I am not now and have never been a professional journalist. For a while, however, I was a pretty serious amateur, ending up as News Editor of the Yale Daily News. Back in the day, perhaps because we didn’t know any better, we believed in traditional news gathering and reporting: the “six W’s” — Who, What, Where, When, Why and (W)How Much.
How odd, therefore, to read so much of the coverage of the dust-up over the RNC’s racist ad in the Tennessee Senate race, and to find that the very first “W” is missing.
First, a quick review: The national Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Ken Mehlman proprietor, paid for a rather unsubtle racist ad in the Tennessee Senate race. Like much of the old south, the racist vote is small than it used to be, but still far from negligible, and it seems the GOP’s Nixonian “southern strategy” still lives. Times have changed, though, and rather than accept it, many public figures, including to their credit several (mostly retired) Republicans, balked.
So Mr. Mehlman was asked to explain himself on national TV. His answer was breathtakingly disingenuous. He personally saw nothing wrong with the ad, it’s fair he first said, so what’s the problem? (Today’s spin version, heard no NPR, is more cautious — some of his friends don’t like it and he (now) respects that).
In response to requests that the GOP pull the ad, Mehlman stated that he lacked the power to do so: the ad was an “independent” expenditure by an arms-length body created to act independently of Mehlman’s Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the national GOP, and the local GOP Senate candidate, Robert Corker (who also asked that the ad be removed).
Strangely, no one in the media seems to have asked for the name of the person Mehlman believes is responsible for the ad and presumably would have had the power to pull it. Who is in charge of the independent expenditure unit? Who are these rogue figures who would ignore a call by Mehlman to pull the ad — had one in fact been made (it wasn’t)? Who are these shadowy figures who would run a supposedly supportive ad in the teeth of a call by the local candidate to pull it?
“Who” — the first “W” — is missing. And if we knew who we might know something about just how independent they really are.
And speaking of missing W’s — where’s George W. Bush on all this? Has he condemned this ad? Why not?
UPDATE: See what W’s spokesperson, Tony Snow, had to say, via Media Matters.