BEST VICTIM - 2005
Poor Mark Dayton. An unquestionably decent and principled guy, he always comes off as skittish and improperly medicated. Is it the halting oratorical style? The hundred-yard stare? The lost-boy cluelessness about the dark art of public relations? Whatever the cause, Dayton always seems inclined to paint a giant target on his forehead. So it was this past October, when the senator abruptly announced he would evacuate his D.C. offices. The reason? Suspicion of an impending terrorist attack. Ethically, this may have been the right call. We are not privy to whatever information so alarmed Dayton. The fact that none of Dayton's colleagues followed suit is meaningless. From a clinical perspective, the majority of U.S. senators are either narcissists or sociopaths or something in between; thus their behavior cannot be cited as a moral barometer. But politically speaking, Dayton's premature withdrawal--which occurred during the height of an insanely rabid election cycle--sealed his fate as a one-term senator. In this sense, Dayton can be seen as the classic tragic victim, ruined by both his own high principles and peculiar myopia. But he was also the victim of the high-octane GOP slime machine. With the thuggish churchman James Dobson issuing the first anti-Dayton fatwa last summer and local reactionaries working themselves into scalping mode after the office evacuation fiasco, Dayton was presented with a horrid reality. To win reelection--or even to mount a credible campaign--he would have been forced to spend every waking moment from here to Election Day raising money. So in the end, he lay on his sword and announced he wouldn't run again. Regardless of political stripes, you've got to feel for the guy. Here he spent a huge chunk of his personal fortune getting elected to what he thought would be an exciting new job. Then he comes to find out the only way he can keep it is to whore himself out seven days a week. Sad.