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How A Murderer And Rapist Became The Bush Campaign's Most Valuable Player

November 11, 1990|By ROGER SIMON | ROGER SIMON,Roger Simon is a nationally syndicated columnist for The Sun. This excerpt is from his new book, "Road Show," published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Copyright 1990 by Roger Simon. Reprinted with permission.

VISUAL: A long line of prisoners walks slowly through a revolving door made of iron bars.

SOUND: "His revolving door prison policy gave weekenfurloughs to first-degree murderers not eligible for parole."

VISUAL (on screen): "268 escaped. Many are still at large."

SOUND: "While out, many committed other crimes likkidnapping and rape and many are still at large. Now Michael Dukakis says he wants to do for America what he has done for Massachusetts. America can't afford that risk."

Only a few of the men who streamed through the revolving dooin the ad were black. Ailes said that he and Atwater had made sure that only "one or two" were black. But as the New York Times noted, the ad's "dull gray tones make it hard to identify the men by race."

Numerous stories were done about how "The Revolving Doorranged from misleading to untruthful. The 268 escapes from Massachusetts prisons were over a 10-year period, and only four of them involved convicted murderers. And at least 72 of the 268 were not really escapees, but had returned from their furloughs more than two hours late. Only three were still at large, not "many," and none of them was a convicted murderer.

There were also long detailed stories about furlough policieacross the country. On an average day around 800,000 people are in prison or jail in America and temporary releases from custody are granted to almost 10 percent of them.

But the absolute "truth" about furloughs was not the point o"The Revolving Door." Ailes wanted to create a feeling and he had. People were scared to death.

ON OCT. 18 WILLIE HORTON was asked by the Gannett News Service whom he supported for president. "Obviously, I am for Dukakis," Horton said.

The next day, Dukakis was on a campaign bus, waving tsupporters through an open window. Sam Donaldson came up the aisle with a camera crew and asked: "Did you know Willie Horton said he would vote for you?"

Dukakis didn't even turn around. "He can't vote, Sam," Dukakisaid in a tired voice. "He can't vote."

CLIFFORD AND ANGELA Barnes went on a tour of seven California and Texas cities to speak against the furlough program. Cliff said part of his motivation was that Dukakis had never apologized to them or shown the least bit of concern. When he heard this, Roger Ailes went to see a psychiatrist. Not for himself. But to check out Dukakis. "I talked to a psychiatrist about him, because I was worried Dukakis was going to turn around and start apologizing for the furloughs and everything and we'd be in trouble," Ailes said. "The psychiatrist said 'Forget it. This is a classic narcissistic personality; he's right and everybody's wrong and he's smarter than everybody else. He'll never apologize.' "

GINGERLY AT FIRST, AND then more openly, the press began questioning whether the use of Willie Horton was racist. It was an obvious question and there seemed to be an obvious answer. But the Dukakis campaign didn't want any part of it. The Dukakis campaign didn't want to accuse Bush of racism. Only after the campaign did Susan Estrich, the campaign manager, explain why.

" 'We can't afford to alienate white voters,' I was told by many imy party and my campaign; whites might be put off if we 'whine' about racism," Estrich wrote. "I am not proud of our silence."

The Dukakis campaign needed Bubba and the Six-Pack vote as much as Bush did. So it kept silent about the racial aspect of the Horton attack. Which left it to Jesse Jackson to say that the Bush campaign's use of Willie Horton and "the furlough ad with black and brown faces rotating in and out of jail" was "designed to create the most horrible psychosexual fears."

Finally, when Dukakis' silence on the subject threatened to alienate his black supporters, Lloyd Bentsen, his running mate, was allowed to speak. In an Oct. 23 appearance on "This Week with David Brinkley," Bentsen was asked whether the Bush campaign's use of the furlough issue contained racial elements.

Bentsen paused and then said: "When you add it up, I thin there is, and that's unfortunate."

After the campaign, Estrich, speaking as a white woman who had herself been raped by a black man, said: "There is no stronger metaphor for racial hatred in our country than the black man raping the white woman. If you were going to run a campaign of fear and smear and appeal to racial hatred you could not have picked a better case to use than this one."

THERE WERE MANY ATTACKS on Dukakis besides the furlough issue. He was attacked for his membership in the ACLU, his veto of the Pledge of Allegiance bill, phony reports that he had seen a psychiatrist, phony accusations that his wife, Kitty, had burned a flag while in college and even rumors that he supported bestiality.

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