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June 8, 2008

Soft-on-crime Prez mud-slinging gets off to a telling start

And so it begins.  This effective Los Angeles Times article, headlined "Opening shot in the battle over crime," reports that the man behind the (in)famous Willie Horton ad is going back to the soft-on-crime playbook two decades later.  Here are some details:

On a website he calls ExposeObama.com, Floyd G. Brown, the producer of the Willie Horton ad that helped defeat Michael S. Dukakis in 1988, is preparing an encore.

Brown is raising money for a series of ads that he says will show Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to be out of touch on an issue of fundamental concern to voters: violent crime. One spot already making the rounds on the Internet attacks the presumptive Democratic nominee for opposing a bill while he was a state legislator that would have extended the death penalty to gang-related murders.

"When the time came to get tough, Obama chose to be weak....  Can a man so weak in the war on gangs be trusted in the war on terror?" the ad asks....

Obama's campaign, and some independent observers, say Brown's work is misleading at best. FactCheck.org, a political watchdog, has called the death penalty ad -- which suggests that Obama's vote made him responsible for the gang-related deaths of three youths -- "reprehensible misrepresentation."

The legislation was largely symbolic, because many gang killers were already eligible for death under state law.  It also was running up against concern over the administration of the state death penalty law. That concern ultimately led to a statewide moratorium on executions.  The Republican governor at the time, George Ryan, eventually vetoed the legislation.

Obama supporters take exception to the notion that their candidate is weak on crime.  "I thought ... he tried to strike a decent balance between solid law enforcement and protecting the rights of individuals," said Richard A. Devine, the Cook County state's attorney, who leads the largest prosecutor office in Illinois. In the Legislature, Obama led the push for mandatory taping of interrogations and confessions to ensure fair treatment of the accused.  Devine said the gang-related death-penalty bill was "really not moving us forward at all."

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt, asked about the ad, said: "The Republicans will soon realize that trying to divert attention from McCain's plans to continue George Bush's failed policies on Iraq and the economy by launching long ago debunked attacks on Obama won't work.  Sen. Obama has a record that demonstrates he is both tough and smart on crime."

June 8, 2008 at 08:36 PM | Permalink


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The program that furloughed Willie Horton was first used against Dukakis by Al Gore, not George Bush:

http:// www.thenation.com/ doc/20000626/corn1/2 -- David Corn -- 8 June 2000 -- The Nation:

"A desperate Gore also slapped front-runner Michael Dukakis for being soft on crime and introduced into the 1988 campaign the Willie Horton ammo that Vice President George Bush would later deploy against Dukakis with dead-on effectiveness."

A poorly supervised furlough program for a violent criminal like Horton is a legitimate issue in a campaign. Both Gore and Bush had a perfect right to bring it before the voters.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 8, 2008 8:56:15 PM

These folks are all working as consultants and being supported by fees from not for profits. They raise funds and advise others about taking advantage of the tax code. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, there is only something wrong with the code and the special interest nature of legislation.

This adds nothing to the political dialogue and is actually depressing.

Posted by: beth curtis | Jun 8, 2008 9:59:08 PM

I hope Obama doesn't react by proposing to double prison sentences.

Posted by: EJ | Jun 9, 2008 12:25:17 AM

Why not dig up some dirt on Floyd G. Brown?

Posted by: George | Jun 9, 2008 1:32:15 AM

Obama Campaign Responds To "Victims" Ad

Posted by: George | Jun 9, 2008 10:56:57 AM

Barack Obama, tough on crime? Yeah, he was real tough on the Jena Six criminals . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2008 12:44:39 PM

Oh, my, federalist said "Jena Six criminals." Everyone shake and shut-up because federalist put the conversation in the electric chair.

Posted by: George | Jun 9, 2008 1:49:00 PM

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