It seems like a lot less than a year ago that I was writing my last annual year-end post, but...whatever. 2012 was a strange year. There was a lot of reason for despair -- too much violence at home and overseas, too little action about the fate of the American middle class, and not much hope that the answers would come from a hopelessly gridlocked Washington (let alone an utterly clueless Harrisburg). But the year also ended with some tiny green shoots of hope here and there -- the emerging realization that a younger, more diverse and more progressive electorate is taking control, which could possibly -- possibly -- break the logjam on issues from gun control to immigration to climate change.
Here's five blog posts from Attytood that tell one side of the story of 2012.
The unbearable wrongness of Tom Corbett. Corbett's Pennsylvania is a place where there's a fracking rig outside the dorm room that you couldn't have afforded even if your public high school hadn't run out of money two years ago. On July 26, I wrote that in a just and perfect world, we would see the impeachment of Tom Corbett:
In January 2011, Corbett took an oath "to obey and defend...the Constitution of the Commonwealth" -- yet we now know that on matters of critical importance, including the sanctity of elections, preserving the environment and protecting public education, he intended no such thing.
The state House of Representaive should draft articles of impeachment against Gov. Corbett and approve them.. In the real world, this will not happen -- not today, with Corbett's GOP holding the majority, and probably not if the Democrats gain seats in November. Instead, it will be left to the courts to strike down the most egregious acts of a man who is arguably the worst governor in modern Pennsylvania history -- as happened today and as may happen again soon with the voter ID law.
Hopefully, the courts will allow enough lawful voters to show up and cast ballots in 2014 to fix this constitutional nightmare.
They're going to need to bring a lot of Scotch tape.
This piece from 51 weeks ago (Jan. 4) feels like ancient history, but my response to Santorum winning (as we later learned) the Iowa caucus is worth noting if foi no other reason than this: It became the most-read post in Attytood history. Here's a sample:
But I also think Santorum’s weird sexual bluster can obscure who he really is, and what truly matters about his suddenly surging campaign. As a Philadelphia-based political reporter, I arrived in town just seven months after Santorum became my state’s junior senator. I followed his 12 years on the Washington political stage closely, and I think people obsessing on the “man-on-dog” stuff are missing the bigger picture. For one thing, the self-styled “family values” expert has a surprisingly ambiguous record with his own personal ethics. Also, Santorum’s legislative record shows that his real workaday agenda was not so much waging culture wars as protecting the interests of the 1 Percent, the millionaires and billionaires who funded the modern Republican Party. You could say that Rick Santorum is just another politician. But that would be giving him too much credit.
Here’s a Pennsylvanian’s brief guide to the Rick Santorum you don’t know:
1. This compassionate Christian conservative founded a charity that was actually a bit of a scam. In 2001, following up on a faith-based urban charity initiative around the 2000 GOP convention in Philadelphia, Santorum launched a charitable foundation called the Operation Good Neighbor Foundation. While in its first few years the charity cut checks to community groups for $474,000, Operation Good Neighbor Foundation had actually raised more than $1 million, from donors who overlapped with Santorum’s political fund raising. Where did the majority of the charity’s money go? In salary and consulting fees to a network of politically connected lobbyists, aides and fundraisers, including rent and office payments to Santorum’s finance director Rob Bickhart, later finance chair of the Republican National Committee. When I reported on Santorum’s charity for The American Prospect in 2006, experts told me a responsible charity doles out at least 75 percent of its income in grants, and they were shocked to learn the figure for Operation Good Neighbor Fund was less than 36 percent. The charity – which didn’t register with the state of Pennsylvania as required under the law --- was finally disbanded in 2007.
Attytood has never endorsed a political candidate, and 2012 was no time to start. A "President Mitt Romney" would have caused a second recession with his corporatist, anti-47-Percent policies and set the clock back to the 1950s, at best, on social issues. But President Obama -- despite talking the talk on a number of key issues -- remained a source of endless frustration, especially as he continued and in some cases worsened the security-state abuses of the Bush years. Nothing was more vexingthan his morally indefensible and geopolitically counterproductive drone killings, as I wrote on May 29:
This may be the ultimate example of something we've seen a lot in the last three and a half years, which we'll call, "If President Bush did this, liberals would be outraged." For what little it's worth, I'm fairly outraged. I do certainly approve of the raid and killing of Osama bin Laden and believe there was a time when al-Qaeda was stronger and more of a threat that these kind of attacks could be justified with solid intelligence.
