What a surprise! Donald Trump is Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
After Trump dominated the world’s attention for the past 18 months, who else could it have been? Plus the short list was weak and largely uninspired, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Whistleblowers of Flint, Mark Zuckerberg, Brexit engineer Nigel Farage and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi among the snooze-a-rama choices.
A more interesting list might be one that lines up those who didn’t capture the public’s imagination in 2016, who flopped badly, who choked (as Trump might say), who miscalculated, who snatched disgrace from the jaws of triumph or who were handed a standing rib of beef on a silver platter and dropped it on the way to the dinner table.
So herewith are 10 nominees for Not the Person (or Whatever) of the Year:
- Jeb Bush
The former governor of Florida, brother of President George W. Bush and son of President George H.W. Bush started out as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, with all the power of the Republican Establishment behind him, but managed to blow through $150 million on his way to an embarrassing shellacking by a brash, politically inexperienced New York real estate tycoon with a bare-bones campaign organization.
- John Stumpf
The polished CEO of Wells Fargo badly mismanaged a scandal involving the opening of 1.5 million bogus customer accounts that cost the bank a $185 million fine and the wrath of Congress. In appearances before committees of both the House and Senate, Stumpf was unable to calm the raging politicians and, in fact, infuriated them further by laying the blame on the 5,300 largely low-paid “bad apples” the bank fired for opening unauthorized accounts. In the end, the bank’s board showed him the door.
- Jennifer Palmeri and Robby Mook
Hillary Clinton’s cocky communications chief and campaign manager spent like drunken sailors on massive ground operations and television advertising, kept their candidate away from the press for 227 days and, more importantly, failed to recognize – despite the surprise insurgent challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders – that there was an anger burning in America that their candidate was not addressing. The two political pros were bested by a neophyte with a frenetic Twitter account.
- Anthony Weiner
The disgraced former congressman, former New York mayoral candidate and almost former husband of close Clinton aide Huma Abedin not only managed to get into deeper “sexting” trouble but also set off an 11th-hour re-election re-opening of the Clinton email scandal that put the Democratic nominee on the defensive in the final days of the election campaign.
- Roger Ailes
The year 2016 should have been one of triumph for the mastermind of Fox News. Despite an ugly and long-running feud between Donald Trump and star anchor Megyn Kelly, the network Ailes created was front and center as the nation fixated on the GOP primary battles. But it all came apart as allegations that he had sexually harassed Fox personality Gretchen Carlson and multiple other female employees in spike heels, including Kelly, surfaced. Fox gave $20 million and apology to Carlson. Then Ailes’ pockets were stuffed with cash, and he was sent packing by Rupert Murdoch.
- Almost All Political Pollsters
With one or two exceptions, the pollsters who endlessly monitored opinions told Americans (and the rest of the planet) what their fellow citizens were thinking and strongly influenced campaigns and coverage, were wrong. Even the often smug data crunchers at The New York Times and the website FiveThirtyEight didn’t see Trump’s Electoral College victory coming.
- The Media
Like their polling brothers and sisters, members of the U.S. media – reporters and editors alike – did the country a disservice by over-covering Trump to ratchet up ratings and collect clicks, tilting toward Clinton because of ingrained biases, failing to do enough on-the-ground reporting and parroting what other news outlets were saying. In short, the Fourth-Rate Estate.
- David Cameron
The British Prime Minister badly miscalculated when he allowed a referendum on whether Britain should exit the European Union to proceed. What began as a ploy to maintain Conservative Party unity ended in an acrimonious debate that divided the UK, ruined friendships, severed family ties and led to a victory for Brexit forces that will change the face of Europe. It also led to Cameron’s resignation.
- Billy Bush
It seems fitting to begin the list with a Bush and end it with another. This Bush was an up-and-coming co-host of the Today show when a hot-mic video surfaced of him and Trump yukking it up about grabbing women without their consent. In the 2005 video, when the young and obsequious Bush was the host of Access Hollywood, he appears to be egging on the older Trump. The GOP nominee took a lot of heat over the video but somehow managed to get through the ring of fire. Not so Bush. NBC suspended him, and he subsequently “resigned.” No word if there will be a place for him in the new administration.