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If ever there was a good-news/bad-news year for Houston, it was 2005.
Good news: The Astros made it to the World Series. Bad news: Not so's you'd notice, as they got swept in four nerve-racking, frustrating games.
Good news: The city opened its arms, welcoming evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. Bad news: The city then almost broke its arms patting itself on the back about the noble effort. Or worse, whining about how the rest of the country didn't properly appreciate just how much we had done. (Stay classy, Houston!)
Good news: Hurricane Rita missed us. Bad news: Now, be fair -- what's so bad about sitting in a broiling car for 18 hours? It's the kind of family time that's just so hard to come by these days.
Good news: At least one of the big-name Enron players served some time -- Lea Fastow, who is now a semi-free woman. Bad news: Every other player in the scandal is still walking around River Oaks or Vail four years after their con game collapsed.
It was that kind of year -- a year of good tidings and bad. It was also, as always, a year full of Turkeys. Men and women who, through incompetence, pride or just plain fecklessness, went the extra mile to make sure we know that turkeys walk among us.
Turkey of the Year
What the New York Yankees were to baseball in the 1950s, Tom DeLay, the czar of Sugar Land, is to the Turkey of the Year competition. Love him, hate him, you have to acknowledge that the Hammer dominates this contest as easily as he pulls money out of lobbyists' pockets.
We didn't want to give it to DeLay this year, we really didn't. But the man just has style.
Indict him? He'll throw a fuck-you smile in his mug shot. Try to bring him to trial? He'll get the state's best criminal-defense lawyer -- a Democrat, no less -- and he'll play the Texas judicial system like a flute until he gets the judge he wants. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle doesn't know what he's gotten himself into.
Can you even name the guy who supposedly took his place in the House leadership? We think it's Bob Placeholder (R-Taking Orders, Ill.) and he jumps exactly as high as the Hammer tells him to.
Just consider the year DeLay had in 2005. It began with what is perhaps Congress's proudest moment, at least for fans of ugly, crazed spectacle: the Terri Schiavo case.
DeLay was in a tough spot. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had staked out a major claim to the Oiliest Politician prize with his bold diagnosis of Schiavo's mental state via a brief video clip. Was DeLay fazed? Not at all.
He proclaimed that removing Schiavo's feeding tube would be "an act of barbarism." His proclamation somehow didn't include any mention that he had taken his own father off life support in 1988. Take that, Senator Frist.
He followed that gambit by noting that judges who ruled against his wishes in the Schiavo case "will have to answer for their behavior." He did this in the wake of two separate incidents where judges had been shot by wild-eyed fanatics. A lesser man might have hesitated before making such comments under the circumstances, but that lesser man would never become Turkey of the Year.
DeLay didn't limit himself to the Schiavo case, of course. He demonstrated his unique feel for the downtrodden in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He quickly made his way to the Astrodome complex for a photo op, as did just about every politico with a pulse.
DeLay was guided through the rows and rows of cots, occupied by desperate evacuees who dared not leave them for fear their few remaining possessions would disappear. He walked among the thousand-yard stares of people who were only beginning to come to grips with the fact their lives had changed forever and their loved ones might not have survived. He made his way to two young victims, kids uprooted from homes they'd never return to, and said -- as only a Turkey of the Year could -- "Now tell me the truth, boys, is this kind of fun?"
Then again, if you're dealing with the kind of guy who thinks Guantánamo Bay detainees have it too easy, maybe he had a point.
DeLay's reign may be ending soon. Not because of Earle's indictments; the Hammer be skating away on those, singing "U Can't Touch This." But DeLay is hip-deep in a mess that has the GOP staying up nights: the investigation into a sleazy lobbyist named Jack Abramoff, about which you'll be hearing much in the coming year.
We decided to honor Our Man while we still had the chance. We had a constituent of DeLay's take advantage of one of the congressman's fine offers. For just $17, you can purchase a three-by-five nylon flag that has flown over the Capitol, along with a beautiful collector's-item certificate honoring whomever you want.
So we sent in a check and a note asking for the certificate to read "On behalf of Sugar Land, thank you Ronnie Earle for your brave indictment of Tom DeLay." We figured it'd be a fine addition to the office walls.