Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater story explores life of the “Machiavellian godfather” of politics

If you can take any more political television after nine months of non-stop campaign coverage, Frontline presents a documentary tonight about a legendary political operative who helped to define politics as we know it.

Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, which debuts at 9 p.m. ET tongiht, explores the life of Atwater, who PBS describes as “the charming, Machiavellian godfather of modern take-no-prisoners Republican political campaigns.” He “mentored Karl Rove and George W. Bush, led the GOP to historic victories, and wrote the party’s winning playbook.” The hour-and-a-half long film was directed by Stefan Forbes, and follows Atwater’s life in politics from South Carolina elections to the White House (he died in 1991).

Journalist Howard Fineman says in a press release that “Atwater made himself a figure of demonology to psych out his opponents and anesthetize people to his tactics. And the sad part, some people would say, the justified part, was that the role that he made for himself literally ended up imprisoning him.” And commentator Mary Matalin says that his critics “had to kill the messenger because they couldn’t kill the message. They had to turn him into the boogie man–Satan incarnate.”

Here’s a preview of PBS’ profile:

Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story [PBS]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.