All things considered, it was a year without shame.
It was the year that Miley Cyrus French-kissed a sledgehammer in the music video for her song “Wrecking Ball,” and cavorted naked on said wrecking ball. The former Disney star popularized the act of twerking in a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards that was so luridly infantile, it wasn’t outrageous so much as pathetic. Yet it worked. It gained her at least another 15 minutes of fame and probably more, to have people pay attention to other insipid things she might do, usually half-clothed. Cyrus made us yearn for the good taste and restraint of the era of Lady Gaga, not to mention the golden age of classic Britney Spears.
It was the year the president of the United States posed in a selfie with other foreign leaders at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela. He evidently had a grand time, but made us nostalgic for the period before our presidents posed in selfies with other heads of state, i.e., the long stretch of American history ending on December 9, 2013.
It was the year Anthony Weiner admitted in the midst of his New York City mayoral campaign that he had continued to sext after resigning from Congress for sexting. Under the delightfully absurd alias “Carlos Danger,” he had sent pictures of his private parts to a 22-year-old woman, whose notoriety instantly launched her career in adult film and as a spokesmodel for an adultery-facilitating website. Weiner made us fondly recall the self-effacing modesty of past New York City politicians like Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani.
It was the year that Toronto mayor Rob Ford denied smoking crack, before admitting smoking crack — probably “in one of my drunken stupors.” He blamed reporters for not asking “the correct questions” when he made his initial lawyerly denial, in which he had only said, “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.” He denounced a successful effort by the city council to strip him of most of his powers as a “coup d’etat.” While running around like a bull high on amphetamines during the raucous council debate, he knocked a woman down. The good mayor made us miss the decorum and straightforwardness of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.
It was the year Dennis Rodman nominated himself as goodwill ambassador to North Korea, touchingly pronouncing himself Kim Jong Un’s “friend for life.” He excused the dictator’s brutal rule by explaining that the Supreme Leader is only 28 years old. “The Worm,” as the former basketball player is known, made Jane Fonda’s infamous visit to North Vietnam in 1972 seem an effective, well-calibrated act of international diplomacy in comparison.
It was the year Lance Armstrong confessed to cheating in every single one of his Tour de France victories, after attempting for years to destroy anyone who had blown the whistle on his doping. He did the obligatory interview with Oprah as a first step to redemption. Armstrong made us miss the sportsmanship of Rosie Ruiz, who won the Boston Marathon years ago in record time by neglecting to run the entire course.
It was the year that New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez alleged a vast conspiracy encompassing most of Major League Baseball to bust him for using performance-enhancing drugs — again. The third baseman leads the league in misplaced sense of victimhood. Rodriguez made us long for the guilelessness of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
It was the year something truly outlandish happened on The Real Housewives of Somewhere or Other. It was the year Mob Wives got crazy. It was the year that 16 and Pregnant descended into moral chaos. They all made us remember a time when Jersey Shore represented a more decorous, elevated form of reality television.
So good riddance to a year of shamelessness. It is sure never to be excelled — except by 2014.
— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: [email protected]. © 2013 King Features Syndicate