Irony of Ironies

For connoisseurs of the idiocies and ironies of American politics, the primary season has offered a smorgasbord of delights. The dumbest, sleaziest, most mind-numbing reality show can't compare with this stuff for dumbth, sleaziness and mind-numbingness. Just at random...

When the spiritual descendants of George McGovern are upset, the air gets filled with lots of foolish talk, and Bill Maher is one very angry progressive right now. Maher, who used to claim to be a libertarian until it was explained that Democrats who like to smoke weed are not libertarians, is crying, "We was robbed!" The most objective observer alive would have to conclude that if Barack Obama wasn't robbed in the New Hampshire primary, something mighty strange happened to him. He was riding a powerful wave generated by the Iowa caucuses, he held a statistically significant lead over Hillary Clinton in all the polls on the eve of the voting, a lead that was generally perceived to be widening, and then he proceeded to lose on the following day. Put so matter-of-factly, the raw vote totals seem interesting rather than earthshaking. Be assured, however, that had a Republican conjured up an overnight turnaround of such magnitude against a candidate of the party of Peace and Diversity the screams would drown out a fifty-megaton blast.

On the season debut of his HBO show, Maher cleared his throat with, "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but...," signifying that a conspiracy theory was on the way. An amused Tony Snow listened to the rationale behind the rant:

"I'm just saying, you know, in crime they always ask cui bono, ‘who profits?' Who profits from the Hillary victory? They don't want to run against Obama. Your party does not want to run against him. They want to run against Hillary Clinton and now they have a race with her in it."

Snow responded in precise, technical language: "Your hair's on fire. This is totally wacko!" He refrained from mentioning that most pundits regard Hillary, with her charismatic, omnipresent spouse and inexhaustible supplies of cash, as more formidable than a man who has spent his two years in the U.S. Senate doing little besides preparing to run for President.  He was too polite to point out a tiny flaw in Maher's logic, i.e., if Republicans are capable of rigging a Democratic primary, they needn't be afraid of anyone or anything in the general election.

Still, the irony in one of show biz's shrillest Bush-bashers finding Hillary insufficiently leftwing is delicious. That Maher, who is so impressed with his own critical thinking skills, should take a page from the caconymic 9/11 "truth" movement, the irrational fact-free cranks he delights in mocking, is also richly satisfying. But, for lovers of irony, there's more where that came from.

A dispassionate attempt to make sense of the startling Clinton victory that is particularly worthy of attention is Farhad Manjoo's piece on Salon.com. Manjoo analyzes the claim advanced by an anonymous Ron Paul supporter that the disparity between the results in counties that count votes by hand and counties that count by computer suggests vote fraud. It is true that Hillary did better in counties that used Diebold software to count ballots, but Hillary's strength was in the large counties, the ones most likely to use computers. Summing up the case against vote fraud, Manjoo wrote :

"Even more interesting is the third table on this page, which shows how the candidates did in places with more than 1,500 votes. Here, Clinton, not Obama, did better in hand-count areas-a lot better, 44.17 percent to Obama's 31.61 percent. Meanwhile, in similarly large counties where machines counted the vote, Clinton's margin was smaller -- 40.28 percent to Obama's 35.96 percent.

"Let me say that again: In large areas, Clinton did better in places where votes were counted by hand than where votes were counted by machine. Does that mean that it was Clinton who was robbed, in these places, by voting machines?

"Almost certainly not. All of these variances are much more plausibly the product of differing demographics. If you check out the county-by-county results, it's possible to find many counties where Obama won handily even despite Diebold (Amherst, for instance, which uses optical-scan voting and where he got 44.68 percent; if the Diebold machines were hacked for Clinton, they didn't do much good there).

"At the same time, Clinton won in many areas that manually count their votes-she got 44.44 percent in Boscawen, 43.93 percent in Carroll, 43.52 percent in Charleston, and on and on."

Dispelling the rumor that exit polls projected an Obama win, Manjoo quotes Daniel Merkle, the head of the ABC News "decision desk as saying that the data indicated "a very close race on the Democratic side."

All right, Hillary won it fair and square. The problem is, she won it in a manner that has politics junkies scratching their heads. It is nothing short of dismaying to contemplate that almost forty years have passed since the geniuses of the comedic troupe The Firesign Theatre gave the world Nick Danger, the quintessential hard-boiled sleuth. In one of his faux radio adventures, Nick found himself in deep trouble-hopelessly deep trouble -- trouble so deep that the writers' imaginations short-circuited. Having written themselves into a corner, they went to a commercial. After the break, Lt. Bradshaw was heard congratulating Nick on an amazing escape and a brilliant solution to a baffling case.

And that's pretty much how Hillary pulled it off. For expert analysis and thoughtful commentary on the pre-election polls, the exit polls, the "Bradley Effect," voting machines, and everything else you can think of, visit Mark Blumenthal's invaluable site, pollster.com. But, getting back to ironies, the very suggestion that the wife of America's First Black President (has anyone ever figured out what he did to merit this title?) owed her victory to the Bradley Effect is a belated Christmas gift to Republicans.

Obscured by the protracted and fundamentally pointless squabbling over race, punctuated for comic relief by Bubba's ham-fisted bad-cop routine, is the ultimate irony of the campaign. As ironies go, it doesn't get better than this. For almost five years, the mantra of the hard-left, too often parroted by shameless liberal Democrats, has been "Bush lied!" Shouted incessantly, it's from the Joseph Goebbels playbook, an outrageous Big Lie that insults everyone's intelligence. Obviously, Bush expected to find WMD in Iraq; he wasn't trying to sabotage his own re-election bid. But, although Republican candidates will defend Bush, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and conviction, and Democrats will continue to press the theme that Bush "misled" the country (the hapless George McGovern has emerged from the dreams of graying radicals to demand Bush's impeachment), there is one candidate in the race who knows with absolute certainty that the intelligence on Iraq as of January 20, 2001 had not changed from the time of Operation Desert Fox in November 1998. There is one candidate who knows-not merely believes, but knows for a fact-- that America's intelligence-gathering agencies felt that Saddam retained WMD.

Can you guess her name?
For connoisseurs of the idiocies and ironies of American politics, the primary season has offered a smorgasbord of delights. The dumbest, sleaziest, most mind-numbing reality show can't compare with this stuff for dumbth, sleaziness and mind-numbingness. Just at random...

When the spiritual descendants of George McGovern are upset, the air gets filled with lots of foolish talk, and Bill Maher is one very angry progressive right now. Maher, who used to claim to be a libertarian until it was explained that Democrats who like to smoke weed are not libertarians, is crying, "We was robbed!" The most objective observer alive would have to conclude that if Barack Obama wasn't robbed in the New Hampshire primary, something mighty strange happened to him. He was riding a powerful wave generated by the Iowa caucuses, he held a statistically significant lead over Hillary Clinton in all the polls on the eve of the voting, a lead that was generally perceived to be widening, and then he proceeded to lose on the following day. Put so matter-of-factly, the raw vote totals seem interesting rather than earthshaking. Be assured, however, that had a Republican conjured up an overnight turnaround of such magnitude against a candidate of the party of Peace and Diversity the screams would drown out a fifty-megaton blast.

On the season debut of his HBO show, Maher cleared his throat with, "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but...," signifying that a conspiracy theory was on the way. An amused Tony Snow listened to the rationale behind the rant:

"I'm just saying, you know, in crime they always ask cui bono, ‘who profits?' Who profits from the Hillary victory? They don't want to run against Obama. Your party does not want to run against him. They want to run against Hillary Clinton and now they have a race with her in it."

Snow responded in precise, technical language: "Your hair's on fire. This is totally wacko!" He refrained from mentioning that most pundits regard Hillary, with her charismatic, omnipresent spouse and inexhaustible supplies of cash, as more formidable than a man who has spent his two years in the U.S. Senate doing little besides preparing to run for President.  He was too polite to point out a tiny flaw in Maher's logic, i.e., if Republicans are capable of rigging a Democratic primary, they needn't be afraid of anyone or anything in the general election.

Still, the irony in one of show biz's shrillest Bush-bashers finding Hillary insufficiently leftwing is delicious. That Maher, who is so impressed with his own critical thinking skills, should take a page from the caconymic 9/11 "truth" movement, the irrational fact-free cranks he delights in mocking, is also richly satisfying. But, for lovers of irony, there's more where that came from.

A dispassionate attempt to make sense of the startling Clinton victory that is particularly worthy of attention is Farhad Manjoo's piece on Salon.com. Manjoo analyzes the claim advanced by an anonymous Ron Paul supporter that the disparity between the results in counties that count votes by hand and counties that count by computer suggests vote fraud. It is true that Hillary did better in counties that used Diebold software to count ballots, but Hillary's strength was in the large counties, the ones most likely to use computers. Summing up the case against vote fraud, Manjoo wrote :

"Even more interesting is the third table on this page, which shows how the candidates did in places with more than 1,500 votes. Here, Clinton, not Obama, did better in hand-count areas-a lot better, 44.17 percent to Obama's 31.61 percent. Meanwhile, in similarly large counties where machines counted the vote, Clinton's margin was smaller -- 40.28 percent to Obama's 35.96 percent.

"Let me say that again: In large areas, Clinton did better in places where votes were counted by hand than where votes were counted by machine. Does that mean that it was Clinton who was robbed, in these places, by voting machines?

"Almost certainly not. All of these variances are much more plausibly the product of differing demographics. If you check out the county-by-county results, it's possible to find many counties where Obama won handily even despite Diebold (Amherst, for instance, which uses optical-scan voting and where he got 44.68 percent; if the Diebold machines were hacked for Clinton, they didn't do much good there).

"At the same time, Clinton won in many areas that manually count their votes-she got 44.44 percent in Boscawen, 43.93 percent in Carroll, 43.52 percent in Charleston, and on and on."

Dispelling the rumor that exit polls projected an Obama win, Manjoo quotes Daniel Merkle, the head of the ABC News "decision desk as saying that the data indicated "a very close race on the Democratic side."

All right, Hillary won it fair and square. The problem is, she won it in a manner that has politics junkies scratching their heads. It is nothing short of dismaying to contemplate that almost forty years have passed since the geniuses of the comedic troupe The Firesign Theatre gave the world Nick Danger, the quintessential hard-boiled sleuth. In one of his faux radio adventures, Nick found himself in deep trouble-hopelessly deep trouble -- trouble so deep that the writers' imaginations short-circuited. Having written themselves into a corner, they went to a commercial. After the break, Lt. Bradshaw was heard congratulating Nick on an amazing escape and a brilliant solution to a baffling case.

And that's pretty much how Hillary pulled it off. For expert analysis and thoughtful commentary on the pre-election polls, the exit polls, the "Bradley Effect," voting machines, and everything else you can think of, visit Mark Blumenthal's invaluable site, pollster.com. But, getting back to ironies, the very suggestion that the wife of America's First Black President (has anyone ever figured out what he did to merit this title?) owed her victory to the Bradley Effect is a belated Christmas gift to Republicans.

Obscured by the protracted and fundamentally pointless squabbling over race, punctuated for comic relief by Bubba's ham-fisted bad-cop routine, is the ultimate irony of the campaign. As ironies go, it doesn't get better than this. For almost five years, the mantra of the hard-left, too often parroted by shameless liberal Democrats, has been "Bush lied!" Shouted incessantly, it's from the Joseph Goebbels playbook, an outrageous Big Lie that insults everyone's intelligence. Obviously, Bush expected to find WMD in Iraq; he wasn't trying to sabotage his own re-election bid. But, although Republican candidates will defend Bush, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and conviction, and Democrats will continue to press the theme that Bush "misled" the country (the hapless George McGovern has emerged from the dreams of graying radicals to demand Bush's impeachment), there is one candidate in the race who knows with absolute certainty that the intelligence on Iraq as of January 20, 2001 had not changed from the time of Operation Desert Fox in November 1998. There is one candidate who knows-not merely believes, but knows for a fact-- that America's intelligence-gathering agencies felt that Saddam retained WMD.

Can you guess her name?