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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns are satire and parody based on current events, and often mix fact with fiction. We assume informed readers will be able to tell which is which. For the benefit of non-California readers: California, for the first time in its history, may have a gubernatorial recall election. As a Democrat holds the office, Democrats are predictably overwrought and have fallen back on the great, bipartisan American tradition of mud slinging. The target is Congressman Darrell Issa, who has bankrolled the recall petition drive.
“Must stop him! Must stop Issa! Must … stop … Darrell … ISSA!”
Howard Bashford was beside himself – which is impossible, of course, but he was as beside himself as it is possible for a man to be.
He sat at his desk in the Burbank offices of the California Voter Project, shuffling stacks of yellowed newspaper clippings, photo copies of the same sort of material, and negative images of stories, printed from microfilm.
Repeatedly, he ran quivering fingers through his hair, imparting a nervous electricity that caused it to stand up in patches, like a volcano’s flank eruptions.
“Hey, Howard!” I said, “What’s up?”
Howard spun rapidly in his chair, banging his leg on an open drawer and strewing papers on the floor. It was difficult to say if he was more pained by the former or the latter, for his hands fluttered in indecision over whether to rub his bruised shin or scoop up the clippings.
“You! … I! … He! … They!” he stammered, his rolling eyes slowly gathering focus.
Finally he settled on rubbing his shin and said weakly, “Oh, hi.”
I allowed that he seemed rather distracted, and Howard said, “It’s this ‘Stop Issa’ campaign. We absolutely must do everything we can to derail his attempt to hijack the governor’s office. He’s clearly the most dangerous man in California.”
I scooped up a handful of papers from the floor. All were versions of the many stories about the San Diego Republican congressman’s “brushes” with the law. Howard snatched them from me.
“These are important,” he said. “It’s our duty to smea … uh, expose his sordid past. Here, let me show you on our website, stopissa.org.
He swept clippings to one side, exposing his keyboard and computer mouse. Soon the screen showed the image of a man pointing a revolver at the camera.
Below were the words, “He’s a ruthless businessman who once used a pistol in front of his employees. Issa’s explanation: ‘Shots were never fired.’ (Los Angeles Times, May 23, 1998).”
“Yeah, I saw a Knight-Ridder version of that story,” I said. “Funny how it came out just about the time you guys began to take the Gray Davis recall seriously.”
Howard tried to look indignant.
“We should be proud that our press showed initiative in digging out that story,” he said. “The people have a right to know the kind of man he is, so we can stop his drive to put this irresponsible gubernatorial recall on the ballot.”
“Sure,” I said, “but the story said the source of the gun story was a guy who said Issa tried to intimidate him by showing him a box containing a gun. Don’t you think using a gun is a tad misleading, as nobody ever saw a gun?”
“No, no I don’t,” Howard replied. “The fact is, Issa has a gun conviction. And what about those car-theft arrests? This guy is a regular John Derringer!”
“That’s ‘Dillinger,'” I corrected, “The ‘conviction’ was a misdemeanor – 20 or 30 years ago – and as far as the auto thefts go, his brother William was quoted as saying, ‘It happened a couple of times in our youth where he got blamed for things I did. It bothers me that my shenanigans caused him problems, but that’s life.'”
“However, I agree that you have reason to be concerned. Your anti-recall forces got the worst start since Elroy Duze lost the Olympic dash trials.”
“Elroy Duze,” Howard mused, “never heard of him.”
“Exactly,” I said, “and all this stuff you’re digging out about Issa may be smearing him, but you’re forgetting one very important fact.”
“What would that be?” Howard asked defensively.
“It looks like the recall drive already has all the signatures it needs,” I said. “Aren’t you wasting resources?”
“Well,” Howard said, “we have to go with what we do best.”