By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Facts are slippery: Do we really know enough about John McCain to elect him president? For instance, have you heard that the man spent five and a half years of his youth associating with foreign communists at war with the United States? Oh, sure, he says he was a "prisoner of war," yet he declined an opportunity to leave his "captivity" early and instead voluntarily stayed with his "captors." Ever seen The Manchurian Candidate?
Not that we're saying McCain is a fifth-columnist or mentally unstable, but do you ever really know?
Wow, that was easy. Realign a few facts, omit some context, state some open-ended questions, and voilà! Mud pie! No wonder Harold Simmons, a Dallas-based funder of the right-wing dirt machine, is smiling in every picture we've seen of him—a creepy, dead-eyed smile that makes you want to hide the children. You'd be smiling too if you had 6 or 7 billion bucks to bankroll your hobby, which in Simmons' case seems to be securing Dallas' reputation as the financial epicenter of the right-wing sleaze industry.
Simmons' latest foray into politics—he was one of the supporters of the Swift-boating of Democrat John Kerry—is an anti-Barack Obama TV ad airing in presidential swing states. The ad, produced by the American Issues Project with Simmons' dough, begins ominously with scenes of 9/11, then goes on to describe William Ayers, an unrepentant former member of the radical group the Weather Underground, which planted several bombs in government buildings in the early '70s, when Obama was 8 freakin' years old. Ayers is now a fixture in Chicago politics, like Obama. He and Obama live in the same neighborhood. Obama has been in Ayers' home. They "served together on a left-wing board in Chicago," the ad says. (It neglects to mention the board is that of the nonprofit Woods Fund, which provides grants to help community groups assisting poor people. Its Web site doesn't say anything about planting bombs.)
It's hardly surprising that two men active in liberal community organizing in South Chicago would be acquainted with one another, and as a ginned-up bit of guilt-by-association, we think the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 did a much better job linking George W. Bush to the Saudi ruling dynasty. (The 9/11 terrorists were chiefly Saudi; draw your own conclusions.) Neither is the sort of argument that anyone with a brain in his or her head would base a vote on, but unfortunately having a brain is not a requirement for exercising the franchise, which Simmons is no doubt counting on.
By the way, here's another little fact for you: Harold Simmons got his start down the path to immense wealth by selling drugs. Really. You can look that up.