It was 31 years ago this week that the Michael Dukakis for President campaign made a disastrous campaign appearance. It was so bad that it ended up in an ad for his opponent, George H.W. Bush. But, of course, that didn’t stop some in the media for rushing to the defense of the Democrat, crying foul on behalf of the liberal. Some things never change.
Appearing as a guest on Wednesday's Amanpour and Company on PBS to discuss former President George H.W. Bush's legacy, The New Yorker editor David Remnick condemned Bush's use of convicted murderer Willie Horton in the 1988 presidential campaign as "racist." Host Christiane Amanpour also suggested that Bush had run a "racist" campaign ad.
New York Times reporter Peter Baker tastelessly marked the beginning of the four-day commemoration of the life of former President George H.W. Bush by....whining about the “dog whistle” racist Willie Horton ads from Bush’s successful 1988 campaign against Democrat Michael Dukakis. For 30 years, media conventional wisdom has been appalled at the supposedly racist campaign ads from the Bush camp criticizing the irresponsibly lax prison program of Massachusetts, which featured the story of Willie Horton, a convicted murderer who raped and killed a woman in Maryland while on a weekend furlough.
Appearing as a guest on Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN, former longtime ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson misleadingly tried to tie Ronald Reagan to the Massachusetts prison furlough program supported by Michael Dukakis which allowed convicted murderer Willie Horton to escape prison and attack others.
Since the passing of former President George H.W. Bush, most of the networks have revisited one of the longstanding liberal peeves against the former Republican President -- that he brought to the attention of voters the fact that 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis supported a prison furlough program that allowed a convicted murderer, Willie Horton, to violently attack a couple while he was free. And, in doing so, the networks have also repeated the recurring myth that Bush's campaign was responsible for "the Willie Horton ad" that used a mug shot of Horton, thus revealing his race, when, in reality, the version of the ad run by the Bush campaign did not use the image and made no hint that Horton was black.
George H. W. Bush apparently won’t vote for Donald Trump and reportedly “harbors a deep disgust” for him. Still, according to The Washington Monthly’s D. R. Tucker, the “race-baiting on steroids” of Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign paved the way for Trump’s current approach. Tucker was referring to two television ads: the so-called Willie Horton ad, from a pro-Bush PAC, and the Bush campaign’s “Revolving Doors,” which skewered the prison-furlough policy of Bush’s Democratic opponent, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, and, in Tucker’s view, “engaged in sick racial stereotyping.”
In a pre-recorded report shown on Friday's Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, correspondent Gary Tuchman recalled examples of "dirty campaigning" in presidential elections going back 200 years, but, when he got to more recent elections, he focused on negative campaigning from the Republican side -- citing Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump -- while ignoring infamous examples from the left except for current candidate Hillary Clinton.
MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews was in rare from on Thursday night as he both factually tried to link the 1964 and 2016 presidential elections and appeared astonished that there could be an “intervention” (as has been reported for Donald Trump) for something other than “a dope problem or a booze problem.
On Sunday's CNN Newsroom, during a segment previewing the Race to the White House special on the 1988 Bush-Dukakis presidential race, after host Poppy Harlow recalled claims that the George H.W. Bush campaign used "racial fear" against Democrat Michael Dukakis, historian Tim Naftali went on to claim that the Bush team "played on racist fears" because of the Willie Horton issue.
The panel did not even make a distinction between the ad designed by the Bush campaign -- which did not use Horton's image but instead employed white actors to play the parts of convicts -- and a different ad run an independent group which did use Horton's mug shot, which was the ad that CNN showed on screen.
As former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis appeared as a guest on Friday's Wolf show, CNN host Wolf Blitzer cued up the Massachusetts liberal to slam the current Republican presidential candidate field: "I remember covering your campaign in 1988. You always insisted on running a pretty clean campaign, a strategy some say may have cost you the race. What do you make of the campaigns being run right now by the Republicans -- candidates specifically like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz?"
On Tuesday, The Atlantic featured an article that lamented decades of Republican race-baiting in presidential campaigns. The piece by [authors] allow that race-baiting “does not mean that those who employ them are racists,” but it does “show a willingness to exploit societal ills for political gain.” The authors don’t think Republicans are racists, just that Republicans have a tendency to exploit racist attitudes across America.
It’s often noted that Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, just as Democrats had lost five of six before that. Dems snapped out of it thanks to a Bill Clinton-led tack towards the center, but Michael Tomasky predicts that the GOP will stay to the right in 2016, thereby extending its slump.
After Michael Dukakis’s defeat in 1988, observed Tomasky in a Tuesday piece, Democrats at last could “say to themselves, OK, we’re screwed unless we change. Welfare reform? Free trade?...Whatever, man…The question for the Republicans is, is this 1988 or 1992? I think it’s 1988, because they haven’t yet lost that third one [in a row]. It’s the third one that drives it home. Especially if it’s to you know who.”