The real flavor of a year is always derived most deliciously from the things that go wrong in high places: not just from the cock-ups, cover-ups, and mendacity, but also from ugly speech or unseemly behavior on the part of those (s)elected to Serve the People (or, at the very least, to do them no harm). Here, in no particular order of ignominy, are a few deserving brickbats.
Blowhard of the Year: Nicolas Sarkozy, for his berating of the U.K. for not swallowing a Pan-European poison pill.
Goons of the Year: The Chinese security services for their boorishness toward Ai Weiwei and their roughing up of Christian Bale.
Paranoiac of the Year: Hugo Chávez, for suggesting that Uncle Sam is infecting Latin American leaders with cancer.
Karmic Boomerang of the Year: Rebekah Brooks, for unloosing the hounds of gossip on others’ lives never thinking they would come back to bite her. [Consolation Prize: Piers Morgan.]
Ditherer of the Year: Angela Merkel, for refusing to admit that Greece was bankrupt and thus putting the euro at risk. (Upside: Germany took over Europe without firing a shot.)
Lobbyist of the Year: Newt Gingrich, for crossing the Rubicon and thinking he can cross back again.
Sycophant of the Year: Newt Gingrich, for telling a Jewish cable channel in the U.S. that the Palestinians were an invented people.
Golden Parachuter of the Year: Janet Robinson, for collecting nearly $5 million as she departs The New York Times, having overseen, as CEO, a huge decline in the company’s stock and morale.
Careless Old Goat of the Year: DSK, for leaving his cellphone in his hotel room.
Incontinent Old Goat of the Year: DSK, for his inability to resist a “nooner” before a lunchtime rendezvous with his own daughter. [Consolation Prizes: Silvio Berlusconi; Arnold Schwarzenegger.]
Old Goat’s Wife of the Year: Anne Sinclair (Mrs. DSK) for proving that Frenchwomen really don’t care.
Political Kamikaze of the Year: Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, for building a highway across a nature preserve and then sending in federal troops to put down Indian groups protesting the road.
The Trusting Fool Award: Muammar Gaddafi, for buying into this storyline: “If I give up my nukes, they won’t do regime change.”
Political Shooting Star of the Year: Herman Cain, for not knowing where Libya was.
Emperors With No Clothes Award: Egypt’s generals, who insist there’s no crackdown on political freedom, even as the world watches on TV a spectacle that looks every inch like a crackdown on political freedom.
Trigger-Happy Newspaper of the Year: The Guardian, for failing to check its facts before accusing News of the World of deleting voicemails from the cellphone of a murdered teenager.
The Alternative Enron Award: Solyndra, the California-based solar panel maker with at least $535 million worth of opaque accounting.
The How-Not-to-Run-a-Country Award: Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, for converting India from an emerging power into a declining one.
The Bernie Madoff Award: Jon Corzine—though Bernie at least knew where the money went.
Royal Loser of the Year: Kate Middleton, for allowing her sister’s backside to upstage her wedding.
Weiner of the Year: Anthony.
Chicken Little of the Year: Michael Bloomberg, for shutting down New York in anticipation of Hurricane Irene, the dampest of squibs.
Brazen Tyrant of the Year: Bashar al-Assad for telling Barbara Walters, “We don’t kill our people … no government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person.”
Moral Bankruptcy Award: The U.N., for flying its flag at half-mast on Kim Jong-il’s death.