The Willie Horton ad was 100% true and fair

No matter how much Leftists whine about the Willie Horton attack ad from the 1988 campaign for President, it was a completely fair and truthful ad. It is not racist whatsoever.

You can see it for yourself on YouTube here and here and here.

Susan Estrich is still bitter about the ad, 26 years later, and she brought it up in a recent column. After almost three decades, the Left is still trying to rewrite history, claiming that the ad was somehow “racist,” or “unfair” to Michael Dukakis. It was neither racist nor unfair.

Let’s review. Horton actually was a convicted murderer. That is true. Horton actually did get a furlough from prison as part of a program supported and defended by Dukakis. That is true. Horton actually did brutally attack and terrorize a young couple while on furlough, repeatedly raping the woman. That is true. All of those facts have been well-documented over the years.

So how is the ad “racist,” as Democrats allege? Is it because Horton is black? That has nothing to do with it. If anything, attacking the ad on racial grounds is in itself racist. Horton’s skin pigmentation had nothing to do with his crime, or the foolishness of letting a convicted murderer have a furlough from prison.

Horton’s skin pigmentation does not change the fact that if not for Dukakis’ irresponsible and foolish policy, a young couple would never have been terrorized, stabbed, raped and traumatized. Keeping the public safe from dangerous criminals has nothing whatsoever to do with skin pigmentation.

The cries of “racism” are meant to silence legitimate debate about public policy. Democrats knew they had been caught, and they knew the consequences of their policies were out in the open and being debated. The cries of “racism” were meant to distract from the debate over Dukakis’ record, and smear the people who were truthfully pointing out what Dukakis had done as governor.

It is true that the Horton ad fed the national paranoia about crime, and our paranoia about crime has led to the erosion of our civil liberties as well as the frightening escalation in the use of force by law enforcement. We have decades of bad policy, at the national and state level, that we need to roll back in order to reclaim our liberty.

However, rational people are capable of doing the intellectual equivalent of walking and chewing gum at the same time. It is possible to recognize and seek to roll back the abuses of the War on Crime and the War on Drugs and recognize that Dukakis’ policy was dangerously stupid and foolish. One can see the need for the criminal justice system to protect us from criminals and carefully guard our civil liberties from abuses by that same system. This is not an either-or question – that is a false choice. The answer to whether we should protect society from evil monsters like Horton or from abuse of power by government is “both.”

4 thoughts on “The Willie Horton ad was 100% true and fair

  1. How bizarre–yet sadly predictable–that you're wasting this blog on a stroll down memory lane, a quarter century after the fact, to endorse a scandalous ad everyone outside your blighted party recognizes as a classic example of the white racist “dog whistle” technique. Maybe more of Larry Pratt's rubbed off on you than I suspected. Birds of a feather, and all that.


  2. The reason I am writing about this now is that I am responding to Susan Estrich's column from September 24.

    If you think the ad should not be a subject of discussion 26 years after the fact, take it up with Estrich. She brought it up. I am responding to her.

    No, the ad is not seen as “scandalous” or “racist” by everyone. There isn't a single claim in that ad about the Horton case that is not 100% true.

    Pointing out well-documented facts, and the predictable results of foolish public policy, is hardly racist. If Horton had been white, you would have absolutely nothing to complain about.


  3. I haven't read the column you're responding to, but the obvious logical fallacy of the ad is, it seems to imply that because one prisoner used a weekend pass to go assault/rape people, it follows that *everyone* with weekend pass from prison will use it to go assault/rape people.

    So, the facts may be sound, sure. But they aren't employed in a logically sound way. As tends to be the case with most political ads. Since. Forever.


  4. The ad does not say that all prisoners on furlough will go out and rape people.

    But clearly some will. Because some have.

    It is dangerously stupid to let convicted murderers like Willie Horton out on furlough. Had Horton not been released, the rape and maiming would never have happened.

    It's one thing to release nonviolent criminals out on furlough. Releasing convicted murderers, given what they have proven to be capable of, is dangerously stupid and irresponsible.

    Even if a small percentage commit crimes while on weekend furlough, it is still dangerously stupid and irresponsible. The American people recognized that, and that is a big reason why Dukakis lost.


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