Region's 'Turkeys of the Year' give me plenty to write about

The supermarket chain Safeway holds its annual 'Feast of Sharing' event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
By Robert McCartney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 24, 2010; 9:50 PM

According to family lore, when my late uncle John McCartney was asked as a boy why he was thankful on Thanksgiving, he answered, "I'm thankful I'm not a turkey."

Asked the same question as an adult newspaper columnist today, I'd say I'm thankful for all the human turkeys in the Washington area whose foolish behavior gives me so much fodder for these columns.

Indeed, without all the incompetent, self-defeating things that individuals or institutions have done in the past year, I'd be stuck writing nothing but uplifting, boosterish smarm. I'd get bored, and so would you.

So here's my Thanksgiving list of our region's "Turkeys of the Year," with brief explanations of why they merit the title:

Adrian Fenty. C'mon, Mr. Mayor, would it have been so hard to visit a few churches? Meet with some union leaders? Find one or two African Americans for top Cabinet positions in a majority-black city?

You know, be a regular politician.

Perhaps the mayor couldn't spare the time from his triathlon training. But a bit more retail politicking - at least pretend to be engaged - could have ensured reelection. As a start, it might have kept D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray, who beat Fenty, from entering the race.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi. They achieved worldwide fame and TV reality-show stardom by crashing a White House dinner, stiffing creditors and hyping second-tier social connections. They're runners-up for Biggest Turkey of 2010 (see below for the winner).

Metro. Where to begin? You have to walk the escalators because mechanics ignore the schedule for cleaning and oiling the machinery. You might have to dodge falling chunks of concrete while standing on a station platform. The system stopped running in last winter's snowstorms. (Actually, that last point applies to pretty much the entire region.)

What's more: Fares are up, but Metro still doesn't have enough money. Both the Maryland and Virginia governors tried (separately) to shortchange it. Congressional Republicans might well succeed in shortchanging it.

Also: The general manager quit after a brief tenure. The interim boss - no fool, he - wants to leave after a year. The latest blue-ribbon report said the entire governance structure is dysfunctional, partly because Metro management has become too politicized. Virginia politicians immediately started squabbling over the report's proposed reforms.

Joy Masoff. She's the author who tried to enliven a Virginia history elementary school textbook by sticking in a line saying that thousands of African Americans fought for the Confederacy, including two battalions serving under Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

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