Horton's ghost haunts GOP field was the headline I saw in Politico's Twitter feed about the problem some GOP governors—like Mitt Romney, former Governor of the People's Republic Of Massachusetts—may face if they turn out to have pardoned or paroled vicious killers who managed to kill again, as Michael Dukakis did with Willie Horton. That's still the headline on the website of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, but not on Politico.com, where the headline has been changed to GOP governors could face pardon issue in 2012 campaign.
Why was it changed? Well, I assume some Politico editor figured that the expression "Horton's Ghost" was inappropriate—Horton, as Chesterton might have said, has no grave as yet—he's alive and well in a Maryland penitentiary, and will be 60 next birthday.
The reason that Politico says it will haunt GOP governors (Romney, Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Mitch Daniels) rather than Democrats like Dukakis, or Deval Patrick is that no Democrat Governors will be seeking the Presidency in 2012—that would be racist.
But Politico is treating the Horton furlough as if it was something that just happened, and could happen to any governor, by pure random chance.
Massachusetts in the 80's had a "furlough" program which allowed murderers to leave the prison and mingle with the public. It resulted in a home invasion and rape in 1987 by a man—Willie Horton—who was supposed to be doing life without since his savage murder of white teenager Joey Fournier in 1974.
Dukakis let Horton and other lifers out on principle. He's a liberal. He defended the program. I did a column on this in 2006, in which I wrote that
"But in the end, the political issue in the Horton case was not anger at a "black rapist" to use liberal reporter David Gregory's phrase-after all, Massachusetts cops and courts had dealt with him, giving him life without parole.
While it's possible that a GOP Governor, misled by his advisers, has pardoned someone who went on to kill again, it's still Obama's party that is fighting—sometimes from liberal principles and sometimes from racial solidarity—what Arch Puddington called in the May 1999 Commentary The War On The War On Crime.
And the ghost that haunts them isn't Horton's, but that of Joey Fournier, and thousands of other crime victims.