5 Stories We Don't Want To Continue Into 2014: Zimmerman, Ford, and More
It often seems like the same news stories keep popping up over and over again. Sometimes, this is a good thing, as with the flurry of headlines this year proclaiming that yet another state legalized same-sex marriage. All too often, though, the stories that are most prominent in the news cycle are about issues and people you want nothing more than to excise from your consciousness forever. Here are some people and events that we really, really hope we don’t have to read (or write) about in 2014.
We’re a bit torn on this, because initially, the Toronto mayor’s antics were kind of endearing. Ford looks and sounds eerily similar to Chris Farley, is just as physically clumsy, has a penchant for wearing goofy ties, and happens to be in charge of Canada’s largest city. When it was first reported that he smoked crack cocaine on video, he issued one of the best non-denials ever, and when he finally admitted that he had, in fact, smoked crack (“Probably in one of my drunken stupors,” he explained), his approval ratings actually went up. Not long ago, we ourselves named Ford as one of the things news junkies ought to be thankful for.
But unfortunately, things soon took a darker turn from there. First, Ford was caught on tape threatening to murder someone, and while that probably wasn’t a sincere threat, it was disturbing nonetheless. Shortly thereafter, court documents emerged showing that he may have hit his wife and driven drunk with his kids in the car. Then, when the worst ice storm in history hit Toronto, Ford refused to declare a state of emergency, as doing so would have diminished his own powers as mayor, thanks to a resolution the city council passed earlier in the year.
It’s getting harder and harder to see Ford as a lovable goof of a mayor, and a lot easier to see him a public menace. We really hope he doesn’t make too many headlines in 2014, unless it’s to announce his resignation.
Weiner first gained some degree of national prominence during Obamacare’s long, arduous journey through Congress, when he exploded in vitriolic outrage on the House floor, referring to Republican Party as a “wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.” This made him something of a darling to progressives, and given his unabashed ambition, many suspected he’d go on to bigger and better things.
Then the whole Twitter sexting scandal happened. That itself went on for longer than it should have, with Weiner vehemently denying the charges at first, then tearfully admitting to them later. His resignation from Congress seemed to be the end of his political career, but apparently, nobody told that to Weiner himself. He announced this year that he’d be running for mayor of New York, propelling him into headlines once again, and to the shock of many, he actually led in some early polls. But once word got out that he’d sexted again, since the original scandal, his poll numbers plummeted, and the last we heard of him, he was flipping off reporters from his limo after losing the Democratic primary. But not before behaving like this:
Amazingly, Weiner’s recently hinted at yet another comeback attempt. “What’s next? I’ll keep you posted on my plans,” he wrote on Facebook last week. “But I hope we keep the band together.” Those sound to us like the words of a man who plans to stay in the public eye, but we really hope we’re wrong.
Debt Ceiling Crises
In 2011, Republicans in the House of Representatives brought the U.S. closer than ever before to a national default. But it was averted at the last minute, and most people walked away from the crisis convinced that a lesson had been learned.
How foolish we were. This year, the same House Republicans brought the country even closer to default, going so far as to shut down the government to convince everyone they meant business. Some Congressman, most notably Ted Yoho (R-Mars), made the extremely worrisome suggestion that allowing the country to breach the debt ceiling would actually be a good thing.
Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner’s staggering incompetence was on display throughout the crisis, and when he finally mustered up the courage to stand up to the Tea Partiers in his caucus and bring the debt ceiling bill up for a vote, the GOP’s approval ratings were as low as they’ve ever been.
It would tempting to assume that Republicans won’t do this again, but that’s what everyone said last time. Members of the Republican leadership have even recently implied that they won’t raise the debt ceiling without a fight. Let’s hope they’re bluffing.
Syrian Civil War
The protests that erupted throughout the Middle East in 2011 were widely celebrated in the West as a visible and effective grassroots pushback against authoritarianism, political oppression and one-party rule. Initially, Syria was just one of many countries to see such protests, and after the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen were ousted, many observers assumed it would only be a matter of time before Syria followed the same route and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was removed from power.
But the conflict kept going, and going, and going. The opposition wasn’t making much headway, but it kept on fighting, and outside efforts to resolve the conflict all fell flat. The respected diplomat Kofi Annan brokered a ceasefire, but it quickly fell apart. In the United Nations, Russia and China prevented the international community from taking any action against the Assad regime, and U.S. efforts to funnel weapons to the rebels — which had since come to include elements of al Qaeda — were stymied in Congress.
After Assad used chemical weapons on his people earlier this year, the U.S. and Russia teamed up to rid the Syrian government of said weapons. And that’s great, but the civil war itself is still raging on with no end in sight. To get some perspective on how long it’s been, consider this: when the first protests broke out in Syria, Donald Trump was the Republican frontrunner for president, and since the conflict began, not one but two Egyptian presidents have been forced to leave office in unrelated protests.
Personal anecdote: I first reported on George Zimmerman for a different publication in 2011, shortly after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. While the killing brought a number of very important legal and societal issues into the discourse, I assumed — naively — that once the trial was over, we probably wouldn’t be hearing much more about Zimmerman. That was one of the worst predictions I’ve ever made.
Here we are, over two years after the fact, and Zimmerman still makes the news on almost a weekly basis. It’s usually for some transgression involving a gun, which is weird, because you’d think Zimmerman, if only out of self-preservation, would avoid messing around with guns at this point. But no.
He was twice pulled over for speeding, once while in possession of a handgun. He allegedly threatened his ex-wife Shellie and her father with a shotgun, then did the exact same thing a couple of months later at his new girlfriend’s house. Both Shellie and Samantha Scheibe later retracted their stories and declined to press charges, which is a lot like when mob witnesses suddenly decide not to testify two days before a trial.
Enough. According to a Florida chief of police, Zimmerman is an “Aurora waiting to happen.” It seems inevitable that he’ll eventually shoot someone else, at which point we’ll be treated to yet another media circus. Almost nothing would make us happier than to never hear from this guy again.