After a disastrous week by their fearless leader, Donald Trump, Republicans are clearly panicked about the presidential election. And we know what Republicans do when they panic. The latest? Check out this slime (“Exclusive: Republicans Launch Willie Horton-Style Attack on Kaine“) by the Republican National Committee.
In a new web ad that recalls the Willie Horton attack on 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, the Republican National Committee is highlighting two of Kaine’s clients when he was a defense attorney.
Richard Lee Whitley was convicted of murdering a 63 year-old neighbor in Fairfax County, while Lem Tuggle was found guilty of raping, sodomizing and murdering a 52-year old woman from Smyth County.
While numerous executions took place on Kaine’s watch as Virginia governor, he had come up as a defense attorney working to keep people convicted of capital offenses from facing the death penalty.
“The hardest thing about being a governor was dealing with the death penalty,” Kaine told the National Catholic Reporter in an interview. “I hope on Judgment Day that there’s both understanding and mercy, because it was tough.”
I’m not even going to show the disgusting ad, but you can watch it if you really want. I would just respond in several ways, similarly to how many of us responded back in October 2005, almost exactly six years ago to the day (what is it about this time of year for Republicans, anyway???) from the infamous “Hitler ad” by Republican Jerry Kilgore’s campaign.
First, as Tim Kaine said then: “My faith teaches that life is sacred…That’s why I personally oppose the death penalty. But I take my oath of office seriously, and I’ll enforce the death penalty … because it’s the law.” So, yes, Gov. Kaine allowed executions to move forward despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, because that was the law that he swore to upheld, even if he personally disagreed with it from a religious/moral perspective.
Second, again, recall that this same (ineffective, desperate) line of attack failed miserably for the Virginia GOP in 2005 — badly enough that George Allen et al. didn’t even try to use it in 2012 when Tim Kaine was running for U.S. Senate. Presumably, it will fail just as miserably for the Trump/Pence goon squad this time around.
Third, what is it about the concept that when you’re a defense attorney, you are supposed to do your job and…you know, defend your client, that Republicans can’t seem to comprehend?
Fourth, great timing (not!) by the GOP, given the news that just came out about how, “For the first time in almost half a century, support for the death penalty has dipped below 50 percent in the United States.” Hmmmm.
Finally, can you believe the Republicans are actually explicitly BRAGGING (see RNC Chief Strategist & Communications Director Sean Spicer’s tweet – now deleted, but screen captured forever, LOL – below) about running a “Willie Horton-Style Attack” on Tim Kaine? Yeah, I guess you CAN believe it, because that’s what Republicans do and HAVE done, ever since the days of Lee Atwater (note: if you haven’t seen the superb movie about Atwater, the Republicans’ racist “Southern Strategy,” etc., definitely check out Boogie Man!).
P.S. See below for discussion from back in 2005 of the disgusting “Hitler ad” by Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore and his slimy media team against Tim Kaine. Note that the ad completely backfired, with Kaine going from even with Kilgore in the polls when the infamous “Hitler ad” was unveiled in mid October 2005, to a 6-point victory on election day, and to high levels of approval as governor and afterwards…
From the Raising Kaine archives (10/12/05)…
For those of you who’ve never heard of Godwin’s Law before, maybe it’s time for a brief explanation. Why? Because something tells me that Godwin and his Law will be mentioned frequently in coming days, given the despicable “Hitler” ad that Kilgore’s media man (Scott Howell) has – predictably – created from his secret lair in Texas.
According to Wikipedia, Godwin’s Law was formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990, and states that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.” Wikipedia adds:
Many people have extended Godwin’s law to imply that the invoking of the Nazis as a debating tactic (in any argument not directly related to World War II or the Holocaust) automatically loses the argument, simply because the nature of these events is such that any comparison to any event less serious than genocide, ethnic cleansing, barbaric medical tests or extinction is invalid and in poor taste.
