Presented for your consideration: Fred Head, Democrat of Texas. He wants to be the next state comptroller. To that end, he’s decided that there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned smear against his Republican opponent, Susan Combs.
Now there’s lots that you could say about a Republican. She belongs the party of corruption, incompetence, and cronyism. The party of Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, and Mark Foley. The party of torture. The party of warrantless surveillance. The party of indefinite detention without charges. The party that canceled habeas corpus. The party of aggressive war. The party of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.
The Republicans are the party that’s trying to dismantle social security, the party that forced through a drug plan that increases costs to seniors, the party that’s turned a surplus into the biggest deficit in history. They’re the party that cut taxes for their rich friends, while presiding over the slowest job-growth rates in forty years.
With all that, you’d think that Fred could come up with something bad to say about Susan that wasn’t Totally Stupid. But no. Fred went his own way. He invented Susan Combs, Pornographer.
Y’see, back in 1990, Susan published a romance novel (A Perfect Match, Kismet #23, Meteor Publishing Company, ISBN 1-878702-22-X). That gave Fred his opening: a real meaty, relevant campaign issue. Seizing his opportunity with both hands (I wouldn’t want anyone to think Fred was reading Susan’s novel one-handed), he put up a quasi-literate screed on his webpage:
Susan Combs claims to be a person of high moral standards. Her record of writing, having published and selling a pornographic book clearly shows that Susan Combs is a two faced, hypocrite who was obviously more concerned with her literary career and seeing her name in print than the morals of the young People of Texas who are exposed to her 222 page book, A Perfect Match, which has her name at the top of every other page - - - a clear testament to Susan Combs’ insatiable ego and desire to see her name in print.
Susan has her name on the top of the even-numbered pages? He’s never seen a running head before? What that tells me is that Fred hasn’t opened a book in years. Possibly in his life.
Then there’s the content (which he’s helpfully posted). In eight breathless (if clumsily-written) paragraphs, Fred uses the words “pornographic” or “pornography” a dozen times to describe a pretty standard spicy romance. It doesn’t even rise to the level steamy romance, and as to it being pornography … well, if he thinks that’s porn Fred needs to get out more.
The first breeze of this brainstorm seems to have been in June. This is Fred speaking at the Texas Democratic Party Convention:
Now, you would think that your governor, your Republican governor, would know about that. In fact here’s this little book right here called “The Perfect Match.” (Book entitled “A Perfect Match” by Susan Combs held up and shown to the crowd by Fred Head). And, and Mrs. Susan Combs in 1990, my opponent wrote this book. Now, she was only forty-five years old at the time, so I’m not sure that she was mature enough to know that she was really making a serious mistake by doing it. But there’s some other interesting questions. Uh, I think it would be nice to know how many more she wrote. Whether she wrote any more in assumed names. Whether or not she’s got some that were published in other areas that we don’t know about. I think this sort of thing is what we need to find out about these people that are on the other side. And I think you’ve gotta tell that story.
Now, I told you I wanted to talk to you about truth. The truth is, as I’m telling you about her, she’s been in a public office now for a long time, eight years as Agriculture Commissioner. She hasn’t tended to her job there, but she’s had time in her previous life to write this trashy novel. We need to get rid of this lady! We need to get rid of all those kind of folks!
Just to show you how high-profile the Comptroller race is, no one noticed Fred’s unusual preoccupation for another four months.
Then the Burnt Orange Report noticed it on 5 September .
Soon after, romance readers and writers got the word. Last Monday: http://joliemathis.blogspot.com/2006/10/any-texas-voters-out-there.html. By Tuesday it had gone here (with a letter to Fred) and here (with a song). Wednesday it was over here, Thursday here, and here on Friday among other places.
A typical response was at “Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels”:
I was really enjoying my morning glee, and along came a heaping cup of what-the-fuck to make me glare and seethe. Although we mentioned this issue in passing back in August, the reminder made me growl enough to rant about it.
Seems a man named Fred Head is running for State Comptroller in the state of Texas. His website accuses his Republican opponent, Susan Combs, currently the state agriculture commissioner, is a writer of pornography.
