Is It Civil To Suggest Bush Is a Killer?

- In 1988 (and 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992), the media slammed George H. W. Bush for suggesting (or gaining from independent ads declaring) that Michael Dukakis released a convicted murderer on a furlough program who traveled to Maryland and raped a woman. Willie Horton became famous not for his crimes, but as a symbol of Republican nastiness and race-baiting.

- But the media silence so far is deafening over the new ad campaign by the NAACP (see box). Over black and white video of a truck dragging a chain, James Byrd's daughter suggests George W. Bush killed her father all over again. Floyd Brown's media-pulverized 1988 ad never found the family of Horton's murder victim and said when Dukakis released him for the weekend, it was like Dukakis was stabbing him all over again.

- Fox News Channel has reported and shown the ad. CNN substitute Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson asked Sen. Bob Kerrey last night if Gore should denounce the ad or ask it to be discontinued. Kerrey said: "I'll say it's racially divisive and offensive and take it off the's apt to actually be counterproductive. I can't imagine it's going to persuade very many people."

- But the media's civility referees and race-card cops let liberal black leaders say whatever they want without fear of controversy. On Tuesday night, BET talk show host Tavis Smiley talked about the death penalty on CNBC's Rivera Live: "As far as I'm concerned, Bush in Texas is nothing more than a serial killer."

- Over the years, The Washington Times has spotlighted the intemperate remarks of NAACP leader Julian Bond: In 1997, he told CNN he "wholeheartedly believes" Camille Cosby's charge that "America taught our son's [Ukrainian] killer to hate African-Americans." Bond said in the Reagan years, Republicans were "a crazed swarm of right-wing locusts" waging an "assault on the rule of law."

- The NAACP's candidate, Al Gore, tells black audiences about Republicans: "They use colorblind the way duck hunters use their duck blind. They hide behind it and hope the ducks won't figure out what they're up to." (On today's Good Morning America, ABC's Charles Gibson didn't ask Gore about the NAACP.)

- Two years ago, the Missouri Democratic Party ran this radio ad: "When you don't vote, you let another church explode. When you don't vote, you allow another cross to burn. When you don't vote, you let another assault wound a brother or sister. When you don't vote, you let the Republicans continue to cut school lunches and Head Start." Only Fox reported on that ad.

- But on September 20, 2000, CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer warned a Missouri commercial "has led to charges tonight that racist tactics are being used in an effort to sway voters to vote Republican." The ad featured a woman worrying about her son running with the wrong crowd: "That was a bit more diversity than he could handle." Reporter Bill Whitaker relayed: "A disparaging remark about diversity. Democrats call it 'race-baiting.'" He concluded with 1988: "And ugly or not, they can work. The controversial Willie Horton ad by an outside group helped George W. Bush's father win the presidency by painting Michael Dukakis as soft on crime." If the media were fair, they'd show the NAACP ad for the next 12 years for balance.