The political operative behind the Willie Horton ad that helped defeat Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential race is releasing a new ad this week targeting Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama.
Floyd Brown, a longtime conservative strategist who heads the conservative National Campaign Fund, said he is launching the ad to expose Obama’s weakness on gang violence.
“The ad draws a parallel between Obama’s weakness on gang violence and the war on terror,” said Brown. Brown is the former head of Citizens United, which claims to be the largest political action group for conservatives in the United States.
In his new ad Brown tells of a woman leaving church choir practice who was killed by gang gunfire while shielding her 6-year-old daughter, a 15-year-old boy beaten with bricks after a gang member crashed into his car, and a 14-year-old boy shot five times in the back for refusing to flash a gang hand sign.
“They all died in 2001. In Chicago,” the voice-over declares.
That same year, Barack Obama — then an Illinois state senator — voted against expanding the death penalty for gang-related murders, the ad points out.
The ad concludes, “When the time came to get tough, Obama chose to be weak. So the question is: Can a man so weak in the war on gangs be trusted in the war on terror?”
Brown says the ad will run in targeted states beginning on Tuesday.
You can view the ad by Clicking Here Now.
During the early part of Barack Obama's political career he opposed the death penalty. In recent years, however, he has modified his position to
support the death penalty in cases involving the "most heinous" of crimes.
In 2001 as an Illinois state senator, Obama did vote against a proposed law that would have widened the scope of the death penalty to include some gang activity. The bill passed the legislature but was later vetoed by then Republican Gov. George Ryan, who imposed a moratorium on death penalty executions.
Obama defended his opposition to the gang death penalty bill because, he argued, it would unevenly apply to minorities.
“There’s a strong overlap between gang affiliation and young men of color . . . I think it’s problematic for them to be singled out as more likely to receive the death penalty for carrying out certain acts than are others who do the same thing,” Obama said at the time.
Whether this highly partisan ad will stick as Obama’s “Willie Horton” is yet to be seen.
Massachusetts inmate Willie Horton was serving a life sentence for murder, without parole, when he was released as part of a weekend furlough program in June 1986. He did not return, and in April 1987 he twice raped a woman in Maryland after pistol-whipping and knifing her fiancé.
Michael Dukakis was the governor of Massachusetts at the time of Horton’s release. He supported the furlough program as a method of criminal rehabilitation, and when the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill prohibiting furloughs for first-degree murderers, Dukakis vetoed the bill.
Beginning in September 1988, an organization headed by Floyd Brown backed George H.W. Bush in his race against Dukakis. Brown’s group produced and aired an ad detailing the Horton case and Dukakis’ role.
To conservatives, the name Willie Horton became synonymous with soft-on-crime liberalism. Liberals said the ad was nothing more than veiled racism. Horton was an African-American. The ad is widely thought to have played a significant role in helping Bush win the presidency.
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