The top stories of 2009

Here are the top news stories of 2009 according to an Associated Press poll of the nation’s newspaper editors and news directors:

1. THE ECONOMY: Despite a $787 billion federal stimulus package, much of the U.S. economy continued to sputter throughout the year. The jobless rate topped 10 percent, scores of banks failed, the federal deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion, and stocks fell to their lowest levels since 1997 before rallying. Yet investment banks’ profits surged, triggering public anger and efforts in Washington to crack down on Wall Street bonuses.

2. OBAMA INAUGURATION: Inauguration Day in January was a moving moment for many Americans, as the nation’s first black president took the oath of office. But Obama soon confronted the sobering realities of governing as he struggled to get the economy back on track and win support for his ambitious legislative priorities.

3. HEALTH CARE: A sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system, extending coverage to millions of Americans now without it, was a top priority for Obama and majority Democrats in Congress. But Republicans were almost unanimously opposed, leading to complex, bitterly partisan showdowns in both chambers.

4. AUTO INDUSTRY: It was an immensely challenging year for America’s Big Three automakers. General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner was ousted by the government, and Chrysler was pressured into an alliance with Italy’s Fiat. Ford avoided bankruptcy, but its worldwide sales — like its competitors’ — fell sharply.

5. SWINE FLU: Swine flu struck tens of millions of people worldwide, worrying governments as supplies of vaccine failed to meet demand. In the United States, according to federal authorities, swine flu sickened an estimated 50 million people, hospitalized close to 200,000 and killed 10,000.

6. AFGHANISTAN: Casualties on all sides mounted as U.S. forces, with their Afghan and NATO allies, battled the resilient Taliban. President Obama, after lengthy deliberations, opted to send 30,000 more troops. His decision was complicated by the disputed Afghan election, which prompted allegations of widespread fraud but resulted in President Hamid Karzai taking office for a second five-year term.

7. MICHAEL JACKSON DIES: The “King of Pop” died at the age of 50, triggering grief and nostalgia among his legions of fans around the world. His doctor became the focus of a Los Angeles police homicide investigation after telling investigators he administered propofol, a powerful operating room anesthetic, to help the pop star sleep.

8. FORT HOOD RAMPAGE: An Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan, was accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, a sprawling military base in Texas, before being seriously wounded by police gun fire. Investigations were launched to determine if authorities missed warning signs that might have prevented the rampage.

9. EDWARD KENNEDY DIES: Sen. Edward Kennedy, who carried on the family legacy after the deaths of his three older brothers, died of brain cancer after a distinctive political career filled with highs and lows. Though his own presidential aspirations were thwarted, he earned bipartisan respect for decades of hard work in the Senate.

10. MIRACLE ON HUDSON: A US Airways passenger jet, both its engines disabled, made an emergency ditching in the Hudson River, and all 155 on board survived in what was dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson.” The veteran pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, was hailed as a hero for averting a disaster.

What ones would you leave out and what would you replace them with? Are there any other events of the past year that were especially notable or significant?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Carl Vehse

    CLIMATEGATE – ignored by the clymer media until it reeked so much they couldn’t.

    CORRUPTOCRATS – 0bama fills his administration and cabinet with corrupt politicians and people wih little relevant experience who subsequently admit to being taxdodgers and having done other corrupt, perverted, and maladministration activities.

    BIRTH-CERTIFIGATE – 0bama and his legal minions continue to spend over a million dollars fighting to keep his true birth certificate hidden and instead rely on the faked copy of a live birth certificate, which proves nothing about his constitutional qualification to occupy the Oval Office.

    THE MOST NOTABLE QUOTABLES OF 2009 – Media Research Center’s compilation of the most outrageous and/or ludicrously humorous clymer media quotes from 2009, including the Quote of the Year from Discover web editor, Melissa Lafsky: “Mary Jo wasn’t a right-wing talking point or a negative campaign slogan….We don’t know how much Kennedy was affected by her death, or what she’d have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history….[One wonders what] Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted’s death, and what she’d have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded. Who knows — maybe she’d feel it was worth it.”

