Willie Horton is like taxes. Or something
Oh, fergawdsakes. What in the hell is Joe Klein talking about?
Indeed, that's the Willie Horton argument building against Romney. Democrats were appalled by the Horton ads (the most devastating was produced by an "independent" committee, "unrelated" to the Bush campaign). They were, allegedly, racist. Horton was black. But they cut to the heart of a significant problem the Democratic Party had at the time: it was sort of soft on crime, in the midst of the post-Vietnam left's "they're depraved because they're deprived" delusion. And Mitt Romney's Willie Horton? His tax returns.Huh? Is there any dispute about whether the Willie Horton ads were racist? And does Klein really still believe that the Democrats were "soft on crime"? Jesus, let's do the time warp again.
The PBS documentary, Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, chronicles the life of Republican operative and campaign manager to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, Lee Atwater, who once said of Dukakis: "By the time I'm done ... people will think Willie Horton is his running mate." In the PBS film, former South Carolina state Sen. Tom Turnipseed stated of the Horton ads: "I think he was used primarily because he was black. Like Lee said before he died, you don't call them nigger, nigger, nigger anymore like you did 30 years ago. You know, you got to be more subtle than that. It wasn't very subtle at all to me."Or to any other sentient being.
As for the soft on crime trope, it was a Republican strategy to entice northern white voters who were unnerved by the unrest among the you-know-who's. It did succeed in making the Democrats eager to put even more people in jail than they already did, particularly as a result of their drug war, but that wasn't saying much since they had already been quite eager to do it before. The whole thing was a political strategy to stoke racial animosity and fear. But hey, if Joe Klein doesn't know that by now, he never will.
Apparently he believes the Willie Horton ad wasn't racist, and because it represented the fact that Democrats really were soft on crime, Dukakis deserved the hit (not to mention black people.) Therefore, he thinks it's also ok to demand to see Mitt's tax returns because it represents that Republicans are all Masters of the Universe. (That's going to be a stretch when it comes to Louis Gohmert, but ok ...)
No, there is a fully formed critique of the GOP, with its dystopian agenda of every man for himself and forced right wing religiosity. And Mitt is subject to it as well --- he certainly subscribes to it. But the Bain issue and the tax returns are all about Mitt's personal
qualification to be president, which he himself has promoted, and his card-carrying membership in the 001%. If he wants to run on that record he needs to let the American people see what it really was. Klein's confused about all this, but that's nothing new.