Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review close out their special year-in-review political awards by handing out the prestigious crystal martinis for person of the year and turncoat of the year. They also share their political New Year’s resolutions.
Archives for December 2015
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review reveal their choices for most under-reported story, most over-reported story and the best story of 2015.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review hand out year-end political awards for best idea, worst idea and boldest tactic.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review continue their 2015 political awards. Today they “honor” the worst scandal, the best political theater and the worst political theater.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review present the second installment of their 2015 year-end political awards. Today they discuss the political figure they were sorry to see pass away in 2015, their top rising political stars and who they see fading into oblivion.
The entertainment world lost some of its brightest stars in 2015, from the big screen to television to music and beyond.
Omar Sharif landed two of the most iconic roles of the 1960s, first as Sharif Ali in “Lawrence of Arabia,” and then in the title role of “Doctor Zhivago.” Later a world-class bridge player and columnist, Sharif was 83.
Maureen O’Hara was one of the last leading ladies of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Known for roles in “How Green Was My Valley” and the Christmas classic “Miracle on 34th Street,” O’ Hara was 95 when she died in October.
Christopher Lee enjoyed was a successful actor over a nearly 70 year career after serving with distinction in the Royal Air Force in World War II. However it was in his later years that Lee landed his most commercially successful roles, as Saruman in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and Count Dooku in Star Wars Episodes II and III. Sir Christopher Lee was 91.
Anita Ekberg was a Swedish beauty queen who became a screen siren in the 1950s and 60s. Best known for her star turn in “La Dolce Vita,” Ekberg was 83.
Rod Taylor came from Australia to strive for his Hollywood dream. Known for his leading roles in “The Time Machine,” “The Birds” and “The Train Robbers,” Taylor was 84.
Alex Rocco enjoyed many roles during a long Hollywood career, but it was his role as casino operator Moe Green in “The Godfather” for which he will always be remembered. Rocco was 79.
Robert Loggia was a successful character actor for decades. Known for his memorable roles in “Scarface,” “Prizzi’s Honor,” “Independence Day” and “Big,” Loggia snagged an Oscar nomination for his work in “The Jagged Edge.” Loggia later suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and passed away in December. The man with one of the great voices in Hollywood was 85.
Generation X moviegoers remember actress Amanda Peterson for her role in “Can’t Buy Me Love,” opposite Patrick Dempsey. Peterson died of an accidental drug overdose in June. She was 43.
Betsy Palmer was known for two very different things – being a famed panelist on the TV game show “I’ve Got A Secret” and for being the killer in the original “Friday the 13th” film. Palmer was 88.
Behind the camera, few names are more closely associated with horror flicks than director Wes Craven. Craven created the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series and also directed all of the “Scream” movies, among many others. Craven was 76.
Jerry Weintraub was one of the most accomplished producers in Hollywood, putting together classics like “The Karate Kid” and “Oceans 11” and its sequels. Weintraub was 77.
In television, Mr. Spock was one of the most unforgettable characters in history on the sci-fi favorite “Star Trek.” The Vulcan first officer on the USS Enterprise relied on logic over emotion for the duration of the series and then numerous hit movies. Spock was the work of the great Leonard Nimoy, who died in February. He was 83.
It would be hard to find a more different character from Spock than Ellie May Clampett of the “Beverly Hillbillies.” The bubbly was blonde played by Donna Douglas. Later a gospel singer, Douglas was 81.
Marjorie Lord was active in the acting world for more than 70 years but she will always be remembered as Clancy Williams opposite Danny Thomas on “Make Room for Daddy.” Lord was 97.
On Batman, Yvonne Craig brought the character of Batgirl to life on the original “Batman” series. Craig was 78 when she died in August.
Martin Milner starred in two popular series in the 1960s and 70s, first as Tod Stiles on “Route 66” and later as Pete Malloy on “Adam-12.” Milner was 83.
The police work was a little more suspect on the “Dukes of Hazzard.” One of the most memorable characters was the bumbling, corrupt yet somehow endearing Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. Coltrane was the work of actor James Best. Best died in April at age 88.
In the early 1970s, one of the happiest shows on TV was the “Partridge Family.” Fans of the how will remember little Tracy Partridge, played by Suzanne Crough. Crough died in April at age 52.