  • Carl Vehse

    CLIMATEGATE – ignored by the clymer media until it reeked so much they couldn’t.

    CORRUPTOCRATS – 0bama fills his administration and cabinet with corrupt politicians and people wih little relevant experience who subsequently admit to being taxdodgers and having done other corrupt, perverted, and maladministration activities.

    BIRTH-CERTIFIGATE – 0bama and his legal minions continue to spend over a million dollars fighting to keep his true birth certificate hidden and instead rely on the faked copy of a live birth certificate, which proves nothing about his constitutional qualification to occupy the Oval Office.

    THE MOST NOTABLE QUOTABLES OF 2009 – Media Research Center’s compilation of the most outrageous and/or ludicrously humorous clymer media quotes from 2009, including the Quote of the Year from Discover web editor, Melissa Lafsky: “Mary Jo wasn’t a right-wing talking point or a negative campaign slogan….We don’t know how much Kennedy was affected by her death, or what she’d have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history….[One wonders what] Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted’s death, and what she’d have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded. Who knows — maybe she’d feel it was worth it.”

  • Booklover

    #7 appears totally incongruous next to #8.

  • Booklover

    #7 appears totally incongruous next to #8.

  • Kirk

    @1 Birth-Certifigate? Seriously? And all this time I’d been thinking that logic, sanity and sound legal precedent had stomped that one into the mud. To be fair, the media did cover it. They probably just didn’t say the things that you wanted to hear.

  • Kirk

    @1 Birth-Certifigate? Seriously? And all this time I’d been thinking that logic, sanity and sound legal precedent had stomped that one into the mud. To be fair, the media did cover it. They probably just didn’t say the things that you wanted to hear.

  • Joe

    Krik – what sound legal precedent are you talking about? I have not followed the specifics about Obama’s birth certificate enough to determine for myself if I think he was born in Hawaii or not. But the constitutional question of whether some who was not born in one of the States could somehow be eligible has never been settled by a court. And, as far as I know, no court has declared that he is a Natural Born Citizen; rather, the courts have dismissed individual cases for lack of standing and other defects that don’t reach the merits of the question.

    Personally, I think it is an interesting question and one that we need to deal as more and more people who were born outside of the States are running for lower office and are becoming part of the political ruling class. Do we think this is good, bad, okay. Should we amend the constitution? If so how? etc.

    Had Goldwater won the presidency we would have had the issue because he was born in a territory – not a State. Does that make him a “natural born citizen of the U.S.?”

    Had McCain won the issue would have come up because he was born in the Canal Zone. Congress has passed a law saying persons born to US citizens who were in the canal zone on official US business are citizens but are they “Natural Born” citizens?

    Obama’s election has brought it up because there is a question as to his place of birth (not saying if there is a legitimate basis for the question or not – just that it has been raised).

  • Joe

    Krik – what sound legal precedent are you talking about? I have not followed the specifics about Obama’s birth certificate enough to determine for myself if I think he was born in Hawaii or not. But the constitutional question of whether some who was not born in one of the States could somehow be eligible has never been settled by a court. And, as far as I know, no court has declared that he is a Natural Born Citizen; rather, the courts have dismissed individual cases for lack of standing and other defects that don’t reach the merits of the question.

    Personally, I think it is an interesting question and one that we need to deal as more and more people who were born outside of the States are running for lower office and are becoming part of the political ruling class. Do we think this is good, bad, okay. Should we amend the constitution? If so how? etc.

    Had Goldwater won the presidency we would have had the issue because he was born in a territory – not a State. Does that make him a “natural born citizen of the U.S.?”

    Had McCain won the issue would have come up because he was born in the Canal Zone. Congress has passed a law saying persons born to US citizens who were in the canal zone on official US business are citizens but are they “Natural Born” citizens?

    Obama’s election has brought it up because there is a question as to his place of birth (not saying if there is a legitimate basis for the question or not – just that it has been raised).

