Odds and Ends from 2007 

Awards are in order for obscure and not-so-obscure achievements in the world of politics.

Most Unlikely Sanctification Rite: the ceremony of praise heaped by various legal authorities on Darrell Catron, whose felonious behavior while serving as an aide in the Juvenile Court clerk's office some years back led to a cascade of further criminal activity and to the wreckage of several careers.

Catron, who got his walking papers at year's end via an 18-month probation, was credited with having helped the feds haul in a passel of other predators on the public purse and, indeed, with making the entire Tennessee Waltz sting possible.

Catron's prize: a Golden Stool. (Well, okay, it may look like gold, but it doesn't smell like it.)

Most Unexpected Appellation: the term "maverick" used as a descriptor for county commissioner Steve Mulroy in a December Commercial Appeal profile.

That was something of an eyebrow-raiser, given Mulroy's undeviating party-line votes on commission issues and the U of M law professor's eloquent and detailed rationales on behalf of the Democratic majority, statements which often have the ring of Supreme Court majority opinions.

Can "maverick" also mean "team player"?

The CA's prize: a dictionary of antonyms.

Most Unsurprising Outcome: the reelection victory of Mayor Willie Herenton over two major opponents, City Council member Carol Chumney and former MLGW president Herman Morris.

It was elementary mathematics that Herenton's base was large enough, after 16 years' service, to withstand such a divided challenge — especially given the obvious imperfections in the campaigns of Chumney, who never managed to transcend the role of fault-finder, and Morris, who could not escape his dignified cocoon long enough to bond with any sector of the electorate.

Herenton's prize: Well ... you know what the prize is.

Most Promising Outcome: the sea change in the composition of the Memphis City Council, via an election which saw nine newbies chosen to serve along with four veterans at a time when almost everybody foresees a necessary change of course — maybe even in the long-deferred direction of consolidation.

Their prize: celebrity, in exchange for the irreversible surrender of their privacy.

Most Unexpected (and Most Overlooked) Passing of the Baton: the withdrawal from the presidential race of Republican congressman Tom Tancredo (whose candidacy almost no one had noticed) and the subsequent claim by Memphis presidential candidate David F. Diamond (whose candidacy even fewer people had noticed) that Coloradan Tancredo's downfall had begun with his failure at a nationally televised debate to understand a call-in question from Diamond.

The Memphian had asked: "Do you have a plan to solve the shortage of organs donated for transplant?" Tancredo drew a blank, accusing the questioner of being a mad cloner.

Diamond's prize: the Tancredo body part of his choice.

Second Most Unexpected Passing of the Baton: the failure thus far of University of Memphis grad/ex-Senator/ex-actor Fred Thompson to make a dent in the presidential race despite the biggest advance ballyhoo of any candidate in recent memory, followed by the rapid rise of ex-Arkansas governor/ex-Baptist pastor Mike Huckabee.

As a sort of consolation prize, sometime abortion-rights lawyer Thompson picked up some key endorsements, of the kind longtime pro-lifer Huckabee might have expected, from various right-to-life organizations. Go figure.

Huckabee's prize: an Academy Award nomination for his current ability to upstage the rigid fundamentalism of his preacherly past.

Most Unanticipated Reversal of Fortune: the decline of former media cynosure Harold Ford Jr. into relative anonymity, despite ex-Senate candidate Ford's acquisition during the year of the leadership of the Democratic Leadership Council, a post at Merrill Lynch, and various other perches and perks that should have kept him front and center.

Possible reasons for his back-benching: the absence from the airwaves of disgraced radio/TV host Don Imus, a longtime Ford cheerleader; the advent of 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, whose nonstop media presence has put that of predecessor Ford in the shade.

Ford's consolation prize: Guess what? Imus is back.

Till we meet again, holiday happily!

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