Princeton Progressives bestows its Head in the Sand Award annually on the Princetonian who most thoroughly defies logic, evidence, justice, fellow-feeling and common decency in pursuit of right-wing political advantage at any cost.
2017 – Andrew Napolitano ’72
Princeton Progressives bestows its 2017 Head in the Sand Award on Andrew Napolitano ’72 for his lifetime commitment to espousing regressive political positions, postulating conspiracy theories, and embracing historical revisionism.
As the one of the nation’s leading voices in March 2017 falsely claiming that President Obama used a British intelligence agency to engage in covert electronic surveillance of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign, Napolitano was suspended from Fox News, which is no small feat. Napolitano contends that 9/11 “could not possibly have been done the way the government told us”, and he expresses a disdain for Abraham Lincoln for reasons that are rejected by responsible historians. Napolitano believes that, rather than adopting rational prudent gun control measures, America should arm its teachers on the grounds that there is “not enough superior firepower” at schools, a long-held position of the National Rifle Association.
By winning this award, Napolitano joins a growing list of Princetonians who have brought embarrassment to their alma mater.
2016 Head in the Sand Award – Ken Buck ‘81
U.S. Representative Ken Buck, of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, and blot on the Princeton University Class of 1981, is the winner of the 2016 “Head in the Sand” Award. Princeton Progressives bestows the award annually on the Princetonian who most thoroughly defies logic, evidence, justice, fellow-feeling and common decency in pursuit of right-wing political advantage at any cost.
Representative Buck joins miscreants including George Will *68, Ted Cruz ’92, Samuel Alito ’72 and Donald Rumsfeld ’54. Like these men Buck has sullied the name of his alma mater and the reputation of his country. More than most, Buck has specialized in coded or “dog-whistle” positions that burnish his reputation among far-right extremists and hate groups while obscuring the worst of his beliefs and positions from mainstream Coloradans and Americans.
Buck began his descent into hate-mongering during his stint as US Attorney when he compromised an important case against Colorado gun dealers by tipping the prosecution’s hand to defense lawyers for the dealers, who were charged with “straw sales” of guns. Buck was rebuked for misconduct and ultimately left the Justice Department under a cloud. Buck’s cocktail of bad faith and incompetence, repellent to anyone who cares about public safety or justice, tastes sweet to those who want terrorists, drug dealers, common criminals and domestic abusers to have unlimited access to the highest-powered weaponry available.
Consistency has never been Buck’s policy. Having in 2015 called Donald Trump a “fraud” whose anti-Muslim stance “violates the Constitution, the values of our nation, the Republican Party platform and my conscience,” Buck went on to endorse him for President. When Buck places such a low value on his “conscience,” he tells everyone loud and clear what value voters and Americans should place on it and him.
“Americans for Job Security” — a Koch Brothers’-supported dark-money vehicle devoted to reducing job security and weakening labor protections — monitors the national political scene for opportunists of exactly Buck’s type. They supported Buck’s failed run for U.S. Senate and no doubt favored some of Buck’s other other rancid dog-whistle moments. For example, he said that a rape victim may have had “buyer’s remorse” — that’s code for “rape victims bring it on themselves.” He also called homosexuality is a choice “like alcoholism.” That’s code for “homosexuals are deviants to be denied legal rights and protections.” His opposition to reproductive rights equates to “men should decide what happens to women’s bodies” and his opposition to the Affordable Care Act is code for “poor people should be punished for being poor.” These positions are out of step with American society but in lockstep with right-wing extremists and their funding.
The “Head in the Sand” Award carries its name because it recognizes that the abandonment of decency and the betrayal of American values do not happen in the bright light of day. These things happen when thinking people, people able to reason from the facts, shut out those facts, close their eyes, and stop their ears from hearing. They thrust their heads in the sand. Ken Buck shows the way.
2015 Head in the Sand Award – Donald Rumsfeld ‘54
Primary season is the time for phony rage among Republican presidential candidates, and they are out in force mixing bilious fear-mongering with empty promises of national renewal through brainless saber-rattling and Treasury-bankrupting tax cuts to the wealthiest.
Offensive though race baiting, religious discrimination, and victim bashing are, sensible Americans remain vigilant against a strand of right-wing rhetoric that is more dangerous precisely because it eschews mouth-foaming cretinism in favor of what sounds like intelligent argument: less rabies, more reason. Long-time watchers of American politics know that the master of these seductive soundbites is Donald Henry Rumsfeld.
Just because the neck tendons are not stretched from shouting self-love and bigotry, however, does not mean Rumsfeld speaks the truth – far from it! His trail of mendacious self-promotion goes all the way back to the Nixon and Ford administrations where he undermined SALT talks and promoted a fact-free analysis of the Soviet Union, already on the verge of its implosion, as a growing military threat. In both cases, the national interest in peace and prosperity was set aside for the Rumsfeld interest in more budget, more power, and more conflict.
In the private sector, Rumsfeld, as president of G.D. Searle, engineered a series of mergers while shrinking job rolls 60% and ultimately selling the remaining assets at knockdown price. Under his “leadership”, the one-time inventor of the birth control pill declined into the peddler of NutraSweet, a product that needed 16 years of government lobbying to legalize.
