2002 In My Rearview Mirror
While so many year-end publications tend to focus on what we should remember about the year now slouching to a close, I prefer to continue this column's contrarian tradition of identifying all the sad and sordid things we'd all be better off never having cross our minds again.
Here then is a list of those things I'd like to forget, circa 2002:
Trent Lott, toastmaster.
That the president still believes an $8 billion a year missile defense shield will protect us from terrorists with box cutters, suitcase nukes and vials of smallpox.
That Dick Cheney was able to find a judge -- albeit one appointed by the president -- to side with him in the General Accounting Office suit.
The Catholic Church's pedophile protection plan.
Dennis Kozlowski's $6,000 shower curtain.
The untimely death of Angelina and Billy Bob's undying love.
Robert "The Torch" Torricelli's teary-eyed resignation speech in which he simultaneously denied wrongdoing and lambasted the public for its lack of forgiveness.
The deadly duo of John Muhammad and Lee Malvo.
The NRA's bull-headed resistance to creating a national database of ballistic "fingerprints," even as the snipers were randomly gunning down 13 people.
That doting dad Jack Grubman upgraded his rating of AT&T stock in an effort to help get his kids into the Harvard of Manhattan nursery schools.
"Pluto Nash," "I Spy," "Showtime": Eddie Murphy goes 0-for-2002.
Henry Kissinger -- crusader for truth.
That Kissinger chose keeping his clients' secrets over uncovering the truth about 9/11.
That Osama bin Laden is still on the loose.
That fewer people voted on Election Day 2002 than watched the World Series (even though it was one of the lowest-rated series in history).
Michael Jackson, father.
The "charitable instincts" of the Saudi royal family.
That partisan bickering in Congress left 800,000 laid-off workers without unemployment benefits during the holiday season.
The new Hummer H2, a metal monstrosity that struggles to cover 10 miles for every gallon of gas it burns.
That the Bush administration is suing the state of California for requiring that carmakers put more energy-efficient models on the road.
How little we have been asked to sacrifice to help win the war on terror.
Terry McAuliffe's pre-election victory guarantees.
Gray Davis versus Bill Simon. It was like being asked to choose which kind of bag California voters wanted to suffocate themselves with: paper or plastic.
The appalling way the Bush administration played the national security trump card to promote everything from tax cuts to drilling in ANWR to the drug war to subsidies for corporate fat cats.
Tonya Harding beating the snot out of Paula Jones on Fox's "Celebrity Boxing."
That Ken Lay has not even been indicted -- let alone spent a day in jail.
Our first MBA President and his CEO Cabinet.
Eminem vs. Moby. Get over yourself, guys.
That the Bachelor chose Helene instead of Brooke -- or was it the other way around? See, I've already forgotten.
Tom Ridge's laughably lame color-coded terror warning initiative. It was enough to make us all see red.
That a grand total of one person has been charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks.
J.Lo and Ben. (Not helping in the forgetting department: Us Weekly magazine.)
That the president's pick to take over the Treasury is CEO of a company that, despite close to a billion dollars in profits, paid not a penny in federal taxes in three of the last four years.
The Buckingham Palace rape tape.
R. Kelly's home movies.
That John Ashcroft felt it necessary to spend $8,000 on curtains to cover a bare-breasted statue.
That people find watching contestants making a meal of animal testicles on "Fear Factor" entertaining.
John Rigas, Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Dennis Kozlowski, Bernie Ebbers, Scott Sullivan, Andrew Fastow, Sam Waksal and all the rest of our corporate Capones.
2002's Euphemism of the Year: "Restatement of earnings." Why not call it what it is: "Out-and-out fraud?"
Harvey Pitt's wishy-washy reign as chairman of the SEC.
The sleazy way that a provision worth billions to Eli Lilly was slipped into the homeland security bill at the 11th hour.
Liza and David's freak show wedding.
The West Nile Virus.
The Cruise Ship Virus (the Love Boat gang could teach Saddam a thing or two about bioterrorism).
That the two-faced princes of Saudi Arabia, a country that has been holding telethons for suicide bombers, are treated as honored guests at the president's Crawford ranch.
Nancy Pelosi's scary transformation from fiery congresswoman into play-it-safe Pod Person within hours of becoming House minority leader.
That the feds still haven't arrested anyone for the anthrax attacks.
That, in a time of war, sales of gas-guzzling SUVs were up 6 percent.
That if an SUV is massive enough, it is entirely exempt from federal fuel economy standards.
That prior to 9/11, more than twice as many FBI agents were assigned to fighting drugs than fighting terrorism. And that even post-9/11, over 2,000 agents are still spending their invaluable time fighting a fruitless drug war.
John Ashcroft's holy-roller war against medical marijuana clubs.
The tragic way the FBI failed to see all the red flags leading up to 9/11.
That companies avoid paying $70 billion in U.S. taxes a year simply by opening a PO Box in Bermuda.
Dick Cheney's serial use of offshore tax shelters while running Halliburton.
"The Anna Nicole Show."
That super-grating Dell guy.
Lance Bass, wannabe cosmonaut.
The White House's desperate attempts to link Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.
All the media ink wasted on that ridiculous ice skating scandal at this year's Winter Olympics.
The uproar that ensued after Colin Powell endorsed condom use as an anti-AIDS measure.
That two-thirds of America's 36 million beef cattle are given growth hormones.
That the administration is still running those ridiculous ads linking youthful drug use with terrorism.
The sight of all those politicians tripping over themselves to give back campaign donations received from Enron and Arthur Andersen.
That Congress allowed the Enron scandal to end not with a bang but a whimper.
Luke Helder's "smiley face" mailbox pipe bombing spree.
"American Idol" (except for Simon, he was cool).
The Winona Ryder trial.
The way the Teamsters shamelessly curried favor with the White House by coming out in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
That one out of every 69 U.S. households filed for personal bankruptcy.
Bush's gutting of the Clean Air Act.
"The Osbournes" merchandise.
The cowardly cancellation of "Politically Incorrect."
The Movie Multiplex from Hell: "Jackass: the Movie," "Scooby-Doo," "The Sweetest Thing," "Dragonfly," "Crossroads," "Death To Smoochy."
Madonna in "Swept Away." The worst of the worst.
"(I'm Still) Jenny from the Block." Yeah, sure.
Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist.