You already know this from experience:

Reality television is not real. It is just a thinly plotted program with no written script, knit together in an editing room with all the skills available in the digital age.

There's a reason all of the raw video footage from The Apprentice  TV show is under lock and key, if it actually exists, is because the show was fiction, starting with the host, a frequently failing businessman with a con artist’s sense of how to attract publicity.

However, if it were possible to see the Apprentice raw material I am sure it would not change anyone’s mind. Similar instincts were part of the host’s political career and too many Americans mistook it for a reality that they can’t or won’t disown.

After losing the 2020 presidential election, almost the entire Republican Party leadership threatened by the reality of an armed insurrection has adopted the mindset of the Apprentice television producers and contestants: FAKE IT and YOU CAN  MAKE IT.

America is a unique place, we all agree, and one of its charms is that the leader of an anti-government coup is not in jail but merely exiled to his palatial estate in Florida.  From there he continues to cheerlead for a myopic dark vision of what might “Make America Great Again.”

It’s crazy, but you cannot spell crazy or Arizona without AZ, so perhaps we should not be surprised that the Republican-controlled Senate there is bankrolling a reality show to perpetuate the claim that Arizona’s election was rigged. All of this notwithstanding those official election folks there counted the ballots three times in disbelief that a Democrat had won.

To make it more ‘realistic’ the GOP-controlled Senate hired a company called Cyber Ninjas led by a conspiracy-loving guy to do the recount. You can’t make this up unless you believe in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. For most observers, this is a farce designed to produce a preconceived result that has no bearing on who sits in the White House. Implausibility is a consistent element of most reality television shows.

Mel Brooks made a movie (of several) called “The Producers” satirizing despots and con men. The big musical number  was called “Springtime.” If Arizona had a musical element it would be “Whistling in the Wind.” 

Hard to imagine that this state, which had spawned Barry Goldwater 60 years ago, rejected the overtly nationalistic pleas in the 2020 election, helping to send the former president back to his hideaway in Palm Beach, Florida. It was Goldwater who said to the President, “Was the most dishonest individual I have ever met in my life. He lied to his wife, his family, his friends, his colleagues in the Congress, lifetime members of his own political party, the American people, and the world.” Oops, he was referring to President Richard  Nixon and not the 45th man to hold the position. Could have fooled me. 

Phoenix is the state capital and focal point of Maricopa County where 60% of all Arizona voters live. Observers of the recount report ballots have been left unattended on counting tables with laptop computers abandoned, at times — open, unlocked, and unmonitored in the convention center hosting the event. Procedures are constantly shifting, with untrained workers using different rules to count ballots. All of these allegations are contained in a letter from Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs outlining a string of problems she said observers from her office have witnessed.

In a  six-page letter, Hobbs, a Democrat, wrote that elections are “governed by a complex framework of laws and procedures designed to ensure accuracy, security, and transparency” but that the procedures governing the ongoing charade in Phoenix “ensure none of those things.”

On Wednesday, a top official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division notified the state Senate president that information reviewed by the department “raises concerns,” asking that the Arizona Senate provide information to ensure federal laws were not being violated since  ballots were “not being adequately safeguarded by contractors at an insecure facility, and are at risk of being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed.”

Cyber Ninjas--such a serious name-- has no previous experience with election ballot counts. Their opaque process ignores state rules for elections and recounts. This audit has been embraced by allies of the former president with the same overconfidence that Wile E. Coyote brought to every cartoon chase until he failed.  

Perhaps the unorthodox practices of the contractors reflect their real target--supporting a conspiracy of vote-rigging  “revealed” by conducting physical examinations of the ballots, inspecting their weight, thickness and examining folds on ballots under microscopes. At one point, workers used UV lights. The secretary of state said steps such as the paper analysis are “completely unnecessary... and do little other than further marginalize the professionalism and intent of this ‘audit.’ ”

The most imaginative conspiracy theory is that tens of thousands of fake ballots were flown in from China, which explains why they are looking for bamboo traces. Bamboo pulp is used with wood pulp to make certain types of papers in China. 

An audit official defended this saying,  “They’re doing all sorts of testing to prove if it was or wasn’t, and that’s very important, because the only way you’re going to persuade people on changing is having facts, and we’re on a mission for facts.”

Ahem. Of course. 

With the entire audit approach becoming a joke the Ninjas agreed to some changes when threatened in a lawsuit by the Arizona Democratic Party.

Independent observers had initially been barred from monitoring the recount, but are allowed in. As part of the settlement, the state Senate and Cyber Ninjas agreed in writing that they would maintain the confidentiality of voter information and the security of ballots and voting equipment, which they obtained from Maricopa County using a subpoena. They also agreed to continue access for the Secretary of State’s observers, as well as the news media, which had been inconsistent.

Hobbs said Wednesday that serious concerns remain about the process, based on what observers have seen. It is not clear how the dozens of audit workers are determining voter intent to decide how they should count each ballot — a process that generally involves detailed guidelines and training for election workers. Observers also saw the inconsistent treatment of ballots once they were unpacked from boxes, raising the possibility that counted and uncounted ballots could become intermingled. She questioned if procedures were in place to hire qualified, unbiased people to serve as ballot counters, noting that reporters have spotted former state Rep. Anthony Kern, a Republican, among the ballot counters. Kern was a November candidate. who lost and went to the Capitol insurrection in Washington on Jan. 6. where he was captured in photographs.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes,” the ex-president told a crowd attending a party at Mar-a-Lago last week, according to a video posted online by an attendee. 

President Biden won Arizona by more than two points, pulling Mark Kelley into the Senate as well.  The last Democratic presidential candidate to win AZ was Bill Clinton.

Media access to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum was for a time-barred and later severely restricted. The alleged Bamboo hunt & forensic analysis of voting equipment was conducted entirely out of public view.

The audit recruited volunteer observers to roam the floor during the count. It was President Ronald Reagan who famously used a Russian proverb, “Trust, but Verify”  Audit leadership admits that most are Republicans, required to sign nondisclosure agreements, nullifying the verify concept.

It is true, you cannot spell  CRAZY without  AZ.

@kentiven CNN former VP Television Systems: Plans and organizes new channels, new technology, new directions.