A Peek Behind the Curtain of Republican Smears
Ever wonder why the lies about Obama being a Muslim terrorist pedophile-loving pledge hater are still ending up in your e-mail in-box? The short answer is that lying smears work, but here’s a more complete answer.
We talk about Karl Rove’s playbook, but Rove’s playbook is Lee Atwater’s playbook. The man is dead, but his hatchet politics are alive and well at this very moment and the subject of a new movie by Stefan Forbes, from Entertainment Weekly.
Stefan Forbes is the director of a new documentary called Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, a fascinating, funny, and deeply disturbing portrait of the controversial Republican operative who perfected the art of politics as blood sport. The film arrives in theaters this weekend riding a wave of critical praise.
Here are some snippets from an interview with Forbes about Atwater, and whether you are a Dem or Repub, if they don’t make you shudder, I don’t know what will.
In the film, the 1970s are described as “the decade that the Democrats slept.” This line really struck me.
Southern Democrats like Fritz Hollings and Lloyd Bentsen understood politics as a blood sport. They could have prevented their party from losing the flag, God, and working people to strategists like Atwater. It’s kind of hard to become President of the United States when people think you’re against God and the flag—you might be able to do it in Sweden. But guys like Hollings and Bentsen were marginalized by Inside-The-Beltway Democratic leaders who stood by as Atwater turned the party of FDR and Kennedy into the party of arugula. Atwater was so skillful, he even turned vegetables against the Democrats!
Atwater then worked on Ronald Reagan’s campaign.
I was amazed to learn how close Reagan came to getting beaten in the 1980 primary. South Carolina was a must-win state, and the smart money had John Connally—who’d spent heavily and had Strom [Thurmond] on his side—whupping him there. But Atwater saved Reagan by planting rumors that Connally was bribing black preachers. Connally spent $10 million and only got one delegate. It’s stunning to imagine American history if Reagan had lost that primary.
What would Lee Atwater do if he were advising John McCain today?
He is advising McCain today! They’ve taken Atwater’s playbook farther than he ever would have. You can see the Atwater influence at work in Tucker Eskew, Lee’s former intern who ran W’s war room in the 2000 election and was Global Communications Director for the White House during the selling of the Iraq war. He’s absolutely brilliant, and he’s now a senior adviser to the McCain/Palin campaign, traveling with Sarah Palin.
Next time someone sends YOU an e-mail lie they’ve been convinced is the truth, you might want to refer them to the full interview here (it’s totally enlightening), or the film which will be in wide release this month.
For the record, I think Obama’s campaign managers, The Davids, Axelrod and Plouffe, will be studied in years to come the way Atwater is now, thankfully, with much less depressing cynicism.