Lee Atwater, who apologizes in the latest issue of Life magazine for some of his nastier campaign tactics, underwent surgery Monday to remove dead tissue on his brain tumor.
Atwater, the 39-year-old outgoing Republican National Committee chairman, is suffering from a brain tumor, which was diagnosed in March 1990. In April, he had radioactive pellets implanted in his brain. The surgery at George Washington University Hospital, called debulking, is intended to remove dead tumor tissue.Leslie Goodman, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, said the procedure was "fairly routine" for patients with Atwater's type of tumor.
The Life article is a poignant, reflective piece that marks the first time the often feisty campaign strategist publicly apologizes for some of his more brazen tactics.
Atwater discusses a change of heart for an incident that occurred while managing a 1980 Republican congressional campaign in South Carolina and for tactics employed when he managed George Bush's 1988 presidential campaign.
"In 1980, while running a congressional campaign against South Carolina Democrat Tom Turnispeed, I reacted to charges that I had exposed Turnispeed's history of electroshock therapy treatments by saying, `I'm not going to respond to allegations made by someone who was hooked up to jumper cables.' An apology to Turnispeed was among the conciliatory notes I wrote last summer," Atwater said.
"In 1988, fighting (Democrat Michael) Dukakis," Atwater continued, "I said that I `would strip the bark off the little bastard' and `make Willie Horton his running mate.' I am sorry for both statements: The first for its naked cruelty; the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not. Mostly, I am sorry for the way I thought of other people. Like a good general, I had treated everyone who wasn't with me as against me."
Horton, a black man convicted of murder, raped a Maryland woman while on a furlough from a Massachusetts prison.
Goodman of the RNC, tried to explain Atwater's more gentle side.
"Anybody who has had to face his own mortality has to go through a whole range of emotions," she said. "He has had time to reflect on his life more than others."