with that. Let’s recall instead those who memorably inserted themselves into things to no avail. This column is dedicated to people everywhere who now seek comfort in the thought that but for them, their embarrassing setback would have really been a disaster.

Without any further ado, I present ten who failed to make a difference in 2004:

10. Celebrities and entertainers doing politics
P. Diddy donned that endlessly risible “Vote or Die” shirt. Leo DiCaprio and Martin Sheen mouthed off as if they were king of the world and president. Barbra Streisand simply outdid herself, and that’s saying a lot. Washed-up entertainers from Bon Jovi to Bruce Springsteen to Linda Ronstadt generated for themselves more headlines in a single month in 2004 than they had in total throughout the 1990s, squared. A fawning media were impressed, at least, as were the celebs themselves, who all beamed with Li’l Jack Horner self-satisfaction: “What a good boy am I!”

9. Babe Ruth
Technically, the Gambino is still dead, but until this year his famous “curse” wasn’t. And with the Red Sox down three games to none and trailing in the fourth, it sure seemed alive. Then, remarkably, the Sox ran off eight straight wins, won the World Series, and gave their fans innumerable stories of ballpark miracles with which to bore their grandchildren.

8. MoveOn.org and other online leftist outfits
Let’s see if we have the arguments straight. This was the most important election in history, the whole world was watching, and everybody knows George W. Bush is an unelected, oil-grubbing, lying, Nazi cowboy moron. For some reason, all of that required beaucoup bucks to propagate, and despite it all, the target of this campaign actually continued to go about his day as if they didn’t exist. So did nigh on everybody else.

7. (tie) Michael Newdow and the U.S. Supreme Court
Newdow is one of those idiots who think your Constitutional rights have been violated if somebody says “God” in your presence without the suffix “-dammit.” So when his third-grade daughter recited the Pledge of Allegiance, including “under God,” in a public school, he sued on her behalf. The case proceeded all the way to the Supreme Court. A majority of justices, finally handed a golden opportunity to clarify the rampant misreadings of the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, punted. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and Anthony Kennedy joined Justice Paul Stevens in ruling that since Newdow was involved in a custody dispute with the mother (whom he had never married) for the child, he didn’t have the legal standing to bring the case before them. Thus they left the door wide open for years of patently ridiculous crackdowns on religious expression to come. Sure enough, later in the year, dozens of public school officials went into conniptions over the word “Christmas,” and one even castigated a civics instructor for teaching the Declaration of Independence, the nation’s founding document, which contains reference to a “Creator” and therefore is un-Constitutional.

6. Michael Moore
His “documentary” won French awards and the coveted “Remaining Thumbs Up!” prize from Hezbollah. He siphoned student fees to fund his get-out-the-college-vote (-for-Kerry) campaign and rewarded his minions by calling it the “Slacker Uprising” tour. Afterwards, he was left muttering about annexing Canada and sputtering about “Jesusland.”

5. John Edwards
John Kerry added the North Carolina senator to the Great Hair ticket on the hopes that Edwards would “deliver” the South. The very next day, polls in North Carolina showed a noticeable bump — for the Bush campaign. It was a harbinger of the “Edwards effect” throughout the South, as he failed not only to deliver the region, but even one Southern state, not even his two “home states.” And as WRAL-TV of Raleigh reported, his own neighborhood sported more Bush-Cheney signs than Kerry-Edwards ones.

4. Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter, noted tyrants’ lickspittle, brought his Carter Center election observers to Caracas, Venezuela, for the recall election on dictator Hugo Chavez. Despite exit polls showing Chavez losing by a 2-1 margin, he won by about that margin. Notwithstanding the huge discrepancy, Carter immediately declared the election legit. Only later did we learn that Carter Center folks and members of the opposition were prevented from monitoring the main computer hub — and that apparently the Smartmatic voting machines were changed from printing the totals before submitting them by Internet to the hub to more fraud-friendly features, such as receiving communications from the hub and not printing the totals till they were sent in.

3. The United Nations
Despite vigorous application of the United Nation’s patented Rwanda Method of Genocide Prevention (do nothing, blame the U.S., repeat as necessary), the genocide in Sudan continued its horrific pace. The Oil-for-Terrorism-Instead-of-Food program came to a sudden halt, however, though not by any action of the U.N.’s. The scandal, which emerged despite the best squelching by international media, has of late even engulfed Kofi Annan’s son Kojo, and earned Kofi the Capt. Renault Award for Obviously Transparent Shock.

2. Dan Rather
Was anything funnier this year than watching Rather trying to pass off as not only Legitimate but Very Serious what was an obviously word-processed document supposedly written in an era of typewriters — which, it turns out, had been faxed in by a Democrat party operative known for comparing Bush to Hitler? Perhaps the best moments were Rather’s “pajama” cracks at the Internet bloggers who blew up his 60 Minutes II story in a matter of minutes and his oblivious pledge that “If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I’d like to break that story.” Rather’s performance was cluelessness without parallel — and it will remain so unless and until someone can provide evidence that Captain Edward John Smith of the H.M.S. Titanic went down ordering “Full steam ahead!”

1. Viktor Yanukovich and pals
What more could they do? Somebody gave Yanukovich’s pro-democracy opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, what ended up being the second-greatest non-lethal dose of dioxin ever suffered by a human being, then they tried the Chavez method of stealing the election right in front of everybody — nothing doing! The year closes with Yanukovich staring at a second defeat, Vladimir Putin seeing a key link breaking before he could finish putting up his makeshift iron curtain, and the Ukrainian people inspiring others worldwide in their peaceful yet insistent revolution for freedom.

So before ringing in the New Year, let us wring out the old in saluting these colossal though insubstantial figures. Yes, they strutted and fretted, but like MacBeth’s idiot’s tale, they were “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”