Al Molinaro played key supporting roles on two of the most beloved comedies of the 1970s, first as Murray the cop on “The Odd Couple” and then as Al Delvecchio, owner and operator of Arnold’s on “Happy Days.” Molinaro was 96.
The most groundbreaking show of the 70s was “All in the Family.” It was the brainchild of Norman Lear, but producer, writer and director Bud Yorkin was critical to making it a major hit. Yorkin died in August. he was 89.
“All in the Family” later spun off into “Archie Bunker’s Place.” Anne Meara played cook Veronica Rooney on the show. However, Meara was best known for her successful comedy act with husband Jerry Stiller, known as Stiller and Meara. She died in May at age 85.
The longest-running comedy in television history is “The Simpsons.” One of the brilliant creators of the series was Sam Simon. He succumbed to cancer in March. He was 59.
It seems Jayne Meadows was always on television. A frequent game show panelist on “What’s My Line?” and “I’ve Got A Secret,” ever-present figure alongside husband Steve Allen, Meadows died in April. She was 95.
In music, few were better known or more beloved than legendary blues guitarist and singer B.B. King. Never far from his beloved guitar “Lucille,” King was 89 when he died in May.
One of the most iconic songs of the 1960s was “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King and it enjoyed a resurgence in the 80s thanks to a movie by the same name. King was 76.
Percy Sledge also died this year. Best known for “When A Man Loves A Woman,” Sledge was 73.
Lesley Gore wasn’t crying too much in the 60s, scoring big on hits like “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and others. Lesley Gore was 68.
Lynn Anderson was a country star in three different decades. Best known for “(I Never Promised You) A Rose Garden,” Anderson died in July. She was 67.
Most country music fans can’t remember a time when Little Jimmy Dickens wasn’t on stage. Performing since the 1930s and a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1948, Dickens was known for his short stature, big heart and rhinestone jackets. Dickens was 94.
We still don’t really know what the song was about but everyone loves “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. Lead singer Jack Ely died in April. He was 71.
One of the favorite rock and roll groups in the late 60s and early 70s was Three Dog Night. Lead singer Cory Wells left us in October. He was 74.
Few gospel singers were as talented or beloved as Andrae Crouch. Remembered for “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” and “My Tribute (To God Be the Glory),”Crouch died in January. He was 72.
The Stone Temple Pilots were at the leading edge of grunge music. Lead singer Scott Weiland had that unmistakable gravelly voice. He died of a drug overdose this month. He was just 48.
There are several other famous figures from many walks of life who left us in 2015.
There are now just two remaining Doolittle Raiders from the 80 courageous men who attacked Japan in April of 1942. That’s because two others died this year. Edward Saylor was 94 when he died in January. Robert Hite died in March. He was 95.
Ben Kuroki was of Japanese descent but his service as a combat pilot in Europe led to him becoming the only Japanese-American to fly missions against Japan. Serving in 58 missions overall, Kuroki was 98 when he died in September.
Some of most grisly crimes of the 20th century were the Manson family murders, including the killing of actress Sharon Tate. Vincent Bugliosi is the man who put Charles Manson behind bars. The famed prosecutor died in June at the age of 80.
In religion, Edward Egan had the unenviable task of following John O’Connor as archbishop of New York. But Egan also held a prominent role in the church during the sex abuse scandal and emerged with his reputation intact while other bishops did not. Egan died of cardiac arrest in March. He was 82.
Robert Schuller tried to mix Christianity and self-help. Best known for his Crystal Cathedral, Schuller’s ministry later fell on very hard times. He died in April. He was 88.
When it came to motivational speaking, Wayne Dyer was among the most successful. Dyer died in August at age 75.
John Nash had a beautiful mind. The brilliant mathematician who was later the subject of a feature film, died in a car accident in May. He was 86.
Romance novelist Jackie Collins also died this year. A prolific author, Collins was 77.
And celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme died in October. Best known for his Cajun creations, Prudhomme was 77.
As 2015 draws to a close, we once again pause to remember the lives lost over the past 12 months. For all of us there are family and friends we mourn and memories we cherish. As a nation, there are also the famous and infamous faces who left us. We will spend two segments remembering those figures – from the arenas of politics to media to sports and from the big screen to television and music.
