Time Magazine has its Man of the Year Award; I have mine.

There was a bumper crop of candidates this year, a year marked by one bizarre turn of events after another.

Who would have imagined, for example, that President Barack Obama, having gotten a commitment from oil giant BP to set aside $20 billion for damages caused by its oil spill, would be accused by a Congressman of “blackmail” or that the Republican Party would call it a “$20-billion shakedown”? Or that the lawmaker, Rep. Joe Barton, could be the ranking GOP member of the House Energy and Commerce committee?

That’s like letting a practicing alcoholic teach driver education.

Ultimately, I suppose, if you had to distill the year’s madness into one award, you’d have to say that the Man of the Year is the Republican Party. (That’s neither a man nor woman, I know. So sue me.)

The GOP this year accomplished a feat so extraordinary as to beggar the imagination. Nothing like it has been seen in living memory.

Two years ago, Republicans were sliding toward oblivion. Their presidential candidate had been trounced by a virtual unknown. They faced a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate and an equally large majority in the House. The outlook was grim.

Until they hit on the strategy of acting as though they’d won the 2008 elections. They locked arms and voted as one against pretty much everything the President wanted to do, then blamed him for not getting it done.

But what was really extraordinary was that they did it by shamelessly taking the side of the rich against the poor, while claiming that they were speaking for the common man.

And even more extraordinary yet was the fact that the American people bought what they were selling. It was one of the great feats of political jujitsu of our time or any other.

As a long-time observer of American politics, I can only tip my hat in admiration and give them the highest honor it is in my power to bestow: the un-Timely Man of the Year Award for 2010.

As I said, there were other deserving candidates, so I thought I’d give them some love too.

The barely coveted It Pays to be Ignorant Award goes to none other than Sarah Palin, who managed to go through an entire year without saying one intelligent or knowledgeable thing while growing exponentially in political popularity (not to mention in riches). Watching her is like seeing a high-wire artist who works not only without a net, but without a wire.

The competition for the Ignorance Award, by the way, was fierce. Right behind Sarah was Christine (“I Am Not a Witch”) O’Donnell, the Republican Senate candidate in Delaware who, during a debate on religion in public schools, said incredulously: “You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?”

Right behind her was Sharron Angle, the Senate candidate in Nevada, who thought that Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, was governed by Sharia law.

Other notable achievers:

  • Rep. Charlie Rangel, the New York Democrat who demanded a House ethics investigation of his finances, which then proceeded to prove he was a crook.
  • Tiger Woods, who, robbed by divorce of the chance to cheat on his wife, went from being the world’s greatest golfer to a middle-of-the-pack hacker. There’s a moral in there somewhere, but I’m afraid to look for it.
  • Rush Limbaugh, who disappointed millions of Americans by promising to leave the country if health care reform passed, then not leaving when it passed.
  • Rep. John Boehner, the Ohio Republican who apparently can’t tell the story of his rise from saloon keeper’s son to Speaker of the House without bursting into tears, when it’s the rest of us who should be crying.
  • Judge Henry E. Hudson, the conservative Virginia judge who ruled that health care is unconstitutional. Who knew?

It was a heck of a year. I shudder to think of what’s ahead.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. www.otherwords.org

Get more news like this, directly in your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter.