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Not really a great model


Among Monday's other political weirdness was a brand-new web ad from the Republican National Committee, condemning Tim Kaine for doing this horrible thing years ago: he served as a defense attorney for several bad criminals, helping them get a fair trial just like the U.S. Constitution requires. Shocking! But they were bad people, so in taking their cases, clearly Kaine had to be in favor of their crimes, right? Worse, he tried to keep murdery people from being put to death, surely a terrible thing for a devout Roman Catholic to do. As pure scary criminals will kill us all propaganda, it does a fairly artful job of reframing Tim Kaine, the Universal Stepdad, as a minion of Satan:

 

It's pretty vile stuff, so of course the RNC was very, VERY proud of it. In fact, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer was so impressed with it that he tweeted out a link to a Roll Call article noting how much it resembled its model, the 1988 ad linking Michael Dukakis to the very scary, very black murderer Willie Horton. You know, the ad that was so over the top racist that even Lee Atwater later said it was too much. Here's Spicer's tweet, which was deleted after a couple hours:

The RNC also tweeted out that awesome Roll Call link, too -- and also deleted it later:

Needless to say, this didn't go over so great, since you'd think the RNC would know better than to brag about how their pre-VP debate ad resembled one of the most notorious political ads, ever.

After deleting his Tweet, Spicer GOPslained that the real idiots were all the readers and media idiots who thought he was comparing the "Tim Kaine Hearts Murderers" ad to the Willie Horton ad, in his tweet which explicitly compared the "Tim Kaine Hearts Murderers" ad to the Willie Horton ad:

While we don't want to get into the habit of making excuses for shitty social media mistakes by Republicans, Spicer does in fact have half a point: the text of the tweets wasn't "written" by him or by the RNC -- it was automatically generated when he hit the "Tweet" link on the Roll Call article.

But here's the thing, Mr. Spicer: you actually futzed with the text enough that you got @timkaine's twitter handle in there. That you didn't change the rest, on the thing which went out with your name, is on you. Especially since tweeting the article itself reflects a certain pride in the craftsmanship of that shitty, shitty ad, which truly does attempt to turn the job of defense attorneys into a slur on Tim Kaine's character. Which is particularly unfair, given that the Roll Call piece addresses the very question of how a practicing Catholic deals with capital punishment, which Pope Francis wants to abolish.

While numerous executions took place on his watch as Virginia governor, Kaine had come up as a defense attorney working to keep people convicted of capital offenses from facing the death penalty.

"The hardest thing about being a governor was dealing with the death penalty," Kaine told the National Catholic Reporter in August. "I hope on Judgment Day that there's both understanding and mercy, because it was tough."

Roll Call also fact-checks the ad, noting that, yes, Kaine did indeed commute the death sentence of Percy Levar Walton in 2008, and Walton did indeed murder three people just like the ad says. Oh, but one other thing:

In a statement released with the commutation, Kaine said that the commutation of Walton's sentence was due to his lack of mental competence, despite court rulings indicating the sentence could be carried out.

"I am again compelled to find that one cannot reasonably conclude that Walton is fully aware of the punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it," Kaine said. "Given the extended period of time over which Walton has exhibited this lack of mental competence, I must conclude that a commutation of his sentence to life in prison without possibility of parole is now the only constitutionally appropriate course of action."

Pfft, mental competence. Mercy. America is a Christian nation, and we demand blood, just like Jesus did.

We'll give the RNC a teensy bit of credit for its updated take on the Willie Horton strategy: several of the parade of horribles featured in the ad are white, so maybe Spicer could have bragged about how Republicans have learned their lesson. His Tweet could have said, "GOP Touts Diversity Of Terrifying Murderers In New Crime Panic Ad."

[RNC on Twitter / Roll Call / NBC News / Salon]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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