"It is difficult to predict, especially the future."
--Niehls Bohr, physicist
The Oracle at Delphi pronounced Socrates the wisest man in ancient Greece. Socrates accepted the designation, but with the stipulation that his wisdom be defined as awareness of his own ignorance.
When I started working at LA Weekly in the early 1980s, the paper was bursting with lefty politics, passion and humor. Accuracy? Not so much. Case in point: The owner/editor declared that the U.S. was about to invade Nicaragua, and published precise details of the coming invasion, which never happened. We eventually hired fact-checkers, but theirs could be a thankless job, as when our best-known writer bellowed, "You have your facts, I have mine," after a correction was made to his column.
This election season reached new heights in Oracular nonsense, kick-started by Dick Morris' 2005 volume "Condi vs. Hillary." The toe-sucking right winger that Human Events magazine calls a "political analyst extraordinaire" takes as a given that Hillary will get the Democratic nod. Fair enough, lots of people were wrong about that. But Morris goes on to intone: "There will be a search for a real (Republican) candidate, someone of stature, someone charismatic who can beat Hillary. And the party faithful will turn to Condi Rice."
I doubt anyone, including the author, believed that prediction, but it did presage three years of howlers, mostly from the Right.
Take the ubiquitous conservative pundit Bill Kristol. Please. Let's give him a pass on such absurdities as, "Fred Thompson knows what he's doing, and he will be formidable," which Kristol confidently stated when the former Senator and Law and Order actor entered the race. Maybe he actually believed that at the time. But he really pushed the envelope when he told Fox on the eve of the North Carolina Democratic Primary that despite a double-digit Obama polling lead, Hillary would prevail. Obama won by 14 points, a landslide in anyone's book. Was Kristol wildly out of touch with reality, or just dishonest? We report, you decide.
Kristol did get one thing right: that Sarah Palin would be the VP nominee. But it turns out, according to a recent New Yorker article by Jane Mayer, that he used his considerable influence to get Palin the job. Which is sort of like predicting what you're going to have for dinner, and then ordering it.
But back to the oleaginous Morris, whose dead-wrong forecasts continued throughout the campaign. On October 31st, by which time an Obama victory was all but certain, he wrote on his website, "Iraq isn't the only place where the surge seems to be working. John McCain's gains over the last five days are remaking the political landscape as Election Day approaches." On Election eve, he doubled down on the McCain "surge," writing, "What's up? We think that the advertisement being run by GOPTrust.com is having an effect. It is an ad featuring Rev. Jeremiah Wright decrying America and calling it "the USA of KKK" while Obama sat, deaf-mute in the congregation."
As late as 8:30 pm on election night, Morris was still at it, blogging that things "could go either way." Less than an hour later, after Ohio essentially clinched it for Obama, Morris still hedged, blogging, "It would appear that Obama is going to win although not by the margins that had been predicted."
After Obama won by almost exactly the margins predicted, was Morris contrite? Quite the opposite. Although even he couldn't deny that Obama had won, he wrote, without irony, "If ever there was an election that was not worth winning, it was the contest of 2008."
Meanwhile, budget cuts have eliminated the fact-checking department at LA Weekly. But until Rockie Gardiner's sad passing two weeks ago at the age of 70, the paper was still the home of the delightfully wacky "Rockie Horoscope," our present-day Oracle at Delphi. At last count, Rockie had correctly predicted 10 of the last two earthquakes.
Follow Michael Sigman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/majorsongs