But none of these misadventures compares with the damage Donald Rumsfeld did upon returning to what he calls “public service” in the Bush administration. Stoking national alarm after 9/11, and exploiting the president’s Oedipal obsession to outdo his father’s successful-because-limited intervention in the Middle East, Secretary Rumsfeld championed a war of choice in Iraq – choice, that is, for the White House chicken hawk cabal, no choice at all for the thousands of Americans wounded and killed, the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and the millions of Middle East civilians displaced. Few moments of Beltway bungling have ever hurt so many people, so badly, with so many repercussions still felt worldwide today.
For this epic self-serving blunder, possibly the worst geostrategic mistake in American history, Rumsfeld is best remembered for his lecture about “unknown unknowns.” He concocted this fragment of pop epistemology to deflect discussion of the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” whose fictitious threat justified Rumsfeld’s incompetent, immoral adventurism. So now we know that the weapon of mass destruction that did the most harm during Rumsfeld’s second time as Secretary was his self-regarding blindness: blindness to the truth, blindness to right and wrong, and blindness to his country’s needs. For all these reasons, Princeton Progressives presents its 2015 Head-in-the-Sand Award to Donald Rumsfeld.
photo credit: http://www.jerrypippin.com
2014 Head in the Sand Award – Samuel Alito ’72
The Princeton Progressives 2014 Head in the Sand Award is conferred on Samuel Alito ’72 for his lifelong unwavering adherence to right wing ideology that severely hampers his ability to carry out his critically-important duties in a responsible and intellectually honest manner. His judicial track record has shown a consistent pattern of ruling in favor of corporations or religious interests over the legitimate rights of ordinary citizens, often ignoring or trivializing crucial but inconvenient facts or well-established legal precedents in the process. During his tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sam Alito’s highly visible role in the Citizens United case epitomized his perplexing disregard for logic or genuine democratic ideals, resulting in one of the most politically disastrous and outrageous SCOTUS decisions in generations. More recently, his contemptible anti-women vote in the Hobby Lobby case was another disturbing step in his long-standing zeal to take away women’s reproductive rights through incremental judicial action. As profoundly harmful as his regressive rulings have been to the nation’s well-being, Sam Alito also has shown an unfathomable intolerance toward those who do not fall into lock-step with his callous disregard for what open-minded and informed people consider right and fair. Sam Alito is a paragon of how Princeton sometimes does not get it right when it comes to educating its students in what matters the most – sound values, human decency, and common sense.
photo credit: http://thinkprogress.org
2013 Head in the Sand Award – Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz ’92
The Princeton Progressives annual Head in the Sand Award is conferred on that Princetonian who blatantly and repeatedly disregards unambiguous and inconvenient facts, whose unwavering adherence to rigid right wing ideology makes it impossible for him to act and talk in a responsible and constructive manner, and who strategically exploits the minds and sensibilities of those who are susceptible to believing deliberate falsehoods and dangerous propaganda, often against their own best interests.
To qualify, the recipient must stand out as a national and even global symbol of rampant ignorance, selfishness, and callousness toward others. Simple stupidity, corruption, or incompetence do not qualify the recipient for Head-in-the-Sand Award consideration. Rather, the winner must consistently demonstrate a narcissistic total preference for his own distorted beliefs and misguided prejudices over any proper sense of duty as a public citizen, and he must do so in a way that maximizes divisiveness, insults colleagues of any opinion other than those that are in lockstep and instant agreement, and minimizes any possibility of compromise, moderation, or meaningful dialogue.
In American public life today, no man or woman of prominence holds a candle to Ted Cruz, member of the Princeton Class of 1992, for sheer obstinance, mean-spiritedness, and reckless disregard for the common good. He is the runaway 2013 gold medalist of this unique recognition. As much shame as Ted Cruz brings on America through his anti-democratic extremism, he brings that much more shame on our alma mater.
photo credit: http://www.breitbartunmasked.com/features-2/monday-morons/monday-moron-ted-cruz/ and http://www.breitbartunmasked.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/ted-cruz-AP.jpg
2012 Head in the Sand Award – George F. Will *68
Our first-ever Head in the Sand Award was announced at our Open House at Terrace Club on September 14, 2012, inspired in part by this comment: “We’re having some hot weather. Get over it.” That was Trustee George Will’s reaction to record-shattering temperatures around the world this year.
One of the hallmarks of a great university is healthy debate. But in the oft-quoted words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” Any recipient of a Princeton education should have the capacity to distinguish between the two.
The central facts of anthropogenic climate change have long been accepted by the scientific community. It is an issue that should transcend ideology and politics: this year, the devastating effects of shattered temperature records and catastrophic weather events around the world have become evident. Yet even as the predicted effects of intense heat, drought, violent storms, and rising sea levels begin to manifest themselves, some choose to ignore the overwhelming evidence.
We are proud of the dozens of Princetonians who have made signal contributions to the science and policy of global warming. But we are deeply disappointed that a Trustee of this great institution continues to scoff that global warming is “interest-group politics” and imagines that the costs of attacking the problem could approach the costs of ignoring it. Seatbelts cost money too, George.
Princeton Progressives recognizes the effort involved in denying facts, misleading the public, and embarrassing his fellow Tigers by awarding George Will our very first Head in the Sand Award.