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Originally published Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 9:00 PM

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The Wrap | Ron Judd

It's hard to pick just one 'winner': 2009 was the race to the bottom

Bad year, 2009. Even worse than you think.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Bad year, 2009. Even worse than you think.

It's one thing to survive rampant unemployment, a Looney Tunes federal deficit and the swine flu. It's quite another to be so mired in duplicity that no obvious choice presents itself for the Puget Sound area's most dubious end-of-the-year distinction.

Not that there weren't plenty of candidates. Scores of people and institutions reached out, in their own slimy way, for the somewhat-annual Clayton Bennett Memorial Award for Distinguished Absence of Valor, named for the infamous Oklahoma vermin who lied his way into spiriting the Seattle Sonics out of town in 2007.

Alas, nobody grasped the big ring this year — perhaps because Bennett and his band of privateers set the bar so high.

We are left, instead, with a parade of limp pretenders, both local and national, from tireless bad-idea pitchman Tim Eyman to that genius who stood at a public meeting in (where else?) South Carolina and bellowed: "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!"

So we're making like a Major League Soccer referee and calling it a draw. A nil-nil tie in the race to the bottom. A year with no clear winner among the losers.

Some of you might call that a cop-out, to which we are all too happy to respond: So? Try to get a good pizza with what you spent on this.

Without further ado, the envelopes, please, for the nondistinguished Bennett Award pretenders:

The We'll Get It Up When We're Darned Good and Ready Award: To managers of The Boeing Co., formerly of Seattle, who — no doubt failing to grasp the irony — hailed the 2 ½-year-late flight of the mostly imported 787 Dreamliner as a testament to American ingenuity.

The If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Make Sure You Shout It Out Really Loud On National Television Award: To Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Toastmasters, who bellowed, "You lie!" when President Obama told a joint session of Congress that a proposed health-care overhaul would not provide benefits for illegal immigrants.

The Appalachian-Trail/Mile-High-Club Award: To Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who made global news when he finally succumbed to an irresistible urge to have a passionate, sleazy fling with a far-off partner of questionable morals — see Boeing, above.

The Throw Another Longserving, Dedicated Employee Into the Xanadu Fireplace Award: To the Hearst Corp. of New York, which proved it meant what it said about its long-standing commitment to quality Northwest journalism by shuttering the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and summarily firing 90 percent of its staff.

The Attila the Honey Award: To hair-pulling soccer player Elizabeth Lambert of the University of New Mexico, who shocked the nation with her caught-on-tape punches, trips and an infamous ponytail takedown of an opponent. Suspended from soccer, she later accepted a full-ride football scholarship from the University of Oregon.

The Church Lady Memorial "Hmm, Could It Be ... SATAN?" Award: To rogue Italian Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, who, drunk with success from the Amanda Knox conviction, reportedly has begun whipping out his ingenious satanic-sex-cult theory to convict Perugia parking violators.

The Barnum & Bailey Excellence in Health Care Reform Award: To the U.S. Congress, which proved once again that it has many allegiances, none of which is to the American people.

The Side-Impact Gasbag Award: To Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris, who thought it would be an excellent idea to invite talk-radio lunatic Glenn Beck — the most-offensive person to the highest number of people imaginable — to receive the key to his fair city.

The New York Times Creative Fiction Best-seller Award: To Sarah Palin, R-Ski Doo, who wrote the following on her Facebook page: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's death panel."

The "Issues, Schmissues! Say, Isn't That a Snow Flake?" Award: To Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn, successful challengers to Mayor Greg Nickels, D-Compact Snow and Ice, who were smart enough to just show up and keep their mouths shut in the primary.

The "What's The Big-Deal? I'm Still At Least 9,900 Short of Wilt Chamberlain's Lifetime Record" Award: To Tiger Woods, who, having gone through an entire Vegas worth of concubines, decided to take a break from his job to spend less time with his family.

The Freeze-Frame Quad-Jammer Titillation Award: To local TV stations, who knew you would be so offended by their Telephoto-lens peeps into bikini barista stands that you would watch them over and over and over and over.

The David Stern Memorial Weasel Fancier's Man-of-the-Year Award: To the insufferable Sen. Joe Lieberman, I/D/R-Premera Blue Shaft, the nation's first multiparty, cross-platform, equal-opportunity traitor.

The Bathroom-Wall Marketplace of Ideas Award: To The Seattle Times and other news organizations, which decided that the best way to improve the level of public discourse was to link from almost every online story or column to a virtual graffiti wall on which every dope with an off-topic ax to grind can do so anonymously and with little fear of censure (knock yourselves out, commenters).

And Finally, The Blame-Our-Parents Mistaken Identity Award: To people who keep sending me hate mail that should go to the other Ron Judd — and vice versa. Get it straight, people: He's the sneaky political operative for Gov. Chris Gregoire. I'm the thoughtful, reflective, compassionate, humble newspaper columnist.

Happy New Year.

Ron Judd's columns appear

in Sunday's A section

and Thursday's Sports section. E-mail: rjudd@seattletimes.com

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"The Wrap" appears on Sundays, highlighting the absurd and providing the punch line to the week's news headlines.

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