Each week we round up the looniest examples of right-wing bigotry, idiocy, and bizarre behavior in our “This Week In Crazy” column. Now it’s time to take stock of the entire year — which gave us more inanity, head-spinning untruth, and backwards thinking than anyone could have expected or should have to endure.
This is 2015 — The Year In Crazy…
As you may recall, this year kicked off with a big national conversation about the efficacy of vaccinations — setting the tone for a host of debates utterly untethered to reality, whether it was fraudulent anti-abortion videos meant to “expose” Planned Parenthood, or a U.S. senator using a single snowball to disprove 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate science.
We saw loony conspiracy theories that would be too unrealistic for an episode of 24 gaining currency with a surprising number of politicians, as when a handful of paranoid Texans thought that a military exercise was the opening salvo in a federal invasion. This delusion then gained traction and metastasized wildly in the patchwork of talk radio shows and fringe websites that have become the touchstone of our political discourse, until even Texas governor Greg Abbot and Ted Cruz voiced their concern.
The Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage was a landmark victory for civil rights, but it sent conservative Christians into an apocalyptic tizzy. Governors tried to pass legislation to legally discriminate against same-sex couples under the reprehensible camouflage of “religious liberty,” and one county clerk became a national martyr when she spent five nights in jail rather than let two men walk down the aisle.
When a racist terrorist shot up a black church with a gun, conservatives told us we could blame the attack on anything except racism and guns. Finally, we all just blamed a flag. Even so, down in Dixie and elsewhere, there were many who fought to fly it proudly — on the lawn of the South Carolina state house and over a grassy knoll in Texas just off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
It was hard to narrow it down, but based on your votes, we have assembled the top 5 crazies from this year’s archives.
As always, thanks for reading. See you in 2016!
5. Ben Carson
One of the most nagging question of the year: How did Dr. Ben Carson — the famed neurosurgeon whose inspiring life story took him from poverty in Detroit to Yale and to the apex of his profession — become the baffling, stumbling fool running for president?
Carson’s skill in the O.R. is well-documented. In the political realm, however, the candidate has come across as tone deaf, mendacious, fabulously incurious, prone to wild fantasias about the way the world works, and steadfast in his determination not to know anything that conflicts with his affirmatively evangelist worldview.
An incomplete list of the good doctor’s hypocritical gaffes, winding back his medical expertise to curry conservative support, includes his inexplicable backtracking on the safety of vaccines and about-face on the value of fetal tissue research.
As Cynthia Tucker Haynes wrote back in May, “[t]he good doctor’s foray into Republican presidential politics threatens to become his epitaph, to overshadow — perhaps even to overwhelm — his academic and surgical accomplishments.” He has more than just a campaign to lose, she wrote, “he also stands to lose his place as one of the nation’s most admired men.”
Carson hasn’t lost the nomination just yet, but his respect and stature — that might be a sunk cost.
4. Carly Fiorina
Fiorina successfully parlayed a strong performance at the very first undercard GOP debate in September to a ticket at the big kids’ table in October, where she once again stole the show. I’m choosing my words carefully here (“performance”/”show”), because it was an act of brilliant theater at that second debate that catapulted Fiorina in the polls, when she forcefully described a macabre scene of Planned Parenthood doctors keeping a fresh fetus alive — “its legs kicking!”— in order to harvest its brain. It was also a blatant fiction, one that carried horrifying real-world repercussions.
A few months later, an evangelical Christian terrorist named Robert Dear shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, murdering an on-duty police officer, an Iraq War vet, and a mother of two. His stated mission was to be a “warrior for the babies.” And if Fiorina enlisted him in that war, she showed no compunction for it.
In fact, rather than backpedal on her lies, she continued to zap life into this fabrication — appearing on Chris Cuomo’s show to insist over and over again that despite the rigorous and consistent fact-checking that exposed her lies, she was not changing her tune. She has stood by her story that the sting videos meant to demonize Planned Parenthood had not been deceptively edited (although one of the anti-abortion activists responsible for the videos has recently admitted that they were).
Of course, none of this is especially surprising from a former business executive who has played fast and loose with her record, and whose campaign is predicated partially on the promise of rolling back women’s rights. It only remains to see whether and how long a flagrant liar like Fiorina can keep up the act.
3. Ann Coulter
There are several commentators who traffic in desperately outrageous claims and incendiary rhetoric; none of them does it with quite the Satanic relish and unalloyed contempt that Coulter does. Throughout 2015 Coulter, red in tooth and claw, spat scattershot venom at liberals, atheists, immigrants, the Pope and all Catholics, “f*cking Jews,” Muslims, gays, and any RINO impure enough and audacious enough to even think about stealing the nomination away from her white knight, Donald Trump.
It makes for great television, which is why she keeps showing up on cable news. But get past the fire-breathing showmanship, and you see a hate-filled human being, whose oft-professed love for America comes marbled with a mad, frothing malice for everyone who doesn’t fit neatly into her narrow, broken view of the country.
In one breath she condemned all American Muslims for being responsible for “machete attacks,” “clitorectomies,” “honor killings,” and of course, “the occasional terrorist attack.” She argued that reinstituting literacy tests for voter registration was not only constitutional — it was vital in order to “make it more difficult to vote.”
2. Ted Cruz
Purely from a strategic point of view, Senator Ted Cruz, the silk-voiced Tea Party titan, is a political genius. He set up a campaign operation that is the envy of his party, played nice with The Donald when everyone around him lost their heads (and their phones) trying to tear him down, and has quietly courted the endorsements of the lunatic evangelical fringe while maintaining an aura of quiet sensibility next to the bombastic Trump and visibly clueless Carson. (Which is why he’s scarier than either of them.)
Even when he gets caught with his pants down — as when audio leaked of the senator admitting it was his plan to poach supporters from Trump and Carson after they flamed out — he has weaseled out of it with the usual slimy, well-lubricated ease.
A recent AP study found that Cruz’s comments marked him as the most idiotic Republican candidate when it came to climate change. He’s no fool, but he plays the fool better than anyone else.
1. Donald Trump
The Donald kicked off the year by promising to build a beautiful, inexpensive wall (a proposal we found more than a little improbable), and leaping into the presidential race with a garrulous, rambling series of improvised blusters. We said he’d be out by October. Nobody could possibly take him seriously. He was a reality TV star whose uncouth eruptions and nakedly xenophobic outbursts made him utterly incapable of running the country or winning the vote. He may not make America great, but he sure as hell made us all look dumb for doubting his staying power.
As commentators continue to presume the imminent end of The Donald’s candidacy, it’s hard not to get a sense of déjà vu. Meanwhile, Trump is laughing all the way to polls.
Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments! Get This Week In Crazy delivered to your inbox every Friday, by signing up for our daily email newsletter.
The illustration of Sumo wrestler Trump above, and all the caricatures in this article (except for Ann Coulter’s), come courtesy of the artist DonkeyHotey. DonkeyHotey created several of the tremendously funny caricatures that have appeared on “This Week In Crazy” throughout the year. The artist graciously releases his work for free under Creative Commons. The complete portfolio is available for viewing here.
Ann Coulter cartoon: Jeff Danziger