The Current Crisis

The Absurdity Meter Blow Up

Which of these stories is the most absurd, I shall leave for you to judge.

By 9.17.09

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WASHINGTON -- My absurdity meter has blown up. The current news has been simply too much for this frail device, which I attach to my television set to give me a daily reading of the news' absurdity content. First, two wholesome young people conduct a sting operation in the offices of ACORN presenting themselves as dealers in the sex business and receiving practical advice as to how to successfully conduct business and launder money. Then, former president Jimmy Carter claims a congressman's terse, albeit ill-tempered, declamation is "based on racism." Finally, a United Nations "fact-finding" mission reports that Israel is morally equivalent to the terrorists who have lobbed 8,000 rockets and mortars into southern Israel since 2001. It was all too much for my little absurdity meter. Its dial spun madly. Its buzzer began to scream. Then it simply went pop and expired. I shall have to return it to Andrew Breitbart for repairs.

Which of the above stories is the most absurd, I shall leave for you to judge. Jimmy Carter's has a whiff of the ominous to it. We have a mixed-race president, and undoubtedly there will be bigots who will make racially invidious judgments against him. Yet such primitives are off on the fringes of American life. At the center of American life it is unlikely that anyone will consider President Barack Obama in racial terms. For Carter to charge this is as reprehensible as it is reckless. He was alleging that when Representative Joe Wilson intemperately shouted "You lie!" during the President's healthcare address to Congress, the South Carolinian's eruption was "based on racism."

"There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president," said this smug little malcontent. Actually that is a fiction. "Hardly anyone thinks that," says the polling expert Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and she cites a 2008 Gallup finding that 94% of the country was willing to vote "for a well-qualified person for president who happened to be black." Moreover, Jimmy is no paragon on the question of race baiting. At least two of his biographers -- Betty Glad, three decades ago, and Steven F. Hayward, four years ago -- record that Jimmy played the race card in his early days in Georgia politics. His 1970 campaign for governor went so far as to distribute racially charged literature to the Ku Klux Klan. One could argue that Jimmy is playing the race card again, this time playing to the sense of black grievance. In both instances, he has encouraged ugly passions.

The other absurd story that encourages ugly passions is the United Nations report that Israel was somehow morally equivalent with Hamas last winter when it sent its forces into Gaza to relieve its citizenry from Hamas's rocket and mortar assaults. In fact the report is harsher on Israel than on Hamas, for Israel's allegedly "deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population…." Hamas's standard operating procedure is to launch attacks from civilian centers. It regularly uses civilians as shields. Moreover, its aerial attacks against civilian concentrations in Israel are unconscionable. They themselves constitute war crimes, but now this absurd UN report could expose the Israeli military to war crime proceedings. That is an ominous development.

Yet not all the recent absurdities have a grim aspect. One was utterly delightful. For years, law enforcement agencies and journalists have been trying to expose the felonious activities of left-wing ACORN, particularly with regard to vote fraud and misuse of government money. Last week two winsome conservative practitioners of guerrilla theater revealed that they had tapes of stings that they had perpetrated in ACORN offices all over the country. Posing as a pimp with his numero uno prostitute, the two sought advice from ACORN counselors as to how to gain a home loan for a brothel that would employ underage Central American girls.

Very professionally ACORN employees advised them on how to camouflage their purposes, cheat the IRS, and launder the money. Bury it in the backyard was one bit of advice. Call yourself not a prostitute but a "freelancing performance artist," came from another. ACORN's employees are urban sophisticates and apparently very experienced with government. One told the "pimp" how to collect child tax credit for the Central American girls. Another boasted of her close connections with Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Joe Baca. This woman, obviously a Californian, also spoke of the good old days when she herself was an "escort." And she bragged of something even more exciting. She, Miss Tresa Kaelke, claimed to have killed her husband.

Perhaps now ACORN stands exposed for the criminal racket that it is. Yet there is something else to expose it for, a collection of knuckleheads. The two very young and very middle-class provocateurs were not very convincing -- that is to their credit.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.