It seemed like quite an idea. Joe Ricketts, the wealthy AmeriTrade founder whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, would spend $10 million on an ad campaign attacking President Obama over his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "The Ricketts Plan" would hire an "extremely literate conservative African-American" as its spokesperson, who would accuse Obama of being a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."
What could possibly go wrong?
[Ricketts] is involved in another effort slated for this summer, a documentary film based on a widely criticized book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage" by Dinesh D'Souza, which asserts that Mr. Obama is carrying out the "anticolonial" agenda of his Kenyan father.
Responding to questions from the New York Times, Ricketts's aides stressed that the AmeriTrade founder is one of several investors, and he's financing only 5% of the film's budget.
But the fact that Ricketts would be involved in such a project at all is not only startling, it's a reminder that Mitt Romney and Romney's supporters have very different ideas about what the 2012 election should be about.
The Republican candidate wants to focus on the economy, which polls show is the nation's top issue, and the argument that Obama hasn't cleaned up the economic mess he inherited quickly enough.
The Republican candidate's allies want to focus on red-meat attacks that target the Republican id. It's likely why Ricketts was drawn to the original Jeremiah Wright plan in the first place, and why he and some like-minded benefactors are willing to pony up for a film version of D'Souza's anti-Obama screed.
And what will this "documentary" be about, exactly? I'm glad you asked.
Media Matters published this detailed report back in October 2010.
In his new book The Roots of Obama's Rage, Dinesh D'Souza theorizes that President Obama is motivated by an "anti-colonial" ideology inherited from his father, and boasts that this theory explains Obama's actions in a way "that no rival theory can even begin to do." In reality, D'Souza's absurd "anti-colonial" theory is premised upon a series of false and misleading claims.
The report documents 15 specific claims from D'Souza's ugly thesis, none of which stands up to scrutiny. The bizarre screed, which insists the president has the mindset of an African "Luo tribesman," was even dismissed by the right -- George Will urged Republicans to "recoil" from the thesis and The Weekly Standard criticized it for "misstatements of fact, leaps in logic, and pointlessly elaborate argumentation."
When D'Souza's thesis first appeared as a piece in Forbes, one of the magazine's own columnists blasted D'Souza's "intellectual goofiness," "factual problems," and "unsubstantiated ideological accusations."
But thanks in part to Joe Ricketts' checkbook, this garbage will be a "documentary" to be released in advance of the election.
Wealthy right-wingers with too much time and money on their hands should probably be able to think of better investments, but they're confused -- not only about reality but with what kind of messages might resonate with the American mainstream.