New Bush Ad Touts Economy, Jobs
President Portrayed as an Optimist, Kerry as a Pessimist
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 5, 2004; Page A04
President Bush's campaign tried to capitalize on yesterday's robust job statistics by announcing a new television ad that seeks to paint him as an optimist leading a burgeoning recovery. The ad, called "Pessimism," portrays Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) as a naysayer drawing parallels to the Great Depression.
In an echo of the "morning in America" theme used by President Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign in 1984, Bush aides have tried to set up optimism-pessimism as an enduring contrast in the campaign that they try to apply to both Kerry's policies and his disposition.
Two and a half hours after the Labor Department reported that employers added 248,000 jobs to their payrolls in May, the Bush-Cheney campaign released an ad that begins with a clip of the president saying, "I'm optimistic about America because I believe in the people of America."
Over soothing violins and determined piano chords, a male narrator recounts positive economic statistics, including record homeownership; low inflation, interest and mortgage rates; and the new figure of "1.4 million jobs added since August."
"John Kerry's response? He's talking about the Great Depression," the narrator says. "One thing's sure: Pessimism never created a job."
The ad does not mention that the economy has still lost a net of 1.3 million jobs since Bush took office. Campaign officials said the "Great Depression" accusation was a reference to such Kerry statements as his declaration at a rally in Detroit in March that "America cannot afford four more years of a president who is the first to lose jobs since Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression."
A Kerry campaign statement released just before Bush's ad said the nation "is still in the worst job recovery since the Great Depression." Later, Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter said the ad "just demonstrates how out of touch George Bush really is" and that Kerry would solve problems that Bush "can't even see."
"Bush thinks it's good news that middle-class families are making $1,500 less than they were four years ago, are being crushed by escalating health care costs and are struggling to send their kids to college," Cutter said in a statement.
Bush's campaign had taped about six versions of the narration with various figures for the number of jobs created so that the final ad could be beamed to a satellite within hours of the government report.
The ad will begin airing Monday on cable networks, while broadcast stations in target states continue to run Bush's ad accusing Kerry of "playing politics with national security" and criticizing the use of the USA Patriot Act, which gives broad anti-terrorism powers to law enforcement, after he was "pressured by fellow liberals." The jobs ad could move to over-the-air stations in swing states after the Patriot Act ad completes its scheduled cycle, officials said.
On a conference call announcing the ad, Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman said Kerry's slogan should be "No, America Can't," a play on the "Yes, America Can" theme of Bush's bus trip through the Midwest last month.
But an obstacle facing the Bush campaign was clear when a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer asked the officials on the call how their message might play in a place like northeast Ohio, which is still coping with factory closing and workforce cutbacks.
Matthew Dowd, the campaign's chief strategist, acknowledged that some places are doing better than others. "In the end, when the choice is between somebody that's optimistic and somebody that's pessimistic, regardless of the economic situation in that county or that state, voters always go to the optimistic leader," Dowd said.
While Bush spