June 27, 2006

Taking Money From Crackers

That seems to be the "sin" that so shocked Washington Post staff writer Mathew Mosk. A black conservative candidate actually accepted campaign contributions from white conservative donors. Oh, Bartleby! Oh, Humanity!

Not one to waste time, Mosk starts race-baiting out of the gate:

The fundraiser thrown for Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele on Thursday night, while ordinary in most ways, struck some African American leaders as notable because of the host.

Unlike the dozens of high-dollar events across the country in his U.S. Senate bid, this event was thrown by the producer of the famous "Willie Horton" ad, the 1988 commercial that came to symbolize the cynical use of skin color as a political wedge.

It seemed a most unusual choice for Steele, the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland and a Republican whose strategy for winning a Senate seat in a state dominated by Democrats has involved the aggressive courtship of black voters.

I was in high school when the Horton commercial came out and honestly don't remember it, but this is what Wikipedia had to say about Mr. Horton:

William R. Horton Jr. (born August 12, 1951 in Chesterfield, South Carolina) is a convicted felon who was the subject of a Massachusetts weekend furlough program that released him while serving a life sentence for murder, without the possibility of parole, providing him the opportunity to commit a rape and armed robbery. A political advertisement during the 1988 U.S. Presidential race was critical of the Democratic nominee and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis for his support of the program.


Beginning on September 21, 1988, the Americans for Bush arm of the National Security Political Action Committee, began running an attack ad entitled "Weekend Passes," using the Horton case to attack Dukakis. The ad was produced by media consultant Larry McCarthy, who had previously worked for Ailes. After clearing the ad with television stations, McCarthy went back and added a menacing mug shot of Horton, who is African-American. He called the image "every suburban mother's greatest fear." The ad was run as an independent expenditure, separate from the Bush campaign, which claimed, as is legally required, not to have had any role in its production.

On October 5, a day after the "Weekend Passes" ad was taken off the airwaves, and also the date of the infamous Bentsen-Quayle debate, the Bush campaign ran its own ad, "Revolving Door," which also attacked Dukakis over the weekend furlough program. While the advertisement did not mention Horton or feature his photograph, it depicted a variety of intimidating-looking men walking in and out of prison through a revolving door.

The commercial was filmed at an actual state prison in Draper, Utah, but the persons depicted - thirty in all, including three African-Americans and two Hispanics - were all paid actors. Attempting to counter-attack, Dukakis's campaign ran a similar ad about a Hispanic murderer named Angel Medrano who murdered a pregnant mother of two while on furlough from a federal, rather than state, prison, the idea being that this would reflect negatively on Bush, who was the sitting Vice-President. Dukakis's ad stated Medrano's name and showed his photograph.

So while the effectiveness of the Horton commercial made Americans remember it as a symbol of using race as a wedge, both Parties were guilty of using racism in their 1988 campaigns. Republicans just had the more memorable commercial. It is interesting how the Post writer chose not to cover both sides of this low point in American politics, but considering his already obvious agenda, it should hardly be surprising.

Mosk makes his angle even more apparent just a few paragraphs down:

Nor, Steele said, was there anything incongruous about donations he took from others who have offended black audiences in the past, including Republican Sens. Trent Lott (Miss.) and Conrad Burns (Mont.) as well as Alex Castellanos, the man behind the racially charged "White Hands" ad that then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) used to attack his black challenger.

It featured a close-up shot of a pair of white hands crumpling a letter as the narrator says, "You needed that job . . . but they had to give it to a minority."

Perhaps the Washington Post could find a more thinly-veiled way to attempt to label Michael Steele as a race traitor, but short of directly calling him "Uncle Tom" (as Maryland Democrats have already done), I'm not sure that they could.

Having gone so far to smear Steele, Mosk apparently felt no compunction to maintain historical accuracy when the opportunity arises to smear others.

Democrats said there are several names on Steele's donor list that won't help him. It includes Lott, who lost his leadership post for seeming to endorse Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential candidacy, and Burns, who drew sharp criticism for saying he found it "a hell of a challenge" to live among all the blacks in Washington, D.C.

Steele also has received support from former Reagan administration education secretary William J. Bennett, who was criticized for suggesting that aborting black babies would help reduce crime, and former first lady Barbara Bush, who turned heads when she mused that mostly African American evacuees from Katrina living at a Houston shelter "were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Steele accepted $1,000 from Castellanos, the man behind the "White Hands" ad.