Fred Thompson found his way into our lives in a number of different ways. He first gained fame as the Republican counsel in the Watergate hearings. He then embarked on a successful acting career that included roles in such films as “The Hunt for Red October” and “In the Line of Fire.” In 1994, Thompson jumped into the special Tennessee U.S. Senate election to replace then-Vice President Al Gore. Thompson won that race and one other election before retiring in 2002. Thompson then made a star turn as district attorney Arthur Branch on Law and Order. He left that show to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. After that, it was on to radio and more acting. Fred Thompson died after a lengthy battle with cancer in November. He was 73.
While Fred Thompson portrayed a fictional prosecutor in New York City, Mario Cuomo was the real-life governor of the Empire State for 12 years. Cuomo first won in 1982 and, after a rousing speech at the 1984 Democratic convention, was thought to be a future nominee. But Cuomo never ran for president. He lost the governorship in a stunning upset to George Pataki in 1994. Mario Cuomo was 82.
She was once a heartbeat away from being first lady of the United States, but most New Yorkers remember her as the first lady of their state. Margaretta “Happy” Rockefeller, wife of former governor and vice president Nelson Rockefeller, was 88.
The family of Vice President Joe Biden faced the devastation of losing his son, Beau. An Iraq War veteran and a former attorney general in Delaware, Beau Biden died of brain cancer in June. He was 46.
Up on Capitol Hill, Jim Wright was a passionate Democratic House member for over 34 years and, in 1987, ascended to Speaker of the House. An ethics scandal prompted his resignation less than three years later. Wright was 92.
Mississippi congressman Alan Nunnelee died in February, also of brain cancer. He was 56.
Edward Brooke made history as the first black senator from Massachusetts. A Republican, Brooke served two terms in the upper chamber in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He died in January at age 95.
Wendell Ford served four terms in the U.S. Senate from Kentucky, rising to the second highest leadership post on the Democratic side. Ford was 90 when he died in January.
On the foreign stage, Saudi King Abdullah died in January at age 90. Abdullah served in his own right for several years and often acted in the king’s capacity while his brother, King Fahd, was in ill health before him.
Abdullah was in close consultation with the U.S. during both the Gulf War and the Iraq War. Across the border in Iraq, one of the key figures in those conflicts was Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz, who was often the mouthpiece for Saddam Hussein. A rare Christian in the Hussein regime, Aziz died in June. He was 79.
One of the key figures calling for the deposing of Saddam Hussein and insisting Hussein still had an active weapons of mass destruction program was Ahmed Chalabi. He became a controversial figure after the Bush administration stated it did not find the amount of WMD it expected in Iraq. Chalabi later returned to serve in the new Iraqi government. He was 71.
In between the two Bush administrations, one of the people that advised President Clinton on Iraq and other hot spots was national security adviser Sandy Berger. Berger later wound up in legal trouble after attempting to leave the National Archives with classified documents stuffed in his pant and socks as he prepared to testify before the 9/11 commission. Sandy Berger was 70.
Sarah Brady never held public office. But after her husband, former Reagan press secretary James Brady, was nearly killed in the attempt on Reagan’s life, she became an outspoken gun control advocate and founding Handgun Control, Inc. Sarah Brady was 73.
Two other people close to Reagan died this year. On the policy side, few had the president’s ear more than trusted aide Martin Anderson. Also the author of multiple books about Reagan, Anderson was 78 when he died in January.
Before getting to Washington, Reagan relied on the exquisite writing and keen insights of Peter Hannaford. Hannaford died in September. He was 82.
Pollsters are a dime a dozen in Washington but none was more respected than the Pew Center’s Andrew Kohut. He was 73.
The media world was stunned in February when highly respected 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon died in a New York City car accident. The CBS fixture was 73.
Arnaud de Borchgrave was born into Belgian nobility but in fleeing the Nazis wound up serving in the British Navy. After coming to the U.S. after the war, de Borchgrave served many years with Newsweek before heading up the editorial page of the Washington Times among many other roles. One of the most knowledgeable journalists on foreign affairs in the world, he was 88 when he died in February.
M. Stanton Evans was a fixture in the conservative movement for 60 years and was known for his fierce intellect and disarming humor. Evans became the youngest editor of a major newspaper in the nation when he assumed the helm of the Indianapolis Star at just 26 years old. Later he founded the National Journalism Center and for the next quarter century trained aspiring journalists on how to craft a story and understand basic economic and the principles of the American founding. I am a proud alumnus of the NJC. Evans trained interns here at Radio America until falling ill with cancer. He died in March. He was 80.
