- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Democratic strategy against black Republicans is easy enough to understand: Call them sellouts; label them dupes of the racist Republican machine; link them to as many white conservatives as possible; and repeat. Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is no stranger to this program ever since the Baltimore Sun editorialized that the only thing he brought to the gubernatorial ticket of Robert Ehrlich was “the color of his skin.” Now, with Mr. Steele’s Senate campaign scaring the wits out of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, The Washington Post saw reason to run a tidy little hit piece Monday headlined “Steele’s Donor List Stirs Racial Questions.”

With such an ominous sounding headline, you might think Mr. Steele accepted a donation from a known Klansman or skinhead. Alas, reporter Matthew Mosk digs so deep into the Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports — available online to everyone — he uncovers the astounding news that Mr. Steele has taken donations from Republicans. Adding insult to injury, they were white. It turns out that one of the donors, Floyd Brown, who produced the now-infamous “Willie Horton” ad in the 1988 presidential campaign, actually held a June 22 fundraiser for Mr. Steele.

Mr. Mosk doesn’t enlighten his readers about what the “Willie Horton” ad was, but he writes that “it came to symbolize the cynical use of skin color as a political wedge.” That’s one way of putting it. Another, more accurate way is that the ad exposed the dangerous Massachusetts furlough program for felons that became a campaign issue between Vice President George H.W. Bush and Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis.

The Bush campaign attacked Mr. Dukakis’ support of the program, as Democratic candidates had similarly done during the primaries. Willie Horton, serving life in prison for murder, raped a woman while released on furlough. Mr. Brown produced an attack ad, featuring Horton as a poster child for the furlough policy. But because Horton is black, Democrats accused Republicans of using race as a wedge issue.

Eighteen years later, Mr. Mosk regurgitates the race angle without any of the above history. The article also slanders radio host William J. Bennett, who, Mr. Mosk tells readers, suggested “aborting black babies would help reduce crime.” That’s a complete distortion of Mr. Bennett’s comments, which were actually meant to show the absurdity of a pro-choice argument, advanced by some liberals, that abortion helps reduce crime. The Post also names former first lady Barbara Bush, a Steele supporter, as another member of “Racists for Steele.”

Such an article would never have been written were Mr. Steele a white Democrat. But there’s a racially tinged strategy at work here: Spin, slander, distort and repeat.