Ad Watch: Evaluating the accuracy of political advertising
An Advertising War Over Terrorism
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 24, 2003; Page A6
Candidate: President Bush
Time: 30 seconds
Producer: Crawford Creative, Republican National Committee
Images: President's State of the Union speech
Audio: GEORGE W. BUSH: It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power. [On screen: Some are now attacking the President for attacking the terrorists.] Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? [On screen: Some call for us to retreat, putting our national security in the hands of others.]
Candidate: John F. Kerry
Time: 30 seconds
Producer: Riverfront Media
Images: The RNC ad; "Mission Accomplished" banner; Bush in flight suit
Audio: George Bush's ad says he's being attacked for attacking the terrorists. No, Mr. President, America's united against terror. The problem is you declared "mission accomplished" but you had no plan to win the peace, and handed out billions in contracts to contributors like Halliburton...
KERRY: We can't go it alone in Iraq. We have to share the burden with other countries. We shouldn't be cutting education and closing firehouses in America while we're opening them in Iraq.
Candidate: Howard Dean
Time: 30 seconds
Producer: Trippi, McMahon & Squier
Images: The RNC ad; Dean with veterans, farmers
Audio: He misled the nation about weapons of mass destruction. And we went to war when we shouldn't have. Howard Dean is committed to fighting terrorism and protecting our national security. But Howard Dean opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. He believes it's time we had a foreign policy consistent with American values. And it's time to restore the dignity and respect our country deserves around the world...
DEAN: Our country and our party need new leadership.
Analysis: The Republican ad attempts to marginalize the president's critics through political overstatement, as no one is attacking Bush for attacking the terrorists. Some Democrats opposed the war in Iraq; most have assailed the postwar effort. And many say the president isn't doing enough to safeguard the country against future attacks. But most of the Democratic candidates, including Dean, support keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, as opposed to "retreat."
Kerry also resorts to overstatement in charging that Bush had "no plan" to win the peace. The Pentagon had a plan for postwar Iraq, but in light of mounting American casualties, even the administrationís defenders admit the effort has been sorely inadequate. Halliburton, the conglomerate previously run by Vice President Cheney, has scored major no-bid contracts in Iraq. But while Kerry has argued against a go-it-alone strategy in Iraq, his ads fail to mention that he voted for the war.
Dean, in charging that Bush "misled" the country on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, is suggesting intentional deception by the White House. While the president said things about Saddam Hussein's weapons program that turned out to be untrue -- or remain unproven -- no hard evidence has surfaced that Bush made claims he knew to be false.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company