Another critical figure in the history of Radio America and in my development as a reporter was former network news director Dave Teeuwen. He later moved on to USA TODAY and played a vital role in the paper’s digital transformation. Eventually rising to managing editor for the paper, Teeuwen died after a long battle with cancer in November. He was 45.
On the funny pages, few one-panel comics had the endurance of Marmaduke. Brad Anderson relayed the antics of America’s favorite Great Dane for decades. He was 91.
The sports world lost several critical media figures in 2015. Stuart Scott revolutionized sports highlights by bringing his own lingo and brand of fun to the daily scores and news. Scott was 49 when he died of cancer in January.
Ray Gandolf was a very different type of sports commentator for CBS and ABC in an earlier generation. Known for always finding the human angle to sports coverage, Gandolf was 85 when he died in December.
One the many strokes of genius of the National Football League was to market it to many more fans through the iconic NFL films. The genius behind the videos was Ed Sabol. The hall of famer died in February at the age of 98.
But Sabol might not have been able to create the brand he did without the innovation of Tony Verna. Verna invented instant replay, which has now become an integral part of the game. Verna was 81.
As for those who took the field, none was more beloved than legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra. Known for his endearing personality and bewildering statements, Berra was also one of the greatest catchers of all time, both at the plate and behind it. He has still been to more World Series – and won more – than anyone in Major League history. Also a World War II veteran who saw action on D-Day in the U.S. Navy, Berra was 90 when he died in September.
Along with Berra, perhaps no one was a better ambassador for the game than Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks. Starring both at shortstop and first base, Banks clubbed 512 home runs in his career. His Cubs never reached the World Series, of course, but Banks and his “let’s play two” attitude endeared him to generations of fans. Ernie Banks was 83.
Lennie Merullo did play shortstop for the Cubs in the World Series – in 1945, the last time the team reached the fall classic. In fact, Merullo was the last man alive to have played for the Cubs in the World Series, until he died in May at the age of 98.
Minnie Minoso was one of the first Cuban stars in professional baseball, finding success first with the Cleveland Indians, but he will always be connected with the Chicago White Sox. A nine-time all-star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Minoso also made history by playing in five different decades. Minoso was 90.
Joaquin Andujar was a very talented and very combustible star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. His excellence helped the team win the 1982 World Series. His epic meltdown became one of the lingering images of the Cardinals blowing a commanding lead in the 1985 series. Andujar was 62.
On the hardwood, few college basketball coaches were more respected or more successful than North Carolina’s Dean Smith. Once college’s all-time leader in wins, Smith won two national championships and made 11 trips to the Final Four. Also a trailblazer in breaking the color barrier in his conference, Smith was 83 when he died in February.
When Smith retired in 1997, he handed the reins to longtime assistant Bill Guthridge. He coached just three seasons, but made two trips to the Final Four. Guthridge was 77 when he died this year.
Another college coaching legend died the same week as Smith. Jerry Tarkanian led previously unknown UNLV to four Final Four appearances and the 1990 national championship. His tenure was marked by strong teams that emphasized smothering defense and fast-break offense and by an endless battle with the NCAA over alleged violations. Tark the Shark was 84.
In pro hoops, Flip Saunders turned the moribund Minnesota Timberwolves into contenders. Also making stops in Detroit and Washington before returning to Minnesota, Saunders was 60.
As for the players, one of the most dominant big men in history was Moses Malone. Coming from high school straight to pro basketball, Malone dominated with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76’ers. Malone won three NBA most valuable player awards and was the key ingredient to the 76’ers sweeping to the 1983 title. Malone was 60.
Malone replaced another dominant big man in Philadelphia. Darryl Dawkins also made the jump from high school to the NBA. Known for his shot blocking and backboard shattering dunks, Dawkins, nicknamed Chocolate Thunder, enjoyed a 25 year pro career. He was 58.
Jerome Kersey was one of the best defending small forwards of his era and was a critical factor in the Portland Trailblazers reaching the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. Kersey was 52.
Roy Tarpley was a can’t-miss prospect at the University of Michigan…but he missed anyway after constantly battling drug and alcohol addiction. Tarpley lasted just five NBA seasons but did enjoy a long career in Europe. He was 50.
One of the early stars in the NBA was Dolph Schayes. A dominant big man, who was a 12-time All-Star, Schayes led the Syracuse Nationals to the 1955 title. Later a successful coach, Schayes died in December at age 87.
