It's that wonderful time in the holiday season when the presents are unwrapped, and consumers start returning the things that didn't fit or that they just plain didn't want.
In that spirit, we thought it might be fun to take a run through the year in Missouri politics and select the top self-inflicted bad gifts that politicians may wish they could return. These would be the missteps and misstatements that would have been better — for the politicians, at least — left unwrapped.
So, in no particular order, these are Missouri's top political gift exchanges of 2011:
Peter Kinder: Missouri's Republican lieutenant governor was the gift that kept on giving this year. He left his keys in the his car and two hoodlums stole it, set it on fire and rammed it into an ammo shop.
He was caught having spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on fancy hotel rooms in St. Louis when he really wasn't on state business. That was a wound to his political fortunes, but not as grievous a wound as his admission that as a state senator he frequented East St. Louis strip clubs, and that he just happened to have been photographed with his favorite former dancer while having a glass of wine one afternoon at a South St. Louis "pantsless" bar he blundered into while looking for a bathroom.
Mr. Kinder's gubernatorial aspirations vanished like lost love. Our guess is that Mr. Kinder is hoping for a better year in 2012. One tip: Step away from the Twitter.
Brian Nieves, Jim Lembke, Rob Schaaf and Will Kraus: The Four Senators of the Apocalypse combined to help create one of the strangest legislative years in recent Missouri history. These four Republicans helped block local control for St. Louis police, tilted at imaginary federal windmills and, most infamously, stood between Missouri unemployed workers and already promised federal aid. They stood down on that misbegotten filibuster only after members of their own caucus threatened them with lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.: "I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane." Need a gift receipt?
Steve Tilley and Rob Mayer: When they got news that Gov. Jay Nixon had agreed to a special session to pass a jobs bill, the two Republican legislative leaders rushed out on their own cross-state tour to beat the Democratic governor to the punch. Then Mr. Tilley double-crossed Mr. Mayer while Mr. Mayer battled to control his own caucus. The jobs bill got lost in the mail.
Mr. Nixon: The governor actually had a decent political year. But he did trip over himself a few times. For example, trying to distance himself from the disastrous Mamtek economic development deal in Moberly (What? There's really no factory in China?), Mr. Nixon said, "I do not run the Department of Economic Development."
Were it not for Mr. Kinder, this would be the worst political excuse of the year.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.