  • Kirk

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/20996403/Case-4-09-Cv-00106-CDL

    Give that a gander. It’s a decision from a conservative justice in Georgia and is probably the most entertaining court document of all time. I particularly like:

    “Plaintiff’s counsel, who champions herself as a defender of liberty and freedom, seeks to use the power of the judiciary to compel a citizen, albeit the President of the United States, to ‘prove his innocence’ to ‘charges’ that are based upon conjecture and speculation.”

    and

    “A spurious claim questioning the President’s constitutional legitimacy may be protected by the First Amendment, but a Court’s placement of its imprimatur upon a claim that is so lacking in factual support that it is frivolous would undoubtedly disserve the public interest.”

    Ouch.

  • Kirk

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/20996403/Case-4-09-Cv-00106-CDL

    Give that a gander. It’s a decision from a conservative justice in Georgia and is probably the most entertaining court document of all time. I particularly like:

    “Plaintiff’s counsel, who champions herself as a defender of liberty and freedom, seeks to use the power of the judiciary to compel a citizen, albeit the President of the United States, to ‘prove his innocence’ to ‘charges’ that are based upon conjecture and speculation.”

    and

    “A spurious claim questioning the President’s constitutional legitimacy may be protected by the First Amendment, but a Court’s placement of its imprimatur upon a claim that is so lacking in factual support that it is frivolous would undoubtedly disserve the public interest.”

    Ouch.

  • Carl Vehse

    Another missed news story of the year:

    PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN – The Alleged Press (AP) Story No. 2 should be No. 2 and No. 3, since 0bama had to take his actual oath of office the next day (this time using the TOTUS?) after 0bama repeated Chief Justice Robert’s altered word order of the 35-word oath on Tuesday. Thus for a few hours during Jan. 20-21, Joe Biden was effectively the President of the United States.

    During Biden’s brief administration as de-facto President, no White House corruption scandals or even failures to easily prevent attempted Islamoterrorist attacks in the U.S. occurred. This could be attributed to the fact that Biden likely was unconscious of the fact that he was President during that time.

    Today, many Americans are unconscious of the fact that Biden is Vice-President.

  • Carl Vehse

    Another missed news story of the year:

    PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN – The Alleged Press (AP) Story No. 2 should be No. 2 and No. 3, since 0bama had to take his actual oath of office the next day (this time using the TOTUS?) after 0bama repeated Chief Justice Robert’s altered word order of the 35-word oath on Tuesday. Thus for a few hours during Jan. 20-21, Joe Biden was effectively the President of the United States.

    During Biden’s brief administration as de-facto President, no White House corruption scandals or even failures to easily prevent attempted Islamoterrorist attacks in the U.S. occurred. This could be attributed to the fact that Biden likely was unconscious of the fact that he was President during that time.

    Today, many Americans are unconscious of the fact that Biden is Vice-President.

  • Kirk

    @Joe

    The courts don’t have the power to remove a sitting president, nor do they have the power to significantly change election laws, ex post facto (currently, you don’t have to present a birth certificate to prove eligibility.)

    Further more, every single suit has placed the burden of proof upon the President, who is legally assumed to be a natural born citizen. In reality, the burden of proof falls upon the plantiffs to prove that the President was, in fact, not born in the United States (the whole innocent until proven guilty, thing). Up to this point, they’ve only mustered off hand comments from his grand mother and Kenyan birth certificate that was proven to be doctored.

    This, of course, is not counting the logical problems behind the assumption that Obama was born in Kenya. Most particularly, why Obama Sr. would fly his 7-8 mo pregnant wife to a developing country on the opposite side of the planet, which presumably had vastly inferior medical resources to Hawaii.

    Furthermore, Hawaiian papers reported his birth, and they take birth announcements from hospital records, not family reports. Then, there’s the certificate of live birth which the Hawaiian government has presented and the testimony of the Hawaiian governor (a republican) that records of Obama’s birth in Hawaii do exist.

    There’s more, of course, but going much beyond this belabors the point.

