Update: Mehlman Says If You Want Accountability, Change the Law

RNC party chairman Ken Mehlman appeared on Face the Nation on Sunday where Bob Schieffer questioned his values for benefiting from the ad that ran against Harold Ford in Tennessee while disclaiming any responsibility for it – especially when he initially defended the ad as “fair” only to now claim that he would not have put it up. 

Mehlman’s reasoning prompted Schieffer to characterize his responses as, well, “pretty lame.”


[Click here to watch the video]

“CBS’S BOB SCHIEFFER: Why is the Republican National Committee spending its money on an ad down in Tennessee, the purpose of it seems to be to suggest that the Democratic candidate Harold Ford is an African-American?

RNC CHAIRMAN KEN MEHLMAN: The ad that you’re talking about is an ad that is being run independently of the Republican National Committee.

SCHIEFFER: Just a minute, let’s run the end of the ad, let’s hear what it say.

[Woman’s voice: “The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.”]


MEHLMAN: The way that the law works, unfortunately it’s a law that I think ought to be changed, and by the way it’s a law on which people on both sides of the campaign reform think ought to be changed, is that if I talk like I do [on a] regular, regular basis to candidates like Mr. [Republican Senate candidate Bob] Corker then the TV ads that are run beyond a very small limit are run independently of me. This ad is down, I’m please the ad is down, and I’m pleased that the focus of that campaign is now about questions like…

SCHIEFFER: But you paid for it.

MEHLMAN: I’ve talked to Senator McCain and to Senator McConnell, both of whom have been on different sides of the campaign reform issue. Both agree that a law which says the Republican National Committee pays for the ad, but it’s also illegal for the Chairman of the RNC, for the political director of the RNC, or the communications director of the RNC…

SCHIEFFER: But, but Mr. Mehlman, the logic… if I think something is wrong but I take advantage of a law that allows me to take advantage of that, I mean, that’s pretty lame, if I may say so.

MEHLMAN: My response to that ad is the same response Mr. Ford had from a race perspective. I would not have put the ad up. I did not think that it was necessarily a racist ad, at the same time…I’m glad its down

SCHIEFFER: But you approved of it.

MEHLMAN: I did not approve it.

SCHIEFFER: You said you thought it was “fair.” You’re on the record saying that.

MEHLMAN: Well I thought some of the issues raised in that ad, the issue of taxes, I think those are fair issues, on the other hand I personally would not have put that ad up.

SCHIEFFER: But what does that say, you talk about “values” and stuff, that you’re taking advantage of an ad when you know what it says is wrong and you admit that it ought not to be that way but you’re willing to take advantage of it.

MEHLMAN: “One thing it says to me is that the law needs to be changed….if people favor accountability in the system, if people want there to be accountability then [the law ought to be changed]…”

SCHIEFFER: But in the meantime, you are going to take advantage of it…

MEHLMAN: The ad is down, I am glad the ad is down….

SCHIEFFER: What difference does it make, you’ve made the point you wanted to make…