Skip to comments.The Willie Horton Moment
Posted on 08/20/2004 4:47:19 AM PDT by LS
Every campaign has a tipping point or two. In 2000, Bush was cruising until the last-weekend revelaion of a DUI. Democratic strategist Bob Beckel estimated that this cost Bush 1 million votes nationally. If so, certainly one can pro-rate that out to say, in another way, that the last-minute smear cost Bush the states of New Mexico, Wisconsin, and probably Iowa, and turned a safe victory into a squeaker.
Until then, however, the focal points of the elections were the three debates, where Bush won two clearly and held his own in the third. Algore looked frantic in one, on Prozac in another, and the appearances nearly finished him.
Other elections have clearer tipping points: in 1988, there were two. One (my favorite) came when Michael Dukakis rode in the tank. But analysts agree that the single most important content-related event of 1988 was when Lee Atwater discovered an ad run by Democrat Gary Hartpence in the primaries exposing Michael Dukakis' prison furlough system in which convicted rapist Willie Horton was somehow allowed out on a weekend pass to attack women again.
The ad was devastating. Critics whined that it played to white America's fear of black men (even though the ad showed mostly white men going through a "rotating door" in prison), but in reality, the ad exposed Dukakis as someone who could not be trusted to enforce the law. G. H. W. Bush sealed the deal---or, rather, the moderator of the debate, Bernie Shaw, sealed the deal---in the debates when he asked Dukakis what he would do if his wife were raped. Dukakis stumbled, fumbled, gave some generic pinhead answer, and that was that: the Willie Horton Moment.
Have we reached that moment in the 2004 campaign? I think so.
The Swiftboat vets' ad---a mere $150,000 ad, compared to the $15 million (please get that, you media types, $15 MILLION) spent by George Soros and Moveon.org, plus the Moore porn film---is as deadly to the Kerry campaign as a round from a .50 cal.
It is devastating because Kerry, like an idiot, made his campaign about Vietnam, forgetting that there were others all around him who had a different take on his "heroism." He forgot that millions of vets DESPISED his antics after he returned home. (Hence, although the news didn't cover this much, his speech in Cincinnati only drew about one-third the number of vets that Pres. Bush drew).
But wait! Here comes the mainstream media to save the day, just like Mighty Mouse. Leave it to the New York Times to try to slime the guys in the ad, tying them (circuitously) to George H. W. Bush. This, of couse, plays right into the hands of the Swifties, the same way the conservatives' protests of "Fahrenheit 9/11" played into Michael Moore's hands and the same way the ludicrous complaints about "The Passion of the Christ" played into Mel Gibson's hands. It's the old mantra about publicity: even negative publicity is good.
Worse, though, for Kerry: by personally responding to the ad itself, he has now made the AD a part of the campaign. This was clear today when people asked Pres. Bush's spokesman about the NY Times story, and the spokesman deftly refused to comment on Kerry's Vietnam service---other than to say he's a "hero"---then turned the focus to Kerry's pitiful SENATE career, where Kerry chopped intelligence budgets and voted against the war.
Checkmate. The press now is either going to get "their" story on Kerry, which is to say, they must cover the Swiftboat scandal (even while trying to refute it), or they will get Bush's version of Kerry---the one they've tried to ignore---which is his terrible record on national security. Both damage Kerry badly. The momentum will continue to build, and even if Kerry's military records were spotless and he released them today, he could not recover entirely from this episode.
Except the dirty little secret is that his records almost certainly support some of the things the Swifties say.
How long can the national press ignore this elephant in the room before some reporter breaks ranks and uses the same Freedom of Information Act, which the press used to slime Mr. Thurlow, to demand Kerry's records? My guess is, not long. Sooner or later, even the Washington Post will face the inevitable question: why won't Kerry just release his records and be done with it?
Because, dear friends, he can't.
And they know it.
Hello, Willie Horton.
Just the other week we learned of the guy that killed his wife because he had been lying to her for years and she found out that he wasn't going to medical school.
Well Kerry has been saying that he is a hero for years and the press has just "found out" he isn't.
I heard the Dem 527's have over $60 million.
$60m to $150k.
Like Rush said... Quality of the TV ad will crush the quantity of money behind it everytime.
This is a great victory.
Not only against Kerry, but against all the charges of Vietnam Vets being "baby-killers."
One of the principal liars has been exposed as a liar. I hope Jane Fonda wakes up screaming at night.
It's a long way from here to November. Does anyone remember what the focal points were in June?
LS, your chess analogy is excellent!
I'm hpoing that you're right, and this was the "jump-the-shark" for the Kerry campaign.
But the GOP can always snatch one more defeat from the jaws of victory. I won't celebrate until GWB takes the oath again in January.
Great analysis...but: Cheney and other Bush surrogates had best be out there this morning nailing the Kerry side for the unprecedented avalanche of invective leveled against the sitting President for the past six months. The Joe Wilson lies, the Richard Clarke distortions, the Michael Moore pornography - and not a peep from the Kerry camp to distance themselves or to reject the debasing distortions. Kerry needs to be hit back, and hard.
Always look to the crapweasel dems to rely on diversion. The complaints about the Swiftboat ads, truthful that they are, may just be advance diversion for crap that Soros and his foreigners are about to launch.
The fact that the rats nominate Kerry because he is their "most electable" option speaks volumes about the whack jobs that make up their party.
That reminds me... did Willie Horton get more votes in the rat primaries than Dennis Kucinich?
I stole that from another FReeper and I can't remember who to give credit to.
True. The Apple ad with the giant screen reminiscent of "1984" was one of the greatest ads of all time that millions remember to this day. It ran ONE time.
Maybe not, I wouldn't p*** down her throat if her heart was on fire.
Very good. Of course, aiming for her heart might be hard, the B***H has NO heart. NO Guts either. Just one BIG Rectal orifice.
And the best part is that it's a trap of his own making. If he had not used his Vietnam service as the hallmark of his campaign, if he'd just acted modest about it and let others do his bragging, this would never have happened.
So now, he's going to put this issue front and center with less than 90 days before the election. And eventually, the non-political middle of the voting spectrum will be influenced by it, because it will obscure anything else he has to say. If he actually finds something to say, that is.
You can't win a presidential race fighting a defensive campaign. You can't convince a questioning electorate that 254 of your fellows veterans (who under normal circumstances, would be flocking to bask in Kerry's glory) are phonies and that only Kerry's handful are being honest.
The Kerry candidacy seems doomed. Expect the opposition to start getting even nuttier than usual as the cold reality comes upon them...
That's the "point." There were none.
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