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Ad Watch

Bush Returns Fire on Medicare

Candidate: President Bush

Images: Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.)on a video monitor; the camera zooms in on the monitor as the ad’s text rolls by; a second monitor emerges from the first, showing mirror images of Kerry

Time: 30 seconds



Audio: John Kerry, attacking the president on Medicare. But it was Senator Kerry who voted five times to raise Medicare premiums. Kerry voted to require premium increases, calling passage of the bill "a day of vindication."

The same John Kerry who was absent for 36 of 38 Medicare votes last year, even one giving seniors prescription drug coverage. John Kerry—he actually voted for higher Medicare premiums before he came out against them.

Analysis: The ad makes it sound as if Kerry were praising a hike in Medicare premiums, which is misleading. He was hailing passage of the 1997 balanced-budget law, a bipartisan measure that passed the Senate 85 to 15 and, while cutting domestic programs, succeeded in wiping out the budget deficit. The other votes, which are accurately cited, also involved larger budgetary bills that contained cuts in Medicare and other programs to reduce government deficits.

Kerry missed the votes cited last year because he was spending most of his time running for president, a common situation for lawmakers seeking the White House. Kerry opposed Bush’s Medicare prescription drug bill as a giveaway to insurance companies and flew to Washington in November to join a Democratic filibuster against it. His aides say he resumed campaigning when it became clear the measure would pass.

The ad’s last line is a play on Kerry’s convoluted explanation about a funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan—"I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it"—to paint him as a flip-flopper. There is no evidence that Kerry changed his position as a strong Medicare backer, although he has supported some cutbacks because of budgetary pressures.

— Howard Kurtz


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