On the gridiron and in the broadcast booth, few did it better than Frank Gifford. Known as a great running back and receiver, Gifford constantly helped lead the Giants into title contention. After retiring, Gifford became a mainstay as a broadcaster, most famously as a longtime announcer on Monday Night Football – sharing the booth with the irrepressible Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. All three are gone now. Gifford was 84 when he died suddenly in August.
Gifford’s coach at the tail end of his career was Allie Sherman. Sherman led the Giants to three straight title games but came up short each time. Later a successful broadcaster in his own right, Sherman was 91.
Chuck Bednarik was the last of the two-way stars in the NFL. A solid offensive lineman and a dominant defender for the Philadelphia Eagles, Bednarik is also known for the clothesline that shortened Gifford’s career. A leader on the 1960 Eagles – the last Philadelphia to win a title – Bednarik was 89.
In the 1970s, few quarterbacks were tougher than Oakland’s Ken Stabler. The Snake perennially had the Raiders in title contention but they were often foiled by the Steelers. In 1976, the Raiders put it all together and crushed the Vikings to win Superbowl XI. Stabler was 69.
Stabler was one of the legendary quarterbacks at Alabama for coach Bear Bryant. But Bryant had only one Heisman Trophy winner in his career, running back John David Crow at Texas A&M. Crow was 79.
In the 1960s and 70s, the Dallas Cowboys were one of the most dominant teams in the league, thanks in large part to their stifling defense. Jethro Pugh was one of the anchors of that devastating defensive line that contributed to two Superbowl wins and three other trips to the big game. Pugh was 70 when he died in January.
One of the greatest defensive minds in history was that of Bill Arnsparger. Credited with the building the Miami Dolphin defense that won back to back Superbowls, including a perfect season, Arnsparger was 88 when he died in July.
Lindy Infante enjoyed success calling plays for the high-octane Cleveland Browns offense in the late 1980s. That success led to the top job in Green Bay, where he had one successful season but never made the playoffs. Later he got another chance in Indianapolis, but lasted just two years, one of them resulting in a playoff appearance. Infante was 75.
Al Arbour was a winner, both as a hockey player and as a coach. Arbour took home the Stanley Cup playing for the Red Wings, Blackhawks and Maple Leafs. He later coached the New York Islanders for 13 years, winning four straight cups from 1980 through 1983. Arbour was 81.
In golf, Billy Casper was a winner – even in an era dominated by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Casper was an outstanding ball striker and putter, so good that he won two U.S.Opens and the 1970 Masters. Casper was 83.
Calvin Peete was a solid tour pro for years. He was 71 when he died April.
In NASCAR, Buddy Baker was a constant threat to take the checkered flag for more than 20 years. Baker won each of the sport’s four big races, including the 1980 Daytona 500. Later a successful analyst, Baker was 74.
Justin Wilson was a young star on the Indy Car circuit. Just 37, Wilson was fatally injured when a piece of debris from another car struck him.
In pro wrestling, few personalities were as memorable as Rowdy Roddy Piper. Known for his trash talking and his Piper’s Pit segments even more than his performances in the ring, Piper died of heart failure in July. He was 61.
Dusty Rhodes did not have the physique of today’s chiseled pro wrestlers, but no one had more fun. The American Dream was 69.
Long before pro wrestling was big business, it featured pioneers who toiled in pain and anonymity for little pay. One of those who paved the way was the legendary Verne Gagne. He was 89.
Sports are certainly a big business, and some of the biggest names in business also died in 2015. Kirk Kerkorian became a multimillionaire by building an airline bringing gamblers to Las Vegas. He was also a critical figure in the development of Las Vegas and a major player in the auto industry. Kerkorian was 98 when he died in June.
Ralph Roberts founded the cable television behemoth known as Comcast. Roberts was 95.
Douglas Tompkins established the popular outdoor apparel company North Face. He died after a kayaking mishap at the age of 72.
Chuck Williams created Williams-Sonoma. He was 100, when he died earlier this month.
That’s a look at the names and faces who left us from politics, media, sports and business. Be sure to find the second half of our special, as we remember those from film, television, music and more who took their final bows in 2015.
