Thursday, March 11, 2010

LTE: The Making of a President, 1988

For anyone wondering what LTE stands for, that’s “Letter to England.” I occasionally correspond with an English lawyer, but everyone else is welcome to read this. It’s always interesting to look at American affairs from the perspective of another country. Clear back in 1973, three young men decided to rob a filling station. Although the 19-year-old clerk cooperated and handed over the sixty dollars in the register, the three robbers knifed him nineteen times, stuffed his body into a garbage can and one commented, “That’s just one more dead [racial slur deleted].” One of those three criminal geniuses was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Fortunately for him, he committed his crime in Massachusetts and was eligible for a weekend furlough program. In 1988, he decided not to return. A few months later, he was apprehended in Maryland, after having repeatedly raped a woman and bound, gagged and knifed her fiancé. To this day, he claims to be innocent of that crime, so I guess it’s just extraordinarily bad luck on his part that when he was arrested, he was driving that woman’s car. That man’s name was Willie Horton.

After being convicted of robbery and aggravated rape, Massachusetts actually asked the state of Maryland to extradite Horton to serve the rest of his original sentence. The judge in Maryland emphatically rejected that notion, stating that he could not take the chance that Mr. Horton would ever be free again.

Now, my esteemed colleague at the bar, if you were the governor of Massachusetts and this situation came to your attention, would you a) fire the head of the furlough program then throw him out a third-story window then declare that you wouldn’t hire him to be second assistant dogcatcher then profusely apologize to the family of the victim or b) declare that the furlough program had been 90% effective and refuse to meet with the grieving family. Governor Michael Dukakis chose b) and now you have a better understanding of why he lost the 1988 Presidential Election. President Nixon once commented of the Watergate scandal, “I gave them a sword. They shoved it in to the hilt and twisted it 180 degrees.” In the Willie Horton case, Governor Dukakis handed his Republican opponents about a dozen complete sets of Ginzu knives. He lost in a landslide.

A great many Americans did not have the confidence that Dukakis had the ability to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. (Some people say that’s the Attorney General; I say that he or she takes orders from the President.)

As might be expected, a great many so-called civil rights activists squeal like stuck pigs that the Republicans’ use of Horton was racist. About the only good thing that I can say about the whole sorry episode is that today, Wille Horton has spent the last 21 years in a maximum-security prison in Maryland and his prospects for release for the next 20 years are extremely unlikely. (Unless he leaves with a tag on his toe, which would suit me just fine.) This, of course, proves that I’m a racist.

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