But today the harm that's caused by raining death from machines in the sky down onto far too many civilians -- including someone's son, brother, or father who wasn't "up to no good" at all -- vastly outweighs any good. Righteous anger over the killing of civilians creates new terrorists faster than the killing of any old ones. As for the morally indefensible position that any male killed in such an attack is "probably up to no good," isn't the Obama administration saying the EXACT same thing that George Zimmerman said about Trayvon Martin?
Ponder that for a moment.
It's funny -- I thought a lot about the state of journalism and newspapers in 2012 -- I just didn't write as much on the subject as in the mid-2000s, in the early days of Attytood. It's not easy to articulate why. I guess I've been through all the stages of grief over the death of the American newspaper. The earlier stages like "anger" and "bargaining" are conducive to good blogging. "Acceptance" -- not so much. The one exception came on June 18, when the 40th anniversary of Watergate and the one-time reemergence of Woodward and Bernstein led me to reflect on what it all meant:
Nixon Exceptionalism and the triumph of objectivity kept a focus on "what did the president know and when did he know it," the provable fact-based lie, liberated from anything that might be corrupted by debatable policy or ideas. Since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan closed the lid on the post-Watergate era, we've seen a president who WASN'T impeached for evading Congress to cut secret arms deals in Iran and fund a secret war in Nicaragua, a president who WAS impeached for lying about his sex life, and a president who WASN'T impeached for lying the nation into a war that killed thousands of American soldiers and innocent civilians, while carrying out torture and other violations of human rights more "perverse" than anything during Nixon's presidency.
George W. Bush's Iraq War, in particular, was enabled by a docile press corps and by a feckless generation of lawmakers and judges -- largely the generation that came of age when I did, during those languid Watergate summers. Bob Woodward was at the very head of that pack, flaunting his access to the Bush White House while failing to ask the only question that really mattered.
Not, "What did the president know and when did he know it?"
But, "Is what the president doing moral?"
In the end, 2012 may be remembered for the 50 weeks that came before Newtown and the two weeks that came after. In Week 48, something happened that epitomized the way we were before the Sandy Hook shooting: Bob Costas spoke up on national TV about American gun culture and the murder-suicide of an NFL player and his girlfriend -- and he was crucified for it. I blogged about it on Dec. 3:
Bob Costas broke the fundamental rule of American discourse: Not knowing when or where it's appropriate to talk about guns. Rule No. 1: It's completely inappropriate to discuss the gun issue within 48 -- no, actually make that 72 hours after any kind of high-profile use of guns. This was the point that Brian Kilmeade made so astutely this morning on Fox & Friends, when he said:
I just don't know if it's appropriate enough on a Sunday night, less than 24 hours after the guy took his own life and killed his girlfriend, the mother of his baby, to make that stance.
Actually, it was 36 hours, but point taken. And you can multiply this factor when there's a multiple killing. Many commentators reminded us of that when a deranged young man killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater this July, and New Jersey's Chris Christie -- our national hero of the moment -- said TV discussions of gun control were "grandstanding," and media critic Howard Kurtz seemed to agree with him.
The funny -- OK, not funny -- thing is that there's victims of gun violence in the United States every day. This weekend, five people were murdered with guns right here in Philadelphia-- so is it too soon to talk about how gun laws and culture contributed to their death?
Or too late?
Hopefully, it's not too late for America to turn around gun violence -- or a bunch of other stuff -- in 2013. It's going to be a fascinating year, and one that I'm looking to with a higher than usual level of anticipation, and also of dread. Hopefully I'll be here 12 months from today giving you the Five for Fighting of 2013. But I've lived long enough to know there are no guarantees. I will definitely see you on Wednesday, however, to start the New Year. Have a great holiday.