"Having that kind of support sends mixed messages and are going to make it very difficult for him to make inroads with African American voters," said Isiah Leggett, a former state Democratic Party chairman. "He should be smart enough to see the inconsistency there."

Mixed messages? Inconsistency? Mr. Mosk, you have no shame.

Trent Lott's comments on Thurmond's 100th birthday rightfully cost him his seat as the Senate Republican Leader, in a Senate that today counts Democratic Senator and former Klansman Robert Byrd as its longest serving member.

Burns was hammered and rightfully so, for the way he responded to an elderly racist rancher's question about how he could live in Washington, D.C.. Perhaps he simply should have ignored him.

The attack on William Bennett, however, was dishonest. Bennett did not suggest aborting black babies would reduce crime, he pointed out how ridiculous it would be to abort black children to reduce crime. For that matter, if you aborted all children, your crime rate would go down to zero because there would be no people to commit crimes. Common sense, ripped completely out of context, trotted out by Mosk to continue a reprehensible line of attack. He may be morally bankrupt, but at least he's consistent.

After a half-hearted feint at objectivity that was quickly revealed as a strawman, and a vague warning to black voters that "People are going to want to know where he stands, and who stands with him [my emphasis]," Mosk concludes:

To this point, Democrats vying to challenge Steele in the Senate race have focused on the money Steele has received from those with ties to President Bush. Their accusation: that Steele is campaigning as someone without partisan ties but is being bankrolled by Bush and his supporters.

Steele has countered that the money does not make the man -- that Bush's name won't be on the ballot in Maryland and Bush won't occupy the Senate seat if Steele wins. The same holds true for such donors as Lott and Burns, Steele said last week.

The important message he has for black voters, he said, "is that it will make a difference for them to have me at the table."

Not to belabor the pot-and-kettle too much, Democrats aren't the only people focusing on contributors to Steel's campaign. That is after all, the very idea that Mosk's article seeks to advance. How much further could he reveal his strong Democratic bias?

Liberal blogger Steve Gilliard is perfectly content to be led to follow Mosk's script. He puts up a picture of Steele with the caption, "I take money from racists."


Gilliard would know. He is, after all something of an expert on racism.

Either you're a black Democrat, o you're a race traitor, says Gilliard.

We learned from Clarence Thomas about how skin color doesn't equal loyalty.

I think Matthew Mosk just found his reader base.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 27, 2006 11:44 AM | TrackBack

I remember the Willy Horton ad quite clearly. The message that came across was that Dukasis was soft on crime. (Recall also that he said that if his wife was raped he wouldn't want the death penalty). For what it's worth, I don't recall the ad evoking a race issue at all.

Posted by: Jane at June 27, 2006 01:46 PM

Well, they've got some confusing views over there.

1) You can tell everything about a man's politcal views by the color of his/her skin... and presuming to know someone based solely by the color of their skin isn't racist anymore...

2) Politics break down into 2 viewpoints, "Black issues" and "non-black issues". Candidates who support "black issues" should get black votes; which somehow doesn't presume that non-blacks should allow this obvious and clear dichotomy to affect their voting habits at all (unless they're racist).

Posted by: Gekkobear at June 27, 2006 02:41 PM

Interesting that an article on "the cynical use" of race as a "political wedge" managed to reach back nearly 20 years for the Horton ad, but avoided the NAACP ad just six years ago implicating the GOP presidential candidate in the dragging death of James Byrd of Texas.

This feat is made all the more impressive because the article mentions the man who OK'd the ad, "Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and NAACP president," and a candidate in the current race.

Of course, even though the NAACP spent (if I recall) $2 million airing the Byrd ad, few if any mainstream media outlets brought attention to it in 2000, when just about every campaign spot was scrutinized. Because the storyline that mainstream media desperately clings to -- in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary – is that only Republicans, and only whites, engage in racial politics, and/or are swayed by racial politics.

So one of the two major parties in the nation can engage in overt, race-based politics, while reporters like Matthew Mosk pretend not to notice. Rather cynical, I’d say.

Posted by: CJ at June 27, 2006 03:00 PM

OK, a little math. (sorry, NEA). But if an ad shows 30 prisoners, and 3 are black, 2 hispanic, that means 25 are white. Hmmm... 80% white. That's more than you need to end cloture. No wonder the libs were pissed.

Posted by: Tim at June 27, 2006 05:36 PM

Being against crime: racist.

Demanding race loyalty: not racist.

Because, you see, "racist" is actually a synonym for "Republican" and has nothing to do with "race."

Posted by: TallDave at June 28, 2006 03:24 PM