2015 witnessed a Supreme Court decision ruling there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, a federal judge jailing a county clerk for refusing to issue licenses to gay couples and the public explosion of the transgender movement, but one of the key figures in the culture wars says 2016 could well be a year of Americans pushing back against the liberal agenda.
In June, years worth of political and legal battles found their way to the Supreme Court. By a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court ruled that the equal protections offered in the Constitution ought to establish a right to same-sex marriage.
The decision was not surprising given previous rulings by the same justices, but Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver says it was disgraceful nonetheless.
“Frankly, I don’t think it deserves any respect as the rule of law. It’s just the opinion of five justices. However, some people are playing the games of masquerade and assuming this is what the Constitution says. That will have a culture-changing impact at every level,” said Staver.
Although he refuses to honor the court ruling, Staver knows it is a huge moment in the battle over American morality. He says we have arrived at a major cultural crossroads.
“This is a culture clash of unprecedented proportions that we’ve now entered into. This will continue as we move into the new year,” he said. “It’s going to come up in every conceivable context” private schools, churches, universities, colleges, you name it. Every institution, every person of faith will have to address this issue.”
Staver would know. Weeks after the Supreme Court decision, he became counsel for Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky. Davis, a born-again Christian refused to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples, citing her freedom of conscience and free religious expression. The federal courts disagreed.
“Two months after this 5-4 opinion, the first Christian went to jail for her sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Staver. “Although she was the first, she certainly won’t be the last. It will not involve only public employees or public elected officials but certainly the private sector as well.”
Staver says the entire Davis saga could easily have been avoided, but the Democratic governor refused to take action to protect the rights of conscience.
“There was no accommodation that was given by the former governor, Steven Beshear, who is no longer in office. He refused to accommodate her so she made her own accommodation. When she returned to work, she refused to violate her conscience, so she removed her name and title from the license,” said Staver.
Beshear was replaced by tea party Republican Matt Bevin, who scored a large upset victory over Democrat Jack Conway.
“He became elected in large part because of the marriage issue and Kim Davis. He took the side of natural marriage and supports Kim Davis. He’s now been sworn into office and he’s already [issued] an executive order to protect the religious freedom of Kim Davis and other clerks like her,” said Staver.
On Dec. 23, Bevin ordered the removal of clerks’ names from marriage licenses throughout the commonwealth, the very same decision Davis made unilaterally earlier in the year.
Staver says the story of Gov. Bevin ought to be a lesson to national candidates as well.
“The candidates will have to address this issue. The voters will require that they address this issue,” said Staver, who believes pushing back is a winning issue for the GOP.
“The more and more the issue of same-sex marriage and the radical, so-called LGBT agenda moves forward, the more people will see how intolerant it is, how coercive it is. Kim Davis is just Exhibit A in that situation. I think most people will say, ‘This is not the kind of America we want to live in. This is not what we bargained for,’ and they’re going to push back,” said Staver.
Staver also believes the reputation of the nation’s courts is in peril. He says an upcoming ruling in high-profile abortion cases will be critical to how Americans view the courts.
“I think it’s pushing itself into the realm of illegitimacy. I think the same-sex marriage case pushed it across the line. I think if it goes the wrong way on the abortion or the contraception and the abortion-inducing drug mandate, I think that will finish off this court and people will just simply say, ‘We’re not going to obey people who just invent the law as they go,'” said Staver.
As the gay marriage debate reached a critical moment at the Supreme Court, the transgender movement also emerged much more publicly in 2015, led by Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner announcing he identified as a woman named Caitlyn. Multiple television programs emerged to highlight the stories of Jenner and others.
“It is part of their whole movement to bring out this bizarre ‘I think, therefore I am’ concept. We always saw that in philosophy but now they’re actually trying to make that a reality, that if you think you’re a woman then you ought to be legally recognized and treated as a woman? It’s absolutely absurd,” said Staver.
Staver says it doesn’t take a deep faith to understand the deep flaws in embracing the movement.
“You cannot get used to something that pushes in your face and is a direct collision with your sincerely held religious beliefs and, frankly, objective, observable reality,” said Staver.
Staver admits 2015 was a difficult year for cultural conservatives but he says there is much more reason for hope than despair.
“We haven’t even begun to see this battle. This battle is far from over and, for me, I ultimately believe we will win this battle going forward,” said Staver.
Donald Trump’s meteoric rise to Republican front-runner, Hillary Clinton’s strategic minefield and President Obama’s long-term impact on the executive branch are among the biggest political stories heading into what promises to be an election year unlike any we’ve seen in the past.
