Just like any year, the world of politics was filled with a lot of stupidity in 2013. While much of it came in the form of bad policy and decision-making, some of it just made you want to bang your head against a table. Here's a small sampling of the latter kind. Prepare to do a lot of this:
The Obama administration totally botched the Obamacare rollout.
More than three years after signing his signature legislative achievement into law, President Barack Obama watched as the launch of the website for the Affordable Care Act was crippled by embarrassing technical difficulties and other flaws. Reports claimed that top administration officials were aware of potential issues with HealthCare.gov, which were for some reason not rectified before the site went online.
The botched rollout of the already divisive law was no doubt humiliating for the president and his administration, but fortunately, after months of work, the system appears to be working significantly better than it was.
Republicans shut down the government.
Long before anyone knew that Obamacare's rollout would be beset by careless and inexcusable errors, Republicans were concocting a way to delay or repeal the law. When they finally realized that their legislative options were limited and unpopular, they decided they'd shut down the federal government in a last ditch effort to get their way. It didn't work, and while the weeks-long shutdown came at a cost of $24 billion to the nation, pretty much the only things that emerged from it were sleazy political tactics and comments.
Steve Stockman came back to town.
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) made his way back to Congress early this year after a long hiatus (he served one term in the mid-1990s). His first year back was marked by frequent trolling of the left in the form of inflammatory comments, gun giveaways, destined-to-fail legislative proposals, and of course, inviting Ted Nugent to the State of the Union Address in February.
Now he wants to be a U.S. senator.
Anthony Weiner thought it would be a good idea to take another crack at public office.
Serial sexter and disgraced former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner attempted to reenter politics after a two year hiatus, hoping that he could get elected mayor of New York City by focusing on the issues, rather than on his personal life. Shortly after he jumped in the race, however, it became clear that Weiner's baggage was still going to be a problem. In fact, he admitted that he'd continued to engage in online and phone relationships with multiple women since resigning from Congress, including 23-year-old Sydney Leathers.
This character was used to convince young people to stay uninsured.
In an effort to starve Obamacare of the younger, healthier policyholders necessary for it to function, the Koch brothers-backed "Generation Opportunity" went on a blitz earlier this year, telling college-aged kids that getting health insurance was stupid and stuff. The organization used the concept of "Creepy Uncle Sam" to suggest that getting insurance through the Obamacare exchanges was somehow inviting big government into the room with you for your gynecological exam:
As an alternative, the group said young people should "opt out," or pay a fine to remain uninsured, and continue to burden the nation's health care system by relying on emergency room coverage in the case of an accident. Or go broke in the event of a more serious health issue. Oh, the group also threw tailgate parties with beer pong and pizza.
Louie Gohmert was Louie Gohmert.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) was named Roll Call's "most quotable member of Congress" in August, an honor that he should no doubt be in the running for every year.
It's hard to pick one overarching comment from 2013 that sums up why Gohmert is so "quotable," but here's one of his worst -- a less-publicized remark in which he suggested that the president had inflamed race relations by speaking out against racial inequality and prejudice:
"Of course we know that this president, this administration has done more to stir up racial tension and violence than any administration since, you know, the sixties," he said, strangely referring to the period of unrest during the Civil Rights era, when African-Americans were fighting for basic equality. "I thought that we were going to have a post-racial president and he's become the president of division, of envy, of jealousy."
Michele Bachmann announced her retirement.
While Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) decision may have been an intelligent one, considering her ineffective lawmaking and the intense scrutiny over allegations of improprieties stemming from her failed presidential campaign, it's dumb because we're going to miss her.
Sure, she represents a toxic brand of politics that has allowed gridlock to become the new norm in Congress, but listening to her speak gives important insight into how people operate when they're blinded by partisan rage and willing to say pretty much anything. Earlier this year, Bachmann pleaded with her colleagues to repeal Obamacare "before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens."
