When I first came upon Esquire magazine, the monthly was both a bawdy and sophisticated men’s magazine, just respectable enough to occupy a space on the cocktail table. Playboy, more often hidden a way in the sock drawer, still managed to disrupt, perhaps overwhelm Esquire’s prestigious spot as the ultimate in men’s magazines. In my opinion Esquire was the original. In its attempt to compete with this surprisingly successful upstart, Esquire tried all sorts of things and in doing so they came up with some innovative ideas. My favorite was the annual “Dubious Achievement Awards.” With a nod toward Esquire, during Playboy’s 60th anniversary, here are some special award categories and my top two nominees for each award offered in the same spirit.
Vladimir Putin vs Chris Christie:. My vote goes to the Russian dictator only because he can actually kill a lot people and invade a lot of land. Christie may want to, but he’d have to keep it quiet. Another reason Putin gets the prize is that anyone who would buckle under in a Diane Sawyer interview as Christie did can no longer be feared. The man deserves to spend the rest of his life in a cartoon. Christie may have his own border battles, but Putin is trying to recreate the old USSR. There are a number of former Soviet puppet states that legitimately fear a Crimean fate and sadly a number of folks in those states seem to prefer a country run by a Stalin wannabe.
Justice Antonin Scalia vs. Dick Cheney: It’s a difficult choice between these two hunting buddies. Both are cigar-smoking, small-game hunters. Both are skilled speakers and debaters. Cheney has that unemotional, matter-of-fact delivery that lulls the listener into thinking he’s spewing “the-facts, just-the-facts, ma’am.” Scalia’s technique is equally interesting. He uses theatre. He sets a regal “how-dare you-question me tone.” He knows everything. And you are a fool. He’s a kind of male chauvinist Judge Judy, though I’d take Judge Judy for her consistent application of the law as she sees it. Scalia is all over the place. However, his bitter edge, which he can’t hide as well as Cheney is similarly based. Cheney, though he ran things during Bush’s first term, was always number two in the eyes of the world. Scalia runs things on the court, but he knows he will never be Chief Justice. Forced to choose, I pick Scalia as the most arrogant and currently the most dangerous. He was appointed for life. He’s also continually pissed off. At this point, Cheney doesn’t mind being unpopular. He’s the most likely to say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
George W. Bush vs. Donald Rumsfeld: Unlike Rumsfeld, there is some indication that Bush the younger finally understood what happened under his watch and decided to take up painting. (Anyone, to pick up on Andy Borowitz’ suggestion, want to take up a collection for a beginner’s paint set for Jeb?) Rumsfeld gets my vote. One of the best-known known knowns is that the man had no idea what he was doing in Iraq and to this day doesn’t know that he didn’t know it. He seems happy, which is further evidence that “ignorance is bliss.” Actually he also disproves the Peter Principle. He rose well beyond occupying a job for which he was merely incompetent. He would do it all again, he said. One more time: What’s the popular definition of crazy?
George W. Bush vs. Kim Jong-un: I might have given this award to Bush the Younger, but he was smart enough to go into hiding. I can’t imagine anything worse than being stupid and mean. One would think KIM II was a born-again Texas Republican — Perry and Cruz, for example. (Not all Texans, mind you. Molly Ivins was my hero.) However the current Kim Jong wins this contest hands down because he is still in the seat of power where his narcissistic stupidity is a danger not only to his own people, but also to the world. Worse, he really is in a position to improve the lives of millions and chooses instead to keep them starving, in prison and isolated from the world. We shouldn’t be surprised. (Look at his haircut). On the other hand, I suspect a dark fate awaits him, sooner rather than later. Perhaps it will be his uncle’s revenge from the grave.