Tuesday, May 01, 2007

GOP Dusting Off Lee Atwater Playbook To Go After Obama In 2008

By MARC McDONALD

If you thought the Republicans reached a new low in dirty campaign tricks in the 2004 election, you ain't seen nothing yet.

You can take it to the bank that if Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination, the GOP will slime him in a manner that makes the Swiftboating of John Kerry seem like a Sunday walk in the park.

And in sliming Obama, the GOP can be counted upon to make maximum use of the biggest wedge issue in the Republicans' arsenal of dirty tricks. It's a wedge issue that Republicans have shamefully used in election after election, ever since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Of course, I'm talking about race: the Mother of All Wedge Issues for the GOP.

For Republicans, it's the gift that keeps on giving, especially when used as a tool to rally the Angry White Males that make up a sizable chunk of the GOP's base.

And if you want to use race issues to rally the troops, then the standard GOP playbook to consult is that of the late Republican political consultant and strategist Lee Atwater.

For younger readers who may not recall him, Atwater was the notorious mastermind of the infamous "Willie Horton" attack ad in the 1988 campaign that helped George H. W. Bush overcome Michael Dukakis's early 17-point lead in the polls.

It's a playbook that the GOP is certain to dust off and use in full force as they gear up to attack Obama in the 2008 campaign. In short, it's going to get increasingly ugly over the next few months.

These days, most Americans believe that we're become an enlightened, color-blind society. But we're about to get a rude shock over how deep divisive racial issues still simmer below the surface of U.S. society.

We've already seen a preview of how the GOP and its allies have shameless used race to rally the troops in recent years.

Just ask the African-American Senate candidate Harold Ford, Jr.

Ford, as you may recall, was targeted in 2006 by the infamous "Bimbo" attack ad that portrayed a skimpily dressed white woman sexily purring to Ford, inviting him to "Call me."

The NAACP attacked the ad as "a powerful innuendo that plays to pre-existing prejudices about African-American men and white women."

It's clear that the Republicans and their allies will summon up the spirit of Atwater and race-baiting politics as they prepare to slime Obama in the months ahead. We're already seeing early evidence of this (such as Rush Limbaugh playing the racist "Barack The Magic Negro" on his program).

And it's just the beginning. The GOP can be counted upon to exploit this issue as much as they shamelessly exploited the tragedy of 9/11 during the 2004 campaign.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

.
I think the 1992 L.A. riots showed what a divisive ticking time bomb racial issues remain in our society.

Konnie said...

If I were Obama I would be very pro-active! i would run out to meet the attacks - head on! stand there and say give me your best shot! I would even play the song and take the slur "halfican american as my own! i would out lee lee! i think it would totally blow them away and be amusing for the rest of us!

mistharm said...

Ya know - while I certainly don't believe we've become 'colorblind' as a society - I DO believe that when played out on a national scale; such tactics would backfire today.

Certainly there are many biggots out there - but they are fewer with each year; and its become harder and harder to push down the African-American population (as well as their vote). There's also the large hispanic population to consider - given how often they are the victims of prejudice, I would believe that even the very conservative ones would at least strongly consider not-voting.

I would laugh if the GOP tried to pull it out; and only their base voted for them. I actually expect to see an election return somewhere along the lines of ~70%/30% in favor of Democrats; so long as we as a party don't fark it up.

Batocchio said...

Well, at least they can't pull a Rove-style whisper campaign about Obama having a black child! That cat's out of the bag! ;-)

Seriously, I have no doubt someone in the GOP would try something like you describe. I do also think that it could backfire spectacularly, as Mistharm says. The key GOP players will want several layers of deniability for that sort of campaign.

Richard said...

Dust off the playbook??? They have already. Before Obama officially announced his candidacy, Rush, Melanie Morgan, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck were screaming he was too white, and too black. I believe the term Morgan and Limbaugh used was "halfrican". The fact that they suddenly became the arbitors of all things black was too appalling!

Did anyone notice they have said nothing about his interview on 60 Minutes in which he said that he would use diplomacy with Iran, or his comments about Healthcare. The Right cares nothing about his positions, only his color.

Anonymous said...

In response to Mistharm: are you kidding? If anything, America has gone BACKWARDS on civil rights issues since the Willie Horton ad ran two decades ago. Where were you during the 2000 election, when thousands of African-Americans were denied the vote?

Manifesto Joe said...

Ugly as it may be to figuratively dance on the grave of a dead man, there is one thing I thought for years about Lee Atwater. He is reported to have died of a brain tumor. My theory: The tumor was benign; it's the brain that was malignant.

Anonymous said...

Willie Horton is a black man. He is also a rapist and murderer. He was serving life without parole when he was released from prison on a weekend pass as part of a state program supported by Michael Dukakis who was governor at the time. While on leave he raped and killed a white woman. The program was finally mothballed after a newspaper published 175 stories attacking the program. In the 1988 election, the Bush campaign was tipped off by Al Gore who used the Willie Horton scandal to discredit Dukakis and demonstrate his obvious unwillingness to take a tough stance on crime. When the story was picked up and successfully used by the GOP, black racists complained that GOP use of the image of another animalistic black killer was unfair because one of his many victims was white. There was never any question that Willie Horton was a perfect example of the failure of Dukakis to take seriously his obligation as governor to enforce the law and to protect the innocent from those who should be caged. But black racists and white apologists today are still so concerned about the politics of race that they fail to understand there is evil among us. Evil people like Willie Horton should be villified. Willie Horton is a disgusting black man who tortured and killed a white woman who was completely innocent, and it is Michael Dukakis's fault for being so naive. White guilt kills.

Anonymous said...

To the previous poster:
You are a bigoted and confused person. In Texas, there was a white serial killer named Kenneth McDuff who was paroled in 1989 under the watch of a right-wing Republican governor, due to extremely crowded prisons. He killed, again, and again, and yet again, after his release. Unlike the case with Dukakis, I don't recall any Republican politician being held to account for McDuff's second killing spree (the first was back in the 1960s). Republicans are shameless opportunists on this issue, always blaming Democrats for belief in rational things like due process, innocence until proof of guilt, life without parole as a reasonable alternative to Death Row, etc. "GOP" politicians are the worst demagogues about this. And, under them, your taxes have been higher (a high prison population), and yet you haven't been safer. When will you stop being so stupid?

Anonymous said...

As much as I hate to do it, I have to correct my previous post. I used Kenneth McDuff as an example without doing any research. In fact, Kenneth McDuff was given the death penalty for his heinous crimes, but he got a reprieve when the US Supreme Court temporarily abolished the death penalty. His subsequent release on parole is regrettable but it was legal. The parole release program is used in all 50 states and is universally accepted in all corners of society. It seems the poster I was criticizing was correct: Willie Horton was an animal, and Dukakis was clearly soft on crime. Since Al Gore said it, it has to be (inconveinently) true. I have no other choice except to blame Halliburton.

Anonymous said...

I miss Lee Atwater. He was the king of campaigns. Most people like to bring up the bad about him and they forget how skilled he was. Democrats dislike him for many reasons but mostly because they have never had someone as good as him on their sid.