Lord Julian Fellowes, David L. Cohen, and Dr. Henry Heimlich. Sounds like an interesting carpool or the beginning of a funny joke. What they have in common is that I wrote about each during 2016.
I saluted Fellowes' efforts as the creator and sole writer of Downton Abbey after spending a night with him in Philadelphia, where he spoke for charity. I publicized Cohen's noble endeavor to bridge the digital gap for those without connectivity. And I recounted my experience with the eponymous founder of abdominal thrusts on the occasion of his saving a fellow senior just months before his passing.
That's the fun of writing for the Sunday Inquirer - the latitude to go where my interests take me, regardless of subject matter.
Of course, what I've mainly done here is offer opinions, hopefully from an evidentiary, nonideological perspective. Here's some of what I argued:
Dreamers shouldn't be punished for the sins of their parents. The only reason I can fathom why Bill Cosby spoke so openly in his 2005 civil deposition is that he believed he was protected against prosecution. Before making egregious mistakes, former Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane was right to shed light on the slow pace of the Jerry Sandusky investigation. Judge Merrick Garland deserved a hearing and confirmation vote on his nomination to the Supreme Court. Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is an extraordinary cop. National political conventions might elevate a city's profile but are an economic loser.
And a few more:
Hillary Clinton went the private-server route for privacy, not convenience. The Rizzo statue should stay in front of Philadelphia's Municipal Services Building. It's exciting to watch video gamers play Esports in large arenas. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the strongest GOP candidate in the field. (Ahem.) Ron Howard gave Larry Kane some long-overdue recognition for his amazing part in the Beatles story. The Libertarians should have been included in the presidential debates. Anonymous reader comments instill beer muscles. And, my housekeeper has more humility than I could ever dream.
But of course, the single greatest concentration of my ink this year (like many others) was spent on Donald Trump. And boy, was I wrong about him. I never thought he'd run. I was sure he wouldn't fill out the basic financial requirements. I was certain his appalling comments about John McCain as a POW would sink him. That his proposed Mexican wall would crush him with Hispanics. That his "blood coming out of her wherever" comment about Megyn Kelly would ruin him with women. (And when it didn't, the Billy Bush tape would.) That Hillary beat him in at least two of three debates. And that, best case, he'd tap out at about 240 electoral votes.
Yikes. That I have lots of company doesn't salve my wounds.
There is one column I wrote that sums up Trump's success and the year in general. It ran last March under the headline: "Trump's candidacy is right out of 'Seinfeld.' " I wrote: "Donald Trump's success as a presidential candidate is both surprising and easily explained." And, "In every instance imaginable, Trump has done the opposite of what is expected of a presidential candidate, making him the George Costanza of the 2016 cycle." That was a reference to a classic episode in Season 5 when Jason Alexander's character, on Jerry Seinfeld's advice, goes against all of his instincts. He begins down this road by approaching an attractive woman at Monk's Cafe and saying:
"My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents." The strategy worked. And so did his subsequent counterintuitive ideas.
Sound politically familiar? I enjoyed writing that column in part because it was inspired by a Philly guy, comedian Andy Cowan. And I replicated my column in a CNN commentary. My approach was an attempt at both humor and analysis, rather than condescension. But the Trump campaign failed to see the levity.
On Election Night, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski arrived on the CNN set about 3 a.m., eight hours into my pundit all-nighter. When asked on camera how he felt now that his candidate was victorious, Lewandowski was more dour than you'd expect. He looked at me and noted that many had ridiculed his candidate, one going so far as to compare him to Costanza.
Then, the following week, he gave a speech at the Oxford Union in the United Kingdom. He repeated the Costanza affront, this time citing me by name as its originator. There's no way he could have known, but one of my sons was then an Oxford student. So, the world being flat, word reached me before Lewandowski even got to his Q and A.
Maybe the reason he's so sensitive is because my Seinfeld analogy was so prescient. Every day of this campaign brought new, Trump-initiated, nonsubstantive drama, and so, too, has the interim as we approach the inauguration.
Trump wanted the primary decided by hand size. Seinfeld had "the contest."
Trump tagged opponents with monikers like "little" Marco or "lyin' " Ted or "crooked" Hillary. For Seinfeld it was nemesis "crazy" Joe Davola.
Now, important appointments and policy considerations have taken secondary status to minor flaps like Mike Pence's foray to Hamilton, Trump's ongoing reaction to Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, and even his explosive reaction to a bad restaurant review from Vanity Fair.
Each skirmish has resonance because none requires expertise or a deep dive to render an opinion. They're as conversational at the water cooler as Seinfeld's puffy shirt or George's impersonation of a marine biologist. Yada yada yada, the parallels are unending.
So Happy Festivus, everyone. Rest up. We're in for a remarkable four years.