Steve King said something terrible.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has strong feelings on immigration, mainly in that he isn't a huge fan of it, especially when it comes to the millions of undocumented individuals living in the U.S. Here's what he said earlier this year about DREAMers, or young undocumented immigrants brought into the country by their parents:
For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds -- and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.
A stupid homophobic remark sparked this even stupider response.
When Phil Robertson, patriarch of the family made famous by A&E's "Duck Dynasty" reality show, made controversial comments about the LGBT community, many on the right came to his defense. One GOP congressional candidate took it a few steps further, comparing Robertson to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
"In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians," Illinois GOP congressional candidate Ian Bayne said in an email to supporters.
"What Parks did was courageous," he added. "What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too."
Rick Perry annoyed fellow governors, was then compared to a "fart."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) sent much of his time this year trying to lure jobs from other states to Texas, visiting Illinois, California, Maryland and Iowa and running local ads smearing their business climates. This pissed a bunch of other governors off, leading them to attack Perry's job tour as "an escapade" and his ads as "showboating."
The best criticism, though, came from California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who called Perry's ads "barely a fart."
Mitch McConnell hit his opponent with an auto-tuned attack ad.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took an early jab at Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), even before she launched her senate campaign against him, with a web video that annoyingly lodged itself into the brains of political spectators everywhere. The video contained some half-rhymes, a misspelled "MCONNELL," and incessant mentions of a political figure who until that point was having trouble with name recognition.
John Boehner forgot what Congress is supposed to do.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) notoriously redefined the jobs of members of Congress earlier this year, rejecting their historical lawmaking duties and saying that they instead "ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal."
Don Young channeled your racist great uncle.
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) dropped some casual racism earlier this year while attempting to talk about how technology had changed farming. "My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes," he said. "It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine."
He later apologized, saying that he was just a traditionalist who was still used to referring to non-white people with racial slurs. "During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California," he said. "I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect."
This Republican decided to not even hide his racism.
While Young pled ignorance and blamed force of habit to dodge criticism for his comments, Don Yelton, a North Carolina GOP precinct official, happily accepted his racist title during an interview with "The Daily Show." Yelton repeatedly used the n-word in the appearance and lamented "lazy black people that want the government to give them everything." He resigned shortly after it aired, and later gave an interview in which he clarified that he was still, in fact, a total racist.
Politicians tweeted before they thought.
No, watching your favorite team lose a basketball game is not a good time to reference the "Trail of Tears," and if you're gonna tweet out a historical fact, at least check it first. Also, you might look stupid if you suggest that a massive diplomatic breakthrough by the administration is simply a ploy to "distract attention" from Obamacare, or if you freak out about some immigration reform activists coming to your office to urge you to support a piece of legislation.
The Fiscal Times has a wrap up here that includes some of the most cringeworthy Twitter mistakes of the year.
Rick Santorum decided that discussing the "middle class" was "Marxism talk."
Former Pennsylvania senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum attempted to convince an audience that the United States was a classless society earlier this year, saying that popular refrains by Democrats -- like, the middle class is getting screwed -- sounded like Marxism.
"Since when in America do we have classes? Since when in America are people stuck in areas or defined places called a class? That's Marxism talk," he said.
This GOP lawmaker took a hypothetical commitment to his constituents way, way too far.
Nevada Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R) would do anything for his constituents. At a local GOP meeting this year, he said he'd even vote to reinstate slavery if they so desired.
"If that's what they wanted, I'd have to hold my nose ... they'd probably have to hold a gun to my head, but yeah," Wheeler said.
Birthers reminded us they were still alive.
The year began with former Secretary of State Colin Powell telling Republicans to cut out the "birther nonsense" and ended with Donald Trump suggesting that a plane crash that killed a Hawaii official had something to do with a conspiracy to keep Obama's real birthplace under wraps. In between, a number of GOP lawmakers kept birtherism alive with their constituents, including Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who said he'd be willing to support legislation to investigate the issue.
This Republican paid tribute to former colleague Todd Akin with an idiotic statement.
