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Use of Racist Ad in Tennessee Senate Race: Is Corker's Disavowal for Real or Is It Just Another Example of Rovian "Strategery"?

Reported by Marie Therese - October 25, 2006 -

FOX News persists in its disreputable practice of airing political ads (predominantly those of the GOP) as part of its "news" coverage, thus giving Republican candidates the benefits of national exposure for free. This morning FOX & Friends hosts Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade interviewed Republican senatorial candidate Bob Corker of Tennessee, who is running against Democrat Harold Ford. During a news break, FOX aired a disreputable and controversial ad, created by the Republican National Committee under the guidance of Ken Mehlman. Later, they aired a second ad that showed Harold Ford in a church pew with the words "Parties with Playboy Playmates" splashed across it.** During the Corker interview itself, FOX aired clips of the first ad. *

After the usual political nastiness, the ad ends with an attractive woman winking at the camera and asking Ford to "call me". Harold Ford is African-American and a bachelor. In the ad, the woman is white. The message is blatant and scurrilous - it's an appeal to the residual racism of Tennessee's white voters. It is so bad that even GOP candidate Bob Corker came out against it during today's F&F.

Well, pardon me if I don't jump out of my seat and applaud Mr. Corker's integrity.

One of the tried and true Karl Rove strategies has been allowing certain Republicans the leeway to express their displeasure with the main organization's agenda in order to appease more liberal voters in their home states (cf. Rhode Island). Fully confident in the power of their majority, the GOP has thus permitted a few moderate members to take "principled" positions and even vote against party wishes.

How do we know that this whole thing in Tennessee isn't just another example of this same kind of manipulation?

Here's my take on the "strategery" behind this ad.

The RNC develops an outrageous advertisement and airs it, knowing full well it will give rise to criticism.

This gives the Republican candidate (Bob Corker) an opportunity to disavow the ad, thus achieving two diametrically opposed goals at the same time.

One: Corker's disavowal distances him from the GOP mainstream and shows voters that he is a decent guy, willing to take on his own party. This will appeal to independents.

Two: The ad continues to run, thus reaching into the dark heart of any racists living and voting in Tennessee.

A win-win for the GOP. They pick up some independents while giving the secret sign to any died-in-the-wool racists that they (wink-wink) have no intention of letting that uppity n-word win in Tennessee.

What do you get when you blend strategy and treachery?

Republican "strategery"!


* Post changed at 3:25 PM EDT to reflect fact that FOX News aired the complete ad during a news break. - MT

** Post changed again at 5:50 PM EDT to reflect that FOX showed the Playmates ad as well. - MT