The Willie Hortonization of Barack Obama

A long line of inmates enters and exits a prison yard. As the lone black inmate reenters society, he peers into the camera with a menacing glance. The ad plays on "fears of the dangerous, violent, black male."
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A long line of inmates solemnly enters and exits a prison yard through a revolving door. As the lone black inmate reenters society, he peers into the camera with a menacing glance. He is the only inmate to do so.

The ad described above was created by George H.W. Bush's campaign as part of a broad strategy to terrify America by, as psychologist and political consultant Drew Westen explains, playing on "fears of the dangerous, lawless, violent, dark black male."

While the most infamous Willie Horton ads were created by an independent organization, it was Bush's media consultant Roger Ailes who "gleefully" told Time Magazine in August of 1988, "The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it."

1988 wasn't Ailes' first experience dividing Americans along racial lines. During a taping of the "Man in the Arena" series in 1968, the Nixon campaign stumbled on a problem when a panelist they thought was a physician turned out to be a psychiatrist. Ailes quickly figured out a solution. According to Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, Ailes would substitute a "good, mean, Wallaceite cab-driver. Wouldn't that be great? Some guy to sit in there and say, 'Awright, Mac, what about these n***ers?'" Perlstein added that "Nixon then could abhor the uncivility of the words, while endorsing a 'moderate' version of the opinion."

Given his history, it should be no surprise Ailes' minions at Fox News have obsessed over the discredited 18 month-old story of alleged voter intimidation by New Black Panther Party members on the day of the 2008 election. Since June 30, Fox News has spent more than eight hours of airtime and 95 segments on the story.

And no network has done more to expose Americans to the extreme and hateful politics of the New Black Panther Party, which has been designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, than Fox, where the group's spokespeople have appeared more than 50 times since 1998.

The truth is, it was President Bush's Justice Department, not Obama's, that made the decision not to pursue criminal charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for alleged voter intimidation at a Philadelphia polling center in 2008. In fact, the Obama administration successfully obtained default judgment against Samir Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party carrying a nightstick outside the polling center on Election Day.

Their mission isn't to find the truth, but to plant the seed in viewers' minds that maybe, just maybe, the President and the Attorney General are the same type of militants seen wielding a nightstick and repeatedly slurring whites on Fox News. As the Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page wrote, "Now the New Black Panthers are being used to vilify a black president as being soft on black racism. Coming soon, I am sure, to campaign attack ads near you."

Roger Ailes and Fox News -- along with the entire Republican Party -- are praying the mainstream media will cave to right wing pressure and delve into this story. As the chief communications strategist for Republicans, Ailes couldn't have scripted it better.

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