    Take a look at this for a legal decision on the court’s power in regards to birther claims: http://www.scribd.com/doc/21808122/Judge-Carter-Ruling-on-MTD?autodown=txt

  • Kirk

    @Joe

    The courts don’t have the power to remove a sitting president, nor do they have the power to significantly change election laws, ex post facto (currently, you don’t have to present a birth certificate to prove eligibility.)

    Further more, every single suit has placed the burden of proof upon the President, who is legally assumed to be a natural born citizen. In reality, the burden of proof falls upon the plantiffs to prove that the President was, in fact, not born in the United States (the whole innocent until proven guilty, thing). Up to this point, they’ve only mustered off hand comments from his grand mother and Kenyan birth certificate that was proven to be doctored.

    This, of course, is not counting the logical problems behind the assumption that Obama was born in Kenya. Most particularly, why Obama Sr. would fly his 7-8 mo pregnant wife to a developing country on the opposite side of the planet, which presumably had vastly inferior medical resources to Hawaii.

    Furthermore, Hawaiian papers reported his birth, and they take birth announcements from hospital records, not family reports. Then, there’s the certificate of live birth which the Hawaiian government has presented and the testimony of the Hawaiian governor (a republican) that records of Obama’s birth in Hawaii do exist.

    There’s more, of course, but going much beyond this belabors the point.

    Take a look at this for a legal decision on the court’s power in regards to birther claims: http://www.scribd.com/doc/21808122/Judge-Carter-Ruling-on-MTD?autodown=txt

  • Joe

    Kirk – I personally have not taken a position on Obama’s place of birth. Thanks for the links – fun reading. But my larger question is still there: What does natural born citizen mean? And, do we want to change it going forward?

    It is an interesting question though about who should have the burden of proof. Most states have ballot access requirements – but they usually are tied to how well your party did in the last election or how many signatures you can collect. I suggest the right answer is to require the person seeking the office to produce some basic level of proof of eligibility, like a birth certificate, etc. (something easily obtainable). Then the burden should switch to whoever makes a challenge and it should be a pretty high burden since the candidate already provided some evidence.

    I think that would best preserve the requirements without overly burdening the candidates. Just starting with an assumption that one is eligible seems to read the requirements out of the constitution. After with our privacy laws, you one could ever legally obtain evidence that someone is not eligible. You would need a court order, but to get a court to issue an order you would need evidence.

  • Joe

    Kirk – I personally have not taken a position on Obama’s place of birth. Thanks for the links – fun reading. But my larger question is still there: What does natural born citizen mean? And, do we want to change it going forward?

    It is an interesting question though about who should have the burden of proof. Most states have ballot access requirements – but they usually are tied to how well your party did in the last election or how many signatures you can collect. I suggest the right answer is to require the person seeking the office to produce some basic level of proof of eligibility, like a birth certificate, etc. (something easily obtainable). Then the burden should switch to whoever makes a challenge and it should be a pretty high burden since the candidate already provided some evidence.

    I think that would best preserve the requirements without overly burdening the candidates. Just starting with an assumption that one is eligible seems to read the requirements out of the constitution. After with our privacy laws, you one could ever legally obtain evidence that someone is not eligible. You would need a court order, but to get a court to issue an order you would need evidence.

  • Kirk

    @Joe

    I do think that the birther movement raised a valid question as to our election standards. The fact that there even is a question shows that our vetting standards for electable candidates are somewhat lax. It’s tough to argue against a candidate having to prove his eligibility to run (I mean, I have to bring like 6 documents proving my eligibility to get a driver’s license). So, I’d agree that, in the future, there should be a standard for who can and can’t run, as determined by a non-partisan source.

  • Kirk

    @Joe

    I do think that the birther movement raised a valid question as to our election standards. The fact that there even is a question shows that our vetting standards for electable candidates are somewhat lax. It’s tough to argue against a candidate having to prove his eligibility to run (I mean, I have to bring like 6 documents proving my eligibility to get a driver’s license). So, I’d agree that, in the future, there should be a standard for who can and can’t run, as determined by a non-partisan source.

