A Richness of Embarrassment: 2012’s Five Worst Opeds

For three years running now at the Washington Examiner, I’ve said good riddance to the Old Year with a whimsically malicious selection of the year’s worst opeds. Click here for 2012’s parade of horribles; here for last year’s winners, here for 2010’s.  

We have New York World editor Herbert Bayard Swope to thank for first inflicting the oped genre upon the world in 1921. As Swope put it: 

“It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America… and thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts.

So not much has changed over nine decades. 

In selecting the 2013 winners, I once again looked for bad arguments and bad writing and awarded extra points for warped values. But a 600-word column is far too short to capture all the crackbrained commentary 2012 produced, so I’d like to use this space to note some worthy suggestions I received from my Cato colleagues and the Twitterverse at large while preparing the column.

Lee Doren sent me this monstrosity from the LA Times, “Does ‘Innocence of Muslims’ meet the free-speech test?” which suggests the whole wolrd’s one crowded theater, and disparaging someone’s religion is akin to shouting “Fire!” I ended up going with a similar entry by law professor Eric Posner: “The World Doesn’t Love the First Amendment,” Slate.com. And maybe they don’t, judging by this 2013 contender just sent to me by Michael Hamilton, “In praise of Vallaud-Belkacem, or why not to tolerate hate speech on Twitter.” 

It irks me when conservatives brag about not reading the New York Times, but I have to admit it takes a certain masochism to take on the NYT oped page every day.  This year, Grey Lady regulars took the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. Friedman earned the top spot with “Obama’s Nightmare,” one of those virtuoso performances by the Maestro of Mixed Metaphors that makes you half-suspect he’s having us all on in an elaborate, decades-long, Borat-style prank.  Of course that wasn’t the only Friedman nomination: David Boaz suggested this one on the “pro-life” nanny state; Michael Cannon favored the column where Friedman nominates Education Secretary Arne Duncan as Secretary of State.

Other nominations from the NYT: Crime novelist Andrew Klavan recommended Paul Krugman’s “recent blithering inanity: the Twinkie manifesto. Barely comprehensible.” I got more than one “anything by Krugman” response from Twitter. And several folks recommended this just-under-the-wire submission from Sunday’s NYT: “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution.” An embarrassment of richness and vice-versa. 

More “honorable mentions” from other sources after the jump:

Dara Lind voted for this one from Peggy Noonan, declaring “all the vibrations are right” for a Romney win. (She clearly should have been reading the New York Times’s Nate Silver.)

“Postlibertarian” mooted Wayne LaPierre’s post-Newtown outburst, which would surely have made the cut if I could count it as an oped.

There were several votes for this piece by Charlotte Allen: “Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.”

Joey Coon offered “The Perils of Legalizing Pot” by David Frum (won’t somebody please think of the slackers?) 

Sallie James voted for “A Conservative Case for Sugar Tariffs.” Per Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) they’re “the best line of defense we have against an OPEC-like market that threatens our food security.”

…and a hat tip to Radley Balko for cluing me in to this gem, “Don’t Be Nosy about Fast and Furious,” L.Z. Granderson, CNN.com. (Don’t. It’s rude.)

Apologies to anyone I forgot. Keep them coming this year!

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