Obama Compared To Dukakis; Willie Horton Makes An Appearance

With the headline "Democrats Play Dirty In Charleston," the Palmetto Scoop blog published what it said was a flier found affixed to fence posts near the Citadel, the location of Monday night's Democratic debate.

The pamphlet, suggestive of an appeal to racial prejudice, visually links Barack Obama to Michael Dukakis and to Willie Horton, the convicted rapist whose furlough in Massachusetts became a controversial television ad during the 1988 presidential race, and it goes on to accuse Obama of favoring early release for sex offenders.

The charge leveled at Obama lacks evidence and the citation appears to distort a 1999 state senate vote on prisoner sentencing. The legislation expanded "good times credits" for convicts.)


When it first aired in the fall of 1988, the Horton ad was immediately criticized for exploiting latent racial prejudice. (It was created by ad maker Larry McCarthy on behalf of the Virginia-based National Security PAC; McCarthy and the PAC denied any racial intent.)

Of the Obama-Horton flier, a witness, Felton Barns, e-mails to say that

"It was all over the area surrounding the debate. ... [T]he road leading up to the citadel gates with all the candidate yard signs was lined with these flyers. The high school band group chanting Obama's name was tearing these flyers down and leaving them."

So who's behind the flier and what's the intent?

The Palmetto Blog post says that Obama's team blames Hillary Clinton's campaign.

That's not true. Obama's South Carolina campaign doesn't know where it came from and therefore has no one to blame. Clinton's campaign disclaims any knowledge.

Shenanigans are common in South Carolina politics. But this is a few steps beyond the norm. Is the culprit a misguided, Machiavellian supporter of a rival candidate who thinks he or she knows how to move a message but winds up embarrassing their candidate of choice? Maybe it's a member of the opposite party trying to start a fight? This being South Carolina, it might be something else entirely.

A side note: coincidentally, Obama's campaign launched its first radio ad in the state yesterday. The 60-second spot describes Obama as a Christian and civil rights leader.