  • DonS

    Carl’s addition of Climategate as a big issue of the year is a good one, and should supplant the highly over-hyped swine flu epidemic. In the long run, this event could prove a turning point in the climate “debate”, by actually allowing one to occur! Hopefully, it woke at least some people up concerning the scientific method, and how easily it is abused by our worship of computer modeling as a substitute for actual data collection and evaluation.

    Kirk and Joe — good discussion on the birther issue. As to the definition of “natural born citizen”, we should clarify that term to mean anyone who was a citizen at birth, and did not require later naturalization. There is no legitimate reason to believe that President Obama is not a natural born citizen, but I agree that suitable proof that a candidate meets all constitutional qualifications should be required before the candidate is certified to the ballot. Elections officials should handle this, and any questions should be reviewable in court, as are all other election questions. While we are at it, let’s also require voters to show proof of eligibility when they vote. A very small price to pay for the assurance that an election is fair and free.

  • DonS

    Carl’s addition of Climategate as a big issue of the year is a good one, and should supplant the highly over-hyped swine flu epidemic. In the long run, this event could prove a turning point in the climate “debate”, by actually allowing one to occur! Hopefully, it woke at least some people up concerning the scientific method, and how easily it is abused by our worship of computer modeling as a substitute for actual data collection and evaluation.

    Kirk and Joe — good discussion on the birther issue. As to the definition of “natural born citizen”, we should clarify that term to mean anyone who was a citizen at birth, and did not require later naturalization. There is no legitimate reason to believe that President Obama is not a natural born citizen, but I agree that suitable proof that a candidate meets all constitutional qualifications should be required before the candidate is certified to the ballot. Elections officials should handle this, and any questions should be reviewable in court, as are all other election questions. While we are at it, let’s also require voters to show proof of eligibility when they vote. A very small price to pay for the assurance that an election is fair and free.

  • Dan Kempin

    Oh come on! What? No votes for the “Brett Favre goes to Minnesota” story?

  • Dan Kempin

    Oh come on! What? No votes for the “Brett Favre goes to Minnesota” story?

  • Kirk

    Maybe we should roll up the MJ story into the overall celebrity Year of Death. I mean, famous people have been dropping like flies in ’09.

  • Kirk

    Maybe we should roll up the MJ story into the overall celebrity Year of Death. I mean, famous people have been dropping like flies in ’09.

  • Rob Cartusciello

    Biggest Religious Story of 2009:

    Pope Benedict XVI, the “Pope of Christian Unity”, issues the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, establishing a new canonical entity for the reception of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) and other like minded Anglicans/Espicopalians into the Catholic Church.

    The TAC, whose size is estimated at 300,000 to 500,000 souls worldwide, asked for full communion without preconditions or demands, and will be able to retain their traditional Anglican liturgy and hymnody.

  • Rob Cartusciello

    Biggest Religious Story of 2009:

    Pope Benedict XVI, the “Pope of Christian Unity”, issues the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, establishing a new canonical entity for the reception of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) and other like minded Anglicans/Espicopalians into the Catholic Church.

    The TAC, whose size is estimated at 300,000 to 500,000 souls worldwide, asked for full communion without preconditions or demands, and will be able to retain their traditional Anglican liturgy and hymnody.

  • The Jones

    Where did ACORN go? I definitely think that’s bigger than the Auto Industry thing. And I’m sorry, but Michael Jackson dying was definitely a bigger deal than Obama’s inaguration, at least in the news-world. And as awesome as the miracle on the Hudson was, it’s good news, so it doesn’t have the same staying effect as bad news like John and Kate plus Eight going Irate.

  • The Jones

    Where did ACORN go? I definitely think that’s bigger than the Auto Industry thing. And I’m sorry, but Michael Jackson dying was definitely a bigger deal than Obama’s inaguration, at least in the news-world. And as awesome as the miracle on the Hudson was, it’s good news, so it doesn’t have the same staying effect as bad news like John and Kate plus Eight going Irate.

  • The Jones

    And thank you for that, Kirk. That legal opinion is a gem.

