Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Boogieman who almost destroyed America

You don't hear much about him anymore, but you know his work. Lee Atwater, more than any other person, defined the "anything goes" rules in political campaigns that have tainted the country since the mid 80's.

Lee was fundamental in getting Bush Senior elected, was a pal of George Junior and taught Karl Rove his methods. His winner-take-all mentality stopped at nothing to get his candidates elected — racism, fear and outright lies were all in his tool box. He also was a master at tricking people into voting AGAINST their own interests, using faux patriotism and "values issues" to short circuit people's common sense. Ever wonder why a poor farmer in Kansas would vote Republican?

These tools served him and his politicians well, stealing an election for a young Karl Rove (and teaching him how to do it for others), shamelessly destroying Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis (1988), and early targeting of Bill Clinton. Rove continued to use the Atwater playbook to get George W Bush into office by bogging John McCain down in lies about a "black baby" he supposedly was trying to hide.

For those following the McCain/Obama race closely, you saw some of the same race/fear baiting tactics being used to smear Obama. Ironically, McCain knowingly hired yet another disciple of the Atwater/Rove school — Steve Schmidt.

The impact of Atwater and his progeny can't be underestimated. The ability of spin and negative ads to swing voters and create media "echo chambers" (where false stories saturate the news until they are accepted) has been used again and again. It's a triumph for American that the majority of voters have finally caught on in this election and didn't get suckered in again.

An excellent movie has just been released called Boogieman, which traces Atwater's life and political impact. It's hard to find in theaters, but it's playing on PBS's Frontline for free, and also available on DVD. It really helps put the last few elections into context, and explains how we got someone like George Bush into office.

Atwater died slowly of a brain tumor in 1991, but supposedly tried to repent his sins, asking many of those he wronged for forgiveness.

Check out the website for the film here.

Below is Atwater's manipulative masterpiece... burn in hell, spinboy.

Here's a review with some clips:

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