Thursday, February 23, 2006

Has Willie Horton been furloughed again?

Lefty blogger Carrie Lynch busts on attorney general candidate Paul Bucher for criticizing Democratic opponent Katie Falk's plan to "divert" from incarceration half of offenders sentenced to two years in prison or less. Bucher posts the mug shots of a variety of criminals who apparently went on to commit violent crimes after initial non-violent offenses. He devotes special attention to a guy who, after having been sentenced to two years in prison for taking a vehicle without the owner's consent, raped and murdered a woman. The offender in that case is African-American.

For Lynch this is racist, vile and reminiscent of the WIllie Horton ad. Without getting into the merits of Bucher's argument, I have never seen the logic of the argument that it is somehow racist to talk about crime if the perpetrator - or a disproportionate number of perpetrators - are black.

I can see why Bucher chose to highlight Kimani Ward. He committed a particularly horrific crime. It was inevitable that Willie Horton would come up in Dukakis campaign for president. You had a governor who supported a controversial furlough program and one of the furloughed convicts went out and raped and murdered someone.
If that happens, you are going to take heat for it. Politics ain't beanbag.

But, they say, why do you have to show the picture? I guess because politicians try to dramatize their arguments. Why do Dems criticizing conservatives for not being sufficiently fanatical on environmental legislation run shots of extreme examples of pollution that no one would permit? Why did the NAACP, in an ad that was infinitely more vile than the Horton ad because it tried to connect two things that had nothing to do with each other, show images of the lynching of James Byrd? People in mug shots tend to look scary and dangerous and that is precisely Bucher's point. If the "nonviolent" offender who committed a particularly brutal crime is African-American or if the guy who rapes and murders a woman while on he's out on a weekend pass happens to be black, those are just the unfortunate facts.

As for Lynch's argument that Wisconsin voters don't respond to "tough-on-crime" rhetoric, I can't think of anyone making a more tone-deaf political statement.


(As an aside, Horton ad that was actually run by George 41's campaign did not show Horton's picture and actually featured predominantly white criminals passing through a revolving door. The ad that did include his picture was run by an independent group.)

2 comments:

elliot said...

As another aside, did you know that the Willie Horton commercial was created by a Milwaukee advertising agency?

Peter said...

The Willie Horton ad used against Dukakis in the primary was run on behalf of then-Sen. Algore.