Guess what she wrote? You get one guess. Seriously.
Oh, the joy of reading romance. I had no idea it was so powerful. It makes me stupid AND it makes me a prurient partaker of pornography. Perhaps I should feel guilty about enjoying the genre so much, but somehow, I feel sexually empowered, confident, and more intelligent.
Head’s website is kind enough to offer “extraxts” (sic) should you wish to examine how Combs’ “pornographic book” disputes her claim of being a “person of high moral standards” and is a “two faced hyprocrite who was obviously more concerned with her literary career and seeing her name in print than the morals of the young People of Texas.”
My personal jaw-dropping favorite part of this nonsense is where he accuses her of having an “insatiable ego” because her name appears at the top of every other page.
I have to wonder if this man has ever read a book.
About the kindest comment was this one from yesterday:
As an artist, a mother, and a citizen of Texas, I’m seriously struggling. The choices set before us in the upcoming election are an abysmally sad comment on the state of our state. Seems like every race features the loser who will lose and the loser who will end up in office. … we have the comptroller’s race, in which we can vote for either Democrat Fred Head (who appears to be an idiot) or Republican Susan Combs (who I suspect has no reflection when she stands before a mirror.)
With the snark level five feet high and rising, with thousands of ticked-off voters (including former straight-ticket Democrats saying that they were planning to vote Republican for the first time in their lives just for this race), someone variously calling himself “anonymous” and “concerned citizen” came slinking along, posting this note in assorted blogs on Saturday the 14th:
I think everyone is missing the bigger picture, Susan Combs wrote a book with sex and then Susan Combs took a public position during debate on a sex education (ABSENCE ONLY) bill while she served as a State Representative. The point, Susan Combs is a hypocrite.
Fred Head is clearly stating the facts.
Please debate how you can write a book of this nature and then took a public position of sex education (ABSENCE ONLY) bill. Can’t have it both ways.
That quasi-illiteracy (ABSENCE rather than “abstinence”), that attempt to invent Google-bombing, that frantic desire to answer everyone who’d commented on his mistake — the suspicion quickly arose that this was Fred Head in person. Alas! That suspicion was soon confirmed.
Here’s what Fred says in his web page screed:
Susan Combs has shown no remorse and made no apology for writing her pornographic book. Fred Head hereby challenges Susan Combs to fully explain to the People of Texas why she wrote a pornographic book, apologize to the People and withdraw from the race for Comptroller of Public Accounts.
Here’s how I’m going to finish up this post:
Fred Head has shown no remorse and made no public apology for attacking 50% of the fiction market. If he wanted to lose the election, dissing romance novels, their writers, and their readers, is one of the best ways he could have chosen. I hereby challenge him to explain fully exactly what he’s been smoking.
[UPDATED TO ADD:]
The Ballad of Fred ‘n’ Sue— M J Pearson
Come and listen to my story ‘bout a man named Fred,
A good ol’ Texan boy with the last name o’ Head.
Seems one day he was fixin’ to be elected
When he heard about a book that could get a man erected.
Porn, that is…evil…a one-hand read.
Well it turns out, you see, that this filthy book was writ
By gal named Sue who he called a hypocrite,
‘Cause she was runnin’ for that Texas post as well
But page one-oh-two sez she’s goin’ straight to hell.
Sex, that is…nekkidness…doin’ it.
But if y’all take a look, you will find to yer surprise
What looks purty raw to our saintly Freddie’s eyes
Turns out to be an ol’ fashioned kind o’ read
A sweet li’l tale that won’t make yer eyes bleed.
Romance, that is…makin’ love…commitment!
Why would he tell everyone she wrote a porn?
Are voters down there dumber than the newly born?
Or maybe lit’rate folks are poor Freddie’s greatest fear
Bein’ that he posted “Read an Extraxt here.”
So you figure ol’ Fred is a good Republican
A fine upstanding conservative gen’leman,
Turns out instead she’s the GOP’s lass
It’s her opponent who’s the real jackass.
C’mon Texas…don’t fall for this…bull-hockey!