That’s the analysis of Larry Sabato, professor of political science at the University of Virginia, where he also directs the Center for Politics and operates Sabato’s Crystal Ball. The latter has proven to be one of the most accurate predictors of political races around the country.
Without question, the biggest political development of the year is the highly successful insurgent White House bid of billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump. After surprising most pundits by even getting in the race for the Republican nomination, Trump’s poll numbers soared. Each controversy that experts said would derail his bid only improved his standing among GOP voters.
Sabato says he’s never seen anything like it.
“Everybody compares him to (former independent presidential candidate H. Ross) Perot or this one or that one or the other one. No, he is his own man. He is unique. I don’t think we’ve ever had one like him and I’ll be surprised if we ever have another one like him,” said Sabato.
So why is Trump defying conventional wisdom and continuing to lead the crowded Republican field? Sabato says conventional is the last thing many voters in the GOP want in 2016.
“This past year was the first time Republicans were in control totally in Congress since 2006. Yet, the Republican base felt that very little got done. They didn’t think that their leaders had met the promises that they made during the campaign in 2014. That’s exactly what Trump was saying,” said Sabato.
“There’s a sizable portion of that base that likes Trump’s approach and, more than that, likes the way he approaches things. It’s his positions but it’s his style. They like his toughness,” said Sabato.
Sabato says events have also boosted Trump.
“It’s the man meeting the moment. What is the moment? Now it’s terrorism, so people are looking for a tough-minded candidate who will defend national interests and try to destroy ISIS and not contain ISIS or stop some of the homegrown terrorism here,” said Sabato.
Bottom line, says Sabato, Trump supporters are disgusted by what they’ve seen from Obama in the past seven years and don’t see the Republicans in Washington fighting hard enough to stop him.
“It’s anger within the base at their own leaders. It’s anger within the base at immigration. It’s anger within the base at terrorism, wanting a tough guy to handle it. Who steps forward? Trump is nothing if not tough,” said Sabato.
On the Democratic side, Sabato says Hillary Clinton is the obvious favorite for the nomination but he says the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is the most interesting development of the year.
“Bernie Sanders turned out to be much more significant than anybody thought he would be. I wouldn’t be shocked, even in his weakened state, if he won either Iowa or New Hampshire or both,” said Sabato.
Sabato sees two major challenges for Clinton’s road to the White House. The first is the same high expectations that ultimately shattered her aura of invincibility against Obama in 2008.
“How does Hillary Clinton win? Does she win cleanly? Does she put this away early? Does she stop all the questions about the emails and this scandal and what happened in the 1990’s and the queries about Bill? Is she going to stop that? Is it possible to stop that?” asked Sabato.
The other key factor is largely out of Clinton’s control. Sabato says Clinton could ultimately rise or fall based on what the nation thinks of Obama next November.
“Watch that almost more than anything else come fall. If President Obama is unpopular and has a low approval rating. I don’t think he can get Hillary Clinton elected. I don’t think she could get elected independent of him. If he moves back up somewhere around 50, then the prospect of a third consecutive term for the Democrats becomes possible again,” said Sabato.
Despite the sometimes frosty relationship between Obama and Clinton, Sabato says the president badly wants her to win.
“His goal, ultimately, has to be to direct the Democratic nominee, presumably Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, his legacy items for the most part are going to be repealed or greatly reduced,” said Sabato.
As for Obama, Sabato says the president is definitely a lame duck, especially with a Republican Congress unlikely to pursue much of anything on the White House agenda. Still, he says, Obama could still make things interesting given his penchant for pushing policy changes through executive order.
In fact, Sabato believes rolling back the executive branch power grab in recent years ought to be a major priority for the other branches of government.
“Presidents seem to use every opportunity available to expand the powers of the presidency at the expense of the other branches. At some point, I think there’ll be a rebellion in the courts rather than in the legislature given the numbers. But it’t probably going to come,” said Sabato.
“Give Obama points for expanding the power of the executive if you wish but the founders did establish a separation of powers and a balance between and among the powers. We have to make sure that that’s preserved,” said Sabato.
It’s time to put on the tuxedos and hand out the crystal martinis. It’s the start of our year-end political awards for 2015. Today Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review hand out their choices for most underrated, most overrated and most honest political figures.