Friday, October 27, 2006

Compounding a Political Outrage - New York Times

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The sleazy way in which campaigns and the political parties use loopholes in the campaign finance laws to evade responsibility for their attack ads is on full display in the Tennessee Senate race. Slick as a leer, pernicious as a virus, a campaign commercial transparently honed as a racist appeal to Tennessee voters has remained on the air, despite assurances from Republican sponsors that it was pulled down.

The ad is directed at Representative Harold Ford Jr., the Democratic candidate for the Senate, who is African-American. It includes a bare-shouldered white woman claiming to have met the candidate at a Playboy party and signing off with a close-up, whispered come-on: "Harold, call me."

The ad, resonating with the miscegenation taboos of Old South politics, may or may not be the nadir in the low-blow salvos now assailing the nation. But it takes the statuette for political hypocrisy as G.O.P. leaders insist they were hobbled by campaign law from cutting off what is clearly their own handiwork.

"We didn't have anything to do with creating it," insisted Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. All Mr. Mehlman's committee did was finance the ad by way of a supposedly "independent" political shop that serves as a shadow party operation specializing in attack ads on behalf of the Republican candidate, Bob Corker.

Mr. Corker eventually criticized the ad as tacky and not part of his campaign, asking that it be killed. But Republican assurances that it was finally off the air after days of damage have proved untrue, according to news reports. The 30-second fiction continued to air like some monstrous G.O.P. orphan.

Strategists from both political parties use the "independent" route of the campaign law for launching sleaze and disclaiming provenance.

Voters across the nation are hard-pressed to separate wheat from chaff in the whirlwind of political ads. But one of the few keys they have in figuring out who's responsible for something particularly egregious is the tag line required at each commercial's close.

In the anti-Ford ad, viewers transfixed by the blonde's vixenish sign-off may miss the commercial's only truly enlightening statement, tacked on in quick-talk: "The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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