In this case, of course, the Kilgore campaign has invoked Hitler in the context of Tim Kaine’s personal, religious-Christian-based opposition to capital punishment. They have taken the fact that Tim’s religion condemns the death penalty (as it does abortion), and that Tim Kaine is a deeply religious man, in order to…well….crucify him on this issue.
All this, despite the fact that Tim Kaine has said repeatedly that he would uphold his oath of office as Governor with regards to the death penalty , given that he would be swearing on a Bible to uphold the Constitution and laws of Virginia. Kaine has also said that Adolph Hitler very well “may deserve the death penalty,” and certainly that Hitler and similar murderes do not “deserve to live in civilized society.”
That, however, is not enough for the Kilgore campaign to unleash the smear campaign against a good, moral, Christian man named Tim Kaine.
Unfortunately, the Kilgore campaign was getting desperate. They could feel it all slipping away from them, all that hard work at sliming Tim Kaine over the past year. And that was unacceptable. So, they didn’t just go negative. They went Adolph Hitler negative. Of course, this isn’t exactly surprising, given the fact that Scott Howell tied triple-amputee war hero, Georgia Senator Max Cleland, to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. That’s just what Scott Howell does.
Birds gotta fly. Fish gotta swim. And Scott Howell gotta create attack ads using racism and the worst scumbags in history to smear his clients’ opponents.
So, this is what Scott Howell has done, essentially arguing that Tim Kaine — or anyone who opposes the death penalty on religious grounds, as Pope John Paul II did for example (and as the current Pope does as well) — is on the side of the worst tyrant in history. This argument is obviously fallacious, absurd, and laughable. Or, perhaps I should say it WOULD be laughable if people like Jerry Kilgore and Scott Howell didn’t use it so viciously.
Let’s boil down the Kilgore/Howell logic to its core. 1) Tim Kaine is a deeply committed Christian who follows the teaching of his church (Roman Catholic). 2) Tim Kaine’s church is strongly opposed to the death penalty (as are nearly all developed countries, by the way). 3) Therefore, Tim Kaine (not to mention Pope John Paul II, etc.) is a friend to murdering rapist scum everywhere. Oh yeah, and Hitler too!
Or, how about this “logic.” 1) We live in a society where every person is “innocent until proven guilty,” and where every person is entitled to legal counsel. 2) Tim Kaine served as a public defender. 3) Tim Kaine did what he was SUPPOSED TO DO and provided legal representation to a defendent in a capital case. 4) Because Tim Kaine did his duty as a public defender, he is therefore an advocate for murderers and genocidal maniacs like Hitler.
This is, to be blunt, utterly bonkers. But par for the course in the crazy world of Scott Howell and his latest Dark Project, Jerry Kilgore.
At this point, what do Democrats need to do? Obviously, not take this garbage lying down. Obviously, not turn the other cheek. Obviously, not violate Godwin’s Law. However, Fighting Democrats definitely DO need to hit back hard on any of a number of possible fronts against Jerry Kilgore. Of course, we should do so truthfully. But we should do so as ruthlesslly and effectively as the Republicans do. Sad to say, this shouldn’t be very difficult given Jerry Kilgore’s pathetic (I suggest you Google “kilgore beaumont abuse”), corrupt (eavesdropping scandal) background.
Sure, it’s sad when things come to this. Sure, it would be better to stick to Candidate X’s 12-point transportation plan, or Candidate Y’s education plan. But sometimes in life, you just have to fight fire with fire. Just remember, when the Kaine campaign strikes back – as it must, rapidly and ruthlessly — that it was JERRY KILGORE who wouldn’t agree to run positive ads even 51% of the time! Apparently, Jerry Kilgore prefers 100% negativity, 100% of the time. Is this the type of human being we want as our next governor? No, I didn’t think so. And neither would Godwin.
