Supposedly intelligent, respectable people do some really dumb stuff sometimes. Case in point: Former GOP gubernatorial hopeful Mike Harris, who ran third behind Don Goldwater and Len Munsil in the 2006 Republican primary for governor. Munsil won that battle and went on to get his lunch handed to him by current Department of Homeland Security secretary and then-Governor Janet Napolitano.
Harris positioned himself as a slightly more moderate alternative to mush-mouth anti-Mexican doofus Goldwater and the ultra-conservative Munsil, whom Harris reportedly blasted as the "Christian Taliban." After his loss, Harris crossed party lines to endorse Libertarian candidate Barry Hess in the general election.
During his disastrous campaign for public office, Harris went so far as to oppose Prop 107, the gay-marriage ban that was defeated in 2006. (A similar measure won approval to the state's Constitution last year.) Though anything gay is generally anathema in Republican politics, Harris granted the local gay biweekly Echo Magazine an interview wherein he blasted the GOP's "holier-than-thou religious attitude."
Though Harris did not support gay marriage per se, he declared that Prop 107 went too far. He told the Arizona Republic at the time, "When two people are in a loving relationship for a long time, God love 'em."
That's why my eyeballs nearly popped out when I saw footage of an October 24 neo-Nazi rally in Riverside, California, where Harris was present, along with Adolf Hitler-worshipper J.T. Ready and about 20 members of the National Socialist Movement.
Like Ready and some of the others facing off 600 anti-racist demonstrators, Harris was outfitted in all-black combat gear, with a helmet and goggles and plastic flex-cuffs hanging from his shoulder. Later, the National Socialist Movement Web site posted a group photo of the sieg heil-ing SS wanna-bes. Though Harris is not doing the Nazi salute, he is in the shot, smiling, clearly identifiable by the gap between his two front teeth.
Had the one-time defender of homosexual domestic partnerships gone Nazi?
I had seen Harris and Ready together in a video shot at an anti-Obama protest by conservative videographer usadefender1. In it, Ready denounces the "Obongo" administration, as Harris looks on. After Ready finishes, Harris goes on a similar tirade, repeating the slur "Obongo" in his address to the camera.
"Let's first of all clear up some misconceptions," Harris says in the video. "We are not a nation of immigrants. I am the seventh generation born in this country. I did not emigrate from anywhere. This young man is the eighth generation born in this country. We did not emigrate from anywhere. We built this country."
The "young man" is Harris' tow-headed son, who was scampering around. Ironically, Harris caught grief in 2006 when it was revealed he had asked a judge to cut his child support payments then plowed $100,000 of his own dough into his campaign.
But the clincher was Harris' self-made profile on NewSaxon.org, the MySpace for neo-Nazis, run by the National Socialist Movement. You know, the guys who just paraded down Washington Street to the state Capitol carrying swastikas and decrying immigrants and Jews.
On the "online community for whites by whites," Harris went by the handle "freethinkerseeking" and addressed members of the site as "my brothers and sisters." Posted were a photo and bio, in which he bragged about having graduate degrees and being a "highly intelligent" member of the high-IQ Mensa and Triple 9 societies. He also notes that he is of "pure Aryan blood stock."
Mr. Genius' "friends" included Ready and other neo-Nazis, with whom he communicated via the site. At one point, Ready complained that Harris' phone message box was full and instructed him to clear some space in the message box "so I can tell ya where to meet."
In Harris' photo section, there were snapshots of his girlfriends, one of whom is nearly naked, his dog "Tosco the Belgium wonder dog," and (creepily) a shirtless boy sporting a Mohawk, with the caption, "My adorable son, 100 percent Aryan."
I couldn't get in touch with Harris by phone so I went to the Scottsdale law office where he works. He wouldn't come to the front desk.
I thought I would run into him when I covered the November 7 NSM demo on the Capitol lawn, but he wasn't there. But at a recent anti-amnesty tea party at the same location, I spotted him. Though Ready was there, carrying a cloth portrait of Hitler, Harris didn't speak with him. As was leaving, I asked about his NewSaxon account.
Harris denied he was a neo-Nazi, describing NewSaxon as a "social-networking site." He claimed not to know NewSaxon was sponsored by the National Socialist Movement and said he hadn't noticed all the swastikas. I then wondered why he had referred to his son as "100 percent Aryan."