Washington Watch: Winners and losers for 2009

Washington Watch Winner

Few can be sorry this year is ending and the aughts are history. Here are some of the winners and losers. WINNERS • Joe Lieberman - Lots of Jews and progressives are furious with him for trying to block health care reform, but the senator from Aetna had a very successful year. Barack Obama blocked Senate Dems from punishing Joe for playing on the Republican team in the 2008 elections and helped him keep his seniority and committee chairmanship, but that didn't inhibit the sanctimonious senator from sticking it to Obama and the Dems at every opportunity, even flip-flopping on Medicare coverage out of what seemed more like spite than conviction. He got everything he wanted and no one could touch him, because Dems are willing to pay any price for his 60th vote. • Binyamin Netanyahu - He didn't win the most votes in the last election (sound like anyone we know?) but he got the top job anyway. He deflected American pressure for a total settlement freeze with a partial moratorium. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insisted on terms he knew Netanyahu couldn't meet and rejected Bibi's invitation to meet him halfway, making the Israeli leader look like the only one who really wants peace. • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - He stole the Iranian election, brutalized the opposition and continued his nuclear program without interference. His stall strategy is a big success: Obama keeps declaring and missing his deadlines, the Chinese run interference and the Iranian centrifuges keep spinning. Congress is poised to pass feel-good sanctions, but they're meaningless unless everyone joins in, and that appears highly unlikely. • J Street - The new pro-peace/pro-Israel lobby had a hugely successful first annual convention with unexpectedly large turnout, media attention and contributions - thanks in very large part to the hysterical attacks by its right-wing Jewish enemies who were apparently terrified that it might catch on and be effective. • Sarah Palin - She may like to criticize the media, but all their jousting is selling lots of books and making her very rich. She far outdistances the rest of the GOP pack with glamour and personality, if not brainpower and experience, and she's running for president in 2012-2014. • Dr. Ada Yonath - The first Israeli woman to win a Nobel Prize and only the fourth woman ever to win one in chemistry. • Al Franken - The freshman senator's first measure to become a law left Republicans furious and crying foul. It was an amendment barring defense contractors from preventing employees taking workplace sex assault and discrimination cases to court. Dubbed the "anti-rape" amendment, all 30 opposing votes were cast by Republican men. When they realized what they had done, they accused Franken of tricking them, proving once again the worst wounds are self-inflicted. LOSERS • Barack Obama - For contracting out health care reform to the Congress, for creating confusing policy on Iran, for getting outfoxed and outmaneuvered by Bibi Netanyahu and for a focus on bipartisanship that never had a chance. After running an effective campaign to become president, he now needs some first-class legislative strategists to help enact his agenda. Quickly. • Hannah Rosenthal - A bright and talented woman whose first action as the special State Department envoy for fighting anti-Semitism was to attack the Israeli ambassador. Whether her comments were right or wrong, she forgot she now works for the US government, not J Street, and private thoughts are to be kept private. • Israel's Labor Party - The once venerable party came in fourth, making it a candidate for the endangered species list. It has become a party in search of meaning. • Middle East peace - 2009 began full of hope generated by the new American administration, but no one seemed deeply committed enough to relaunch peace negotiations that had been on ice for the past eight years. • Nobel committee - One editorial cartoonist put it best: giving the gold medal to the athlete at the start of the race and hoping he does well. • Philandering politicians - Busy doing to their girlfriends what politicians usually do to the country: John Edwards, John Ensign, David Vitter, Mark Sanford, Vito Fossella, Elliot Spitzer and more to come. Several even had their own church/house on Capitol Hill and a regular Bible study group. Now we know what they were praying for. • Jimmy Carter - Al Het or mea culpa, he's now apologizing. Remember all those nasty things Jimmy said about "apartheid" Israel? He's sorry for "stigmatizing" the Jewish state. And he insists his repentance has nothing to do with his grandson running for the Georgia state senate in a district with a sizeable Jewish population and a retiring Jewish incumbent. • Birthers - The lunatic fringe still can't believe a black man could be elected president in the 21st century - Lou Dobbs, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Alan Keys, Rush Limbaugh and Orly Taitz, the Israeli expat dentist-lawyer. Eleven House Republicans even introduced legislation requiring presidential candidates to produce their "original birth certificate." • Rep. Peter Hoekstra - The Michigan Republican said "it really is" fair to hold the Obama administration responsible for the suspected terror incident on a Christmas Day Detroit-bound flight because it is "not going to use the word terrorism anymore."