Column: 1.21 jiggawatts of political power

By Andrew Mason

It’s fall so it must be time for Hollywood to roll out its Oscar contenders. Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” is in the lead so far with whispers rising about Brad Pitt’s “Babel” opening this week. Close behind is “Flags of Fathers,” by all accounts another masterfully directed movie by Clint Eastwood. But everyone’s favorite movie critic, Rush Limbaugh, has already awarded the Best Actor statue to someone who claimed to be Clint Eastwood in “Back to the Future III,” Michael J. Fox.

During game one of the World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers, Missouri Democratic candidate for Senate Claire McCaskill started running a campaign ad featuring Fox encouraging Missourians to vote for McCaskill because of her support for embryonic stem cell research. The ad, which has collected almost a million views on Youtube thus far, shows Fox in a state of involuntary convulsions caused by a progressed form of Parkinson’s disease that he was diagnosed with in 1991. Much like fellow actor Christopher Reeve who was paralyzed in a horse riding accident before dying last year, Fox has become a political activist for candidates that support stem cell research.

Limbaugh on his radio show Monday had this to say, “I stated when I saw the ad, I was commenting to you about it, that he was either off the medication or he was acting. He is an actor, after all.” Without a shred of evidence to back up his charge, he accused Fox of faking his illness. Asking Michael J. Fox to fake Parkinson’s disease would be like asking Limbaugh to fake being a slimy, miserable windbag; completely unnecessary.

Top Republicans are proven to be experts based on diagnosing medical conditions via satellite. Bill Frist was the authority on Terri Schiavo’s health even though she was in Florida. Perhaps Mr. Limbaugh is the expert on medication. After being charged in the Sunshine State for using illegally prescribed drugs he should be familiar with the symptoms associated with them.

But this won’t just be another column bashing Rush. The heavy lifting is practically done for me.

Perhaps this incident shows that we’ve finally reached a tipping point. I don’t mean that the Democrats are going to be riding in on white horses to save us from the dastardly GOP. But when the bigger political points can come from accusing someone of being gay instead of being a pedophile, the revolution can’t be far off.

The difference between politics and Halloween is that the masks aren’t plastic. The disguises that people like Limbaugh wear allow them to hide their true ambitions. In their attempt to discredit and disregard good people like Michael J. Fox, they also will alienate those that support them. Apparently the same contempt neocons have for liberals like Fox also extends to evangelical Christians that have come out against embryonic stem cell research, according to a new book by President Bush’s number two man at his faith-based initiative office.

I find it nothing short of hypocritical that people who care deeply about issues are accused of faking it while people who care not at all fake it all the time in their tireless pursuit of power. Unfortunately, Washington went Hollywood a long time ago. Public relations consultants and media analysts saw to that. But at what point did being emotionally counterfeit become a virtue?

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California people were appalled that an actor was running their government. Apparently the dirty secret was that actors already were in charge of their government. The difference I suppose was that Arnold was open about it.

The lesson in all this is that Fox’s ad is so effective because he is, ironically, not acting. So the next time the right-wing noise machine accuses somebody from tinsel town voicing their political opinion of being only interested in advancing their agenda they should look in the mirror, that is, if they have a reflection.