Thankfully, it now looks like the Kilgore “Hitler” ad has begun to backfire, at least among Jewish leaders in Virginia. Just hours after observing the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur (the “Day of Atonement”), Rabbi Jack Moline of the Agudas Achim Synagogue in Alexandria called it “demeaning and morally repugnant.” David Friedman, the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director for the office that covers Virginia said that the Kilgore “Hitler” ad is “inappropriate and insensitive, and, as part of a discussion of the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia, trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust.” Tommy Baer of Richmond, the former president of B’nai Brith International, said that the Kilgore “Hitler” ad went “beyond the pale” and was “strategically timed to run just before Yom Kippur.” Finally, Rabbi Merrill Shapiro of Congregation Or Atidin Richmond pointed out that “Bandying [Hitler’s ultimate evil] about is an affront to those who really know Hitler. We know the real Hitlers of the world.”
So how badly, if at all, does the Jewish community’s outrage at the Kilgore “Hitler” ad hurt Kilgore politically? That’s a tough question. First, the Jewish population of Virginia is small, at just 66,000 (out of 7.1 million). On the other hand, Jews generally vote in high percentages and this ad could prompt a larger-than-expected Jewish turnout on November 8. In a close election, which this one is shaping up to be, a few thousand votes could make all the difference. If so, the Kilgore “Hitler” ad actually could be a factor – but not the way that Kilgore and Howell intended it to be — 24 days from now.
Second, there are many Virginians who, although not Jewish themselves, have Jewish friends and relatives. Many of these people probably haven’t been following the Kaine-Kilgore contest much (or at all), and many probably weren’t even planning to vote on November 8. My guess is that the Kilgore “Hitler” ad may have grabbed their attention, and that some of those people – how many, I don’t know – will now feel motivated to vote on November 8. Unfortunately for the Republicans, I strongly doubt that many of these people will be voting for the perpetrator of the Kilgore “Hitler” ad!
Third, millions of Virginians have learned about the Holocaust in school, or through visits to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. They know what Adolph Hitler actually did, not just murdering 6 million Jews, but also millions of Poles, Gypsies (“Roma”), homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and disabled people as well. They know that the Holocaust is not, in any way, shape or form, relevant to the issue of capital punishment in the 21st century United States of America. There is certainly a risk that many Virginians will recoil at the utter absurdity of Jerry Kilgore and his media man, Scott Howell, bringing the Holocaust into a race for Governor of Virginia. If not, they certainly should. We’ll see.
Finally, there is the potential “backlash against the backlash” factor. Could there be a closet anti-Semite vote in Virginia, now energized due to the Jewish leaders’ criticism of the Kilgore “Hitler” ad? I certainly hope that’s not the case, but you never know.
By the way, I find it highly interesting that the Kilgore campaign has not pulled the ad from the air, yet is simultaneously attempting to distance itself from the reference to Hitler. According to Kilgore spokesman J. Tucker Martin, “The sentiments uttered by Mr. Rosenbluth were his own.”
Oh. I see. So now Jerry’s going to try and weasel out of this one too, huh? It’s all Stanley Rosenbluth’s fault, right? (sorry, but it was the KILGORE campaign that put the despicable ad together and aired it) And by the way, isn’t Rosenbluth Jewish? (apparently so, but is that relevant in any way?) And didn’t Tim Kaine himself bring Hitler into this race? (NO! It was Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Michael Hardy who brought up Hitler, NOT Tim Kaine! Don’t believe me? Read and listen for yourself right here.)
The bottom line here is that the Kilgore campaign, with it’s reprehensible “Hitler” ad, has gone way, WAY beyond the bounds of decency. As if all the othe reasons for opposing Kilgore weren’t enough, this one should seal the deal. Hey, maybe someone should askKarl Rove — George W. Bush’s top political strategist, now facing possible criminal charges in the Valerie Plame case — what HE thinks of the Kilgore “Hitler” ad. If anyone needs to find him, he’ll be hanging out with his buddy Jerry Kilgore this morning at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel in Tysons Corner.
(Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be any mention the Rove event on Jerry Kilgore’s website under “Events”…what are they trying to hide?).