Political junkies under 30 might not be so familiar with Willie Horton, the murderer who stabbed a gas station attendant like a pin cushion. He became a major issue in the 1988 presidential race when supporters of George H.W. Bush noted that under Gov. Michael Dukakis, Horton was let out of jail on weekend furloughs, and on one, he abducted and raped a woman in Maryland.
Ever since then, liberal reporters have pounded those TV ads as the depths of Republican race-baiting. Some still do. The May 10 edition of Newsweek brings that agenda to the Arizona immigration law, with an item headlined "A 'Willie Horton' replay in Arizona?"
Reporter Mark Hosenball relayed the news that Arizona may want to deport aliens, but sources inside the Department of Homeland Security say they won't get much help from Team Obama. The only danger is the race-baiting potential if the alien is a criminal:
Critics say the catch-and-release approach could have severe political consequences: if an alien freed by the feds subsequently commits a terrible crime, Obama's opponents will replay the "Willie Horton" tactics used to sink Michael Dukakis. But the president has time on his side: with civil-rights groups lining up to sue Arizona, the law could be bogged down in court for years to come.
Left unasked by Newsweek: if you were the woman raped by Willie Horton in Maryland, wouldn't you feel that Gov. Dukakis made your assault possible by letting the murderers out for the weekend? This hasn't just been a cheesy campaign issue: it's a real matter of public safety. If an illegal alien commits violent crime, and the Obama administration is soft on it, how is that not a real issue?
Hosenball comforted the liberal readership of Newsweek that Obama administration officials "already signaled to Arizona police that it will most likely detain and deport only violent criminals. Everyone else will get a written notice requesting that they appear for a future hearing—warnings that some immigration officers call 'run letters' because recipients so rarely show up."