The New Republic | Romney using Willie Horton playbook or something

The ugliest presidential campaign I ever hope to see was the one George H.W. Bush waged against Michael Dukakis in 1988. Poppy Bush governed like a (relative) moderate, but in 1988 he campaigned like a hard-right bigot, relentlessly attacking Dukakis over an assault-rape committed by the convicted murderer Willie Horton, a very scary-looking African American, during a prison furlough (under a program created by Dukakis’s Republican predecessor as Massachusetts governor). Say what you will about 41’s son and eventual successor, George W. Bush—as a campaigner, Dubya never stooped anywhere near so low, on this or any other issue. Bush père’s campaign manager, Lee Atwater, publicly compared Horton to Jesse Jackson (with whom Dukakis was photographed after a meeting to consider Jackson as a possible running mate), and an unnamed Bush aide told former TNR writer Sidney Blumenthal, “Willie Horton has star quality. Willie’s going to be politically furloughed to terrorize again. It’s a wonderful mix of liberalism and a big black rapist.”…

Edsall sees the Romney campaign using race in two ways. Most overtly, the Romney campaign is accusing President Obama by of gutting welfare reform by dropping the work requirement—a gross distortion of an unexceptional waiver Obama granted several states allowing them to experiment with alternative ways to meet the work requirement. Two of the five governors requesting the waivers were Republicans, and among those who have denounced the workfare accusation as flat-out untrue is the Republican former congressman and current talk-show host Joe Scarborough. The second way Edsall sees the Romney campaign using race is more subtle. According to Edsall, Romney is conveying a racially-charged message in accusing Obama of taking money away from (mainly white recipients of) Medicare to fund (majority non-white recipients of) Obamacare.

 

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