Operation Dig

No one relished the cut and thrust of negative campaigning more than the late Lee Atwater, who applied to politics the ancient military maxim: Know yourself, and know your enemy. As manager of George Bush's 1988 campaign, Atwater emphasized the role of what he called the "35 excellent nerds" in his Opposition Research, or "Oppo," unit. They pored through the political record of Michael Dukakis and dug up the emotional issues -- the Pledge of Allegiance, Willie Horton -- with which Bush battered his rival.

Ever since, the term Oppo has conjured to many Democrats sinister images of muckraking and distortion....

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