Near the end of “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Hanks' character, Sherman McCoy, was desperate for the truth of a situation to come out, and convinced there was only one way that would happen.
“Lie,” he said.
Or, as another character in the movie phrased it: “... in this case, if the truth won't set you free, then lie.”
So, citizens, we move now to the District 13 race for the U.S. House of Representatives. Your choices: a carpetbagging, Obamacare lover who works for “them,” not “us” (Alex Sink), or a liar lobbyist (David Jolly) who aims to gut Social Security for old people, forcing grandma to sleep under an interstate overpass because she won't be able to pay for her medication and will be sent into bankruptcy.
Whatever happened to the days when “I like Ike” was good enough to get you elected president?
Sorry, I didn't mean to strap into the way-back machine and transport to a happier time, because, well, I'm not sure it ever existed. I've been around long enough to remember Lyndon Johnson's infamous “Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds” ad that basically said a vote for Barry Goldwater was a vote for nuclear holocaust.
Although it only ran once on TV, many consider it the ad that changed the political climate for all time.
Although the District 13 race has been awash in mud and distortion from the start, the image-makers for Jolly and Sink haven't gone that far yet. The election isn't until March 11, though, so there is still time — especially given the national money flooding into this race.
Politico.com reported three high-profile Republican groups, including Karl Rove's American Crossroads Super PAC, combined on a $1.2 million ad buy on behalf of Jolly.
The Democrats are not backing off either, having actively recruited Sink to run for the seat held for 42 years by the late Republican icon Bill Young. If they could win a traditionally GOP district where Obamacare has been a central issue, well, that would be huge.
The reverse, of course, is true for the Republicans.
So we get ads like the one that says more than 300,000 Floridians “lost” their health coverage because of Obamacare, and, by the way, SINK LOVES THIS LAW! Except, well, people didn't “lose” coverage, although their policies will face changes.
There is a big difference between “lose” and “change.”
I'm just sayin'.
Not that I would ever tell political handlers how to do their business, but a better attack would have been to run, run, run, run and run again President Barack Obama's claim that if you like your policy, you can keep it. Followed by, “Oh yeah?” At least that would have been based in fact.
Consultants say negative ads work, and a key word here or there can change the meaning without essentially changing the facts.
Sink, for instance, did technically use a state airplane to “get to” a vacation in the Bahamas when she was Florida's chief financial officer.
It sounds a lot less sinister, though, when we learn that she took the state plane from Tallahassee to South Florida on official state business, and when that was done she caught a commercial flight to the Bahamas.
And even though Jolly worked, in fact, as a lobbyist (and even got paid!), just saying someone is a “lobbyist” doesn't mean much without context. People lobby for all kinds of things. I lobbied my wife for a new big TV before the Super Bowl.
I was unsuccessful.
This is the system we have, though. These campaigns have money, motivation and a fanatical drive to paint the opponent as evil incarnate.
These candidates aren't evil. They just want to win. And if the truth won't accomplish that, well, you know what to do.