If you thought lawmakers had learned anything from former Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) torpedoing of his own campaign with his infamous "legitimate rape" comments, you'd be wrong. Over the summer, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) made an argument against a rape exception in his proposed 20-week abortion ban by claiming that "the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."
An OB/GYN-turned-lawmaker suggested abortion was bad because male fetuses masturbate.
Also debating a 20-week abortion ban, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a former OB/GYN, argued the procedure should be banned as early as 15 weeks because fetuses supposedly can feel "pleasure" at that stage, exhibited by the fact that male fetuses sometimes fondle themselves.
"Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful," Burgess said. "They stroke their face. If they're a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to think that they could feel pain?"
Rand Paul got mad at people for reporting on his blatant plagiarizing.
When Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was called out for repeated and rather obvious instances of plagiarism in speeches and editorials, he did what any politician would do: He accused those who had broken the story of being "hacks and haters" and then challenged them to a duel of sorts.
Ted Cruz screwed over his own party.
It was a big year for freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). After numerous reports that he was rubbing his senior Republican colleagues the wrong way in the Senate, he got House Republicans all riled up with a 21-hour anti-Obamacare talkathon that would ultimately set the stage for a government shutdown. While he got Republicans into the mess, he also conveniently left them without an exit strategy, and in the end, Republicans were forced to concede that they wouldn't be able to kill the health care law.
Politicians denied that defaulting on the debt would be a bad thing.
Amid the shutdown, further concerns arose that Republicans would refuse to raise the debt ceiling, a move that would have put the nation on a course to default. While economists nearly unanimously said that this would deal a catastrophic blow to our economy, Republicans begged to differ, arguing that the whole thing was being overblown. Some argued that the Treasury Department could limp along without technically defaulting on its debt, while others suggested that default itself wouldn't even be that bad.
Sarah Palin wrote a Christmas book.
Just in time to tap into her former employer Fox News' outrage over the so-called "War on Christmas," former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R) released "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas." It's a poorly written and historically challenged book that touts the relative greatness of Christianity and the importance of defending red-blooded capitalist Christmas from the liberals who seek to destroy it.
If you think such a book can only be explained in Palin's folksy drawl, you're in luck, because she also narrated it. You can listen to some of her best lines at New York Magazine.
A Republican in charge of climate change policy cited the Bible in debate.
In an argument against anthropogenic climate change, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, turned to the Bible for an example of climate change that couldn't have been man-made.
"If you believe in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change. That certainly wasn't because man had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy," he said.
Michael Bloomberg insisted that "stop and frisk" wasn't racial profiling.
Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a defense of the city's controversial "stop and frisk" program, saying that the system, which allows police officers to search people on the streets without a warrant, didn't amount to racial profiling. The statistics suggest otherwise. In an eight-year period that included 4.4 million stops, the person stopped was black or Hispanic in 83 percent of cases. In nearly 90 percent of all stops, meanwhile, the person being questioned and searched was completely innocent.
The NSA monitored video game networks looking for terrorist activity.
According to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the agency dispatched spies to tap into the online networks of video games like World of Warcraft and Second Life, hoping to find terrorists who might be using the channels to circumvent traditional ones already under close watch by intelligence organizations. There is no evidence that the NSA found anything, though documents suggest that operatives created a huge mess when they accidentally got caught up in each other's "investigations," i.e. playing video games.
The GOP informed us that racism is over.
The Republican National Committee honored civil rights activist Rosa Parks with this tweet in December, and simultaneously broke the news that racism has ended.
White conservative pundits also claimed racism is over.
When President Barack Obama shared his thoughts on race following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, many white conservative pundits responded with outrage, claiming that Obama was overstating the problem of racial inequality and bias. Some thought the nation couldn't be racist because the president is black. Others charged that Obama himself was being racist for discussing the issue at all. At any rate, most seemed to be arguing that racism was no longer an issue in the U.S., or at least not one worth talking about.