Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What you do when you have to record to run on

You make tasteless and dishonest ads based on deliberately misleading information:

Man.  It's only August.  Mr. Hope & Change looks set to run THE dirtiest campaign in recent memory.

Jim Geraghty over at National Review provides some much-needed perspective on this issue:
After I lamented that "there was a time when presidential campaigns did not casually accuse their opponent of murder," some ninny on Twitter brought up Willie Horton.

It's kind of amazing how certain news events and controversies can come to be remembered as the precise opposite of reality. In many circles, mentioning the name "Willie Horton" is now a synonym for dirty campaigning or "below the belt" tactics, isn't it? I'll bet at this moment many readers are jumping to point out that "it was Al Gore who first mentioned Willie Horton!" (Actually, it was in one of the 1988 Democratic presidential primary debates that Gore mentioned that two furloughed prisoners had committed new murders while on weekend leave -- the same "weekends away" program that covered Horton, but different criminals.)

Permit me to attempt to shovel off massive layers of accumulated conventional-wisdom detritus here: Good for Al Gore! The Massachusetts weekend furlough program and criminals like Willie Horton completely deserved to be brought up, and it was a terrific, vivid example of bad judgment on Dukakis's part. To refresh:
Horton had been sentenced to life imprisonment and was incarcerated at the Concord Correctional Facility in Massachusetts when he was released in June 1986 as part of a weekend furlough program.

While on furlough in April 1987, Horton twice raped a woman in Oxon Hill, Md. He stabbed and pistol-whipped her fiancé.
 At the time, Michael Dukakis was the Democratic governor of Massachusetts. While Dukakis had not initiated the furlough program, he supported it as a measure to help with criminal rehabilitation. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that this right extended to first-degree murderers, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill prohibiting furloughs for such inmates. However, in 1976, Dukakis vetoed this bill. Thus, the program remained in effect, and Dukakis continued to support it.
Michael Dukakis thought that denying weekends away from prison from convicted murderers was a bad idea, and so he ensured that these weekend excursions would continue. And two people were murdered as a result of this policy, separately from Willie Horton's raping and stabbing rampage. This may rank as among the worst ideas in the history of the criminal-justice system. This was the precise opposite of "dirty politics" or a "smear campaign" or some nonsensical charge.

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