One day before the vice presidential debate, the Republican National Committee released an ad attacking Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine for his time as a criminal defense attorney.
Today, the RNC tweeted a Roll Call story that compares the ad to the Willie Horton ad, which was widely viewed as an example of racist dog whistle politics when it aired in the 1988 presidential campaign. The RNC later deleted its tweet.
“Long before Tim Kaine was in office, he consistently protected the worst kinds of people,” the narrator intones ominously before describing several cases that Kaine worked on when he was a pro bono attorney for defendants in death penalty cases. “Tim Kaine—he has a passion for defending the wrong people,” the narrator says.
When Kaine ran for governor of Virginia in 2005, he faced similar attacks, and Hillary Clinton has also endured criticism for representing a man accused of rape when she worked as a defense attorney in Arkansas.
The fact that the RNC would tout its ad’s similarities with the racist Willie Horton ad is bad enough, but the attack also strikes at the heart of the Sixth Amendment guarantee that in “all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial” and “have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
It seems the RNC believes that people accused of crimes, or at least vicious ones, simply shouldn’t have legal representation and/or that defense attorneys should not zealously represent their clients.
The RNC probably would have put together a great ad attacking John Adams, the lawyer who represented the British soldiers implicated in the Boston Massacre.