  • The Jones

    And thank you for that, Kirk. That legal opinion is a gem.

  • katy

    World Health Organization’s numbers on H1N1 are a bit lower

    http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_12_30/en/index.html

    12,000 worldwide and a little over 6500 in the Americas….

  • katy

    World Health Organization’s numbers on H1N1 are a bit lower

    http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_12_30/en/index.html

    12,000 worldwide and a little over 6500 in the Americas….

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    The phoney “science” of the global warming scammers was exposed in hacked e-mails.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    The phoney “science” of the global warming scammers was exposed in hacked e-mails.

  • Cincinnatus

    I think we need some clarification here: is this a list of stories that most monopolized coverage in 2009 or is it truly an arbitrary list of what the AP deems to be the most important stories of the entire year (which raises the additional question of what “most important” means)? If the former, I think we can generally affirm the list. If the latter, all of us are obviously going to have different interpretations of what is “most important.” I personally couldn’t care less about the death of Michael Jackson (though I like some of his music) or Ted Kennedy.

    If the former, the list demonstrates how narrow and sensational are our interests as a culture. If AP’s list is the latter, then all the list does is demonstrate how public perceptions and agendas are manipulated purposely by various media outlets, and really how truly bad the American media are at discerning the import of the events they investigate and what really matters for history. The media decides what we think about not only in what it chooses to cover but in what it chooses not to cover or emphasize. This list is not only incredibly shallow (the death of a pop star is of such gravitas to be the 7th most important news item of the entire year?) and extremely provincial: count how many of those stories pertain to something beyond American interests. I can think of many international stories that trump at least half of the above list: what about North Korea’s nuclear tests? What about Iran’s presidential elections and ensuing turmoil? What about Climategate, for that matter (despite the partisan associations, the whole climate story is of incredible import, mostly because it serves as a pretext for immense political reconfigurations on a global scale)? What about the Nigerian bomber? And wtf happened to Iraq? That country–the temporary home of 150,000+ U.S. citizens–has apparently disappeared from the media’s consciousness, and thus from ours.

  • Cincinnatus

    I think we need some clarification here: is this a list of stories that most monopolized coverage in 2009 or is it truly an arbitrary list of what the AP deems to be the most important stories of the entire year (which raises the additional question of what “most important” means)? If the former, I think we can generally affirm the list. If the latter, all of us are obviously going to have different interpretations of what is “most important.” I personally couldn’t care less about the death of Michael Jackson (though I like some of his music) or Ted Kennedy.

    If the former, the list demonstrates how narrow and sensational are our interests as a culture. If AP’s list is the latter, then all the list does is demonstrate how public perceptions and agendas are manipulated purposely by various media outlets, and really how truly bad the American media are at discerning the import of the events they investigate and what really matters for history. The media decides what we think about not only in what it chooses to cover but in what it chooses not to cover or emphasize. This list is not only incredibly shallow (the death of a pop star is of such gravitas to be the 7th most important news item of the entire year?) and extremely provincial: count how many of those stories pertain to something beyond American interests. I can think of many international stories that trump at least half of the above list: what about North Korea’s nuclear tests? What about Iran’s presidential elections and ensuing turmoil? What about Climategate, for that matter (despite the partisan associations, the whole climate story is of incredible import, mostly because it serves as a pretext for immense political reconfigurations on a global scale)? What about the Nigerian bomber? And wtf happened to Iraq? That country–the temporary home of 150,000+ U.S. citizens–has apparently disappeared from the media’s consciousness, and thus from ours.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    Great points, Cincinnatus. As I understand it, this list came out of simply polling news editors and asking them what they thought were the top stories. So, as you say, it is most useful as giving us evidence as to what journalists consider important. Which, in turn, can alert us to the stories they choose to cover and to emphasize.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    Great points, Cincinnatus. As I understand it, this list came out of simply polling news editors and asking them what they thought were the top stories. So, as you say, it is most useful as giving us evidence as to what journalists consider important. Which, in turn, can alert us to the stories they choose to cover and to emphasize.


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