This time every year, The New York Times’ David Brooks writes a column lauding the year’s best magazine articles — a nice gesture from every liberal’s favorite nice-guy-on-the-right.
For my last column this year, I would rather tap into my inner Scrooge for a list of the worst Op-Eds of 2010.
The modern Op-Ed dates to 1921, when New York World editor Herbert Bayard Swope first inflicted the genre upon the world. “Nothing is more interesting than opinion,” he rationalized. Therefore, “I decided to print opinion, ignoring facts.”
The worst Op-Eds of 2010 stayed true to that vision.
I looked for bad arguments, bad writing and bad faith, awarding extra points for warped values and limiting my picks to the major dailies.
5. Al Gore and David Blood, “Toward Sustainable Capitalism,” Wall Street Journal (June 24): This pompous and impenetrable piece is the former vice president’s deep-think vision for the economy (and a pitch for Gore’s lucrative green-energy investment firm). More than anything, though, it is a hate crime against clear prose.
The authors’ use of the alleged verb “incent” — as in, we need to “incent investors to manage assets with a long-term perspective” — might leave you wondering, “Where’s the ‘English Only’ movement when we really need it?”
4. Thomas Friedman, “Malia for President,” New York Times (May 29): For bad Op-Eds, it is tough to beat the Times’ Friedman, whose columns are hot, flat and crowded with mixed metaphors, famous name-droppings and juvenile political ideas.
During last summer’s “did you plug the hole yet, daddy” frenzy over the BP spill, Friedman urged President Barack Obama to “think like a kid.”
3. Charles Krauthammer, “Throw the Wikibook at Them,” Washington Post, (Dec. 3): Craftwise, Krauthammer is among the best in the business — would that he more often used his power for good, not evil. In this column, about “getting” WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Krauthammer reminisces about a KGB assassination via “poisoned umbrella tip,” but (somewhat grudgingly) concludes we will have to settle for making up a crime.
2. Frank Rich, “The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged,” New York Times (Feb. 27): Here, Rich waxes nostalgic about the militia scare of the 1990s, warning that the “tax protester” who flew a plane into an IRS building in February may be a dark harbinger of tea party terrorism to come.
1. David Broder “How Obama Might Recover,” Washington Post (Oct. 31): As the GOP was about to recapture the House, the Grand Poobah of Beltway Consensus told our embattled president that he could become the “comeback kid” by “orchestrating a showdown” with Iran.
As “we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve,” which “will help him politically.”
This year, America’s opinion leaders fantasized about assassinations and phony terror scares, begged the president to solve their daddy issues, and helpfully suggested he put lives at risk to goose his approval rating.
There’s my top five. But your mileage might vary, so I welcome your candidates — even if I am among them. Like they say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.”
Gene Healy is a columnist for The Examiner and author of “The Cult of the Presidency.”