Decade in Review: The Best and Worst of Politics in the 2000s

Time magazine called it the "decade from hell," perhaps because of the decline of the print media. Many others certainly have used expletives to describe the 2000s, though they probably used abbreviations more suitable for texting. But it wasn't all bad. "The aughts" saw progress in technology, broken glass ceilings and the fall of Saddam Hussein. takes a look at the best and worst in politics at the start of the 21st century.


    Winner of the Decade -- Hillary Clinton

    From first lady to New York senator to breaking the glass ceiling for coming so close to winning a major party's presidential nomination, Clinton now travels the world as secretary of state, demonstrating that she's definitely not sitting home, baking cookies for her man, former President Bill Clinton.

    Loser of the Decade -- John Kerry

    Though he's now the senior senator from Massachusetts, the failed 2004 Democratic presidential candidate was savaged during the election by opponents who cast him as a privileged coward, and he's had trouble making himself relevant since. He was passed over by President Obama for secretary of state, finds his climate change legislation going nowhere and is trying to make himself useful by being an emissary to Iran. Good luck with that.

    Best Comeback of the Decade -- Congressional Democrats

    Against the conventional wisdom that Republicans had created a permanent majority in Washington, Democrats regained the House in 2006 by opposing the war in Iraq and created a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate in 2009. Both chambers have been able to push through legislation during the Obama administration with zero to near-zero support from Republicans.

    Best Photo Op of the Decade: President George W. Bush's bullhorn speech at Ground Zero.

    President Bush's presence at the heart of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks gave solace to Americans suffering the worst strike ever on U.S. soil and offered a reassuring image to the world that the U.S. would not back down against extremists.

    Worst Photo Op of the Decade: President Bush's

    The 2003 photo of President Bush decked out in a flight suit on the USS Lincoln and announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq became a symbol of what critics called U.S. arrogance, and prematurely suggested that the long war, which became a whipping post for the president, was near an end.

    Most Ethically Challenged of the Decade -- John Edwards

    The two-time, two-timing presidential candidate cheated on his cancer-stricken wife with his campaign videographer, then was accused of misusing campaign funds to pay her (for which he is being investigated by a U.S. attorney in North Carolina), then supposedly asked an aide to cover it up, then admitted the affair, then denied he was the father of his mistress' child, then reportedly bought her a house close to his home. Did we mention his wife has cancer?

    Best Idea of the Decade -- Wireless mobile devices

    BlackBerrys don't cause traffic accidents, people do. But who can blame people for their fascination with the iPhone and other magic boxes that make virtually all forms of communication immediate and omnipresent. Sure, some lament the poor manners, decreasing face-to-face contacts and misspelling of heavy users, but the access to information is unprecedented, and apps have allowed high school video gamers to become entrepreneurs. Plus, how else will the world instantaneously receive politicians' inane tweets?

    Biggest Boondoggle of the Decade -- Medicare

    OK, maybe it's not just this decade, since in 2018 the U.S. will have to pay into the Medicare Trust Fund an accumulated $218 billion to keep it solvent. Medicare is an "unfunded liability" that at the current ratio of revenues and outlays is projected to be $38 trillion in the hole in seven decades, assuming it still exists. Now some lawmakers want to borrow from it to keep it solvent. Math is hard.

    Biggest Comeuppance of the Decade -- Climate-gate e-mails

    Strategically leaked e-mails exposed efforts by leading global warming scientists to "cook" their data, sending the scientific world into a tizzy and putting a pall over the Copenhagen conference that aimed to create international standards for greenhouse gas emissions that may -- or may not -- contribute to climate change. After years in the making, the conference ended without a binding document that would have forced massive cuts in energy output and transferred billions in wealth from developed to developing nations. Despite the now-in-doubt "truth," Al Gore is undeterred.

    Worst-Kept Secret of the Decade -- Valerie Plame's identity

    The leak of the name of the woman behind the man who challenged the U.S. case for weapons of destruction in Iraq led to the jailing of the vice president's chief of staff on perjury and obstruction of justice. Two reporters also visited the pokey for refusing to discuss their sources. But I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whose sentence was commuted by an outgoing President Bush, wasn't the original leak of the CIA agent's identity. That was former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, later a critic of the Iraq war. Armitage faced no legal repercussions and a court tossed out Plame's lawsuit against Vice President Cheney alleging he forced an end to her covert career.

    Worst Justification of the Decade: Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae don't need reform because they are meeting their housing goals

    In 2003, several top lawmakers suggested that warnings that the nation's top housing lenders needed regulatory reform were a bogey-man to curbing low-income access to housing loans. Nothing was done. In 2004, the government-sponsored enterprises were found to be cooking the books to justify big compensation packages for their officers. They cleaned house, but nothing much changed. Then the credit and housing markets melted down, leading to "the worst recession since the Great Depression." Some of those same lawmakers argue now that the institutions weren't at fault because they didn't offer subprime loans. Just one thing -- under political pressure, Fannie and Freddie started buying subprime loans for their own investment portfolio, making cash available to lenders to offer more subprime loans and ensuring low rates persisted. When the housing house of cards collapsed, the government took over, sticking taxpayers with the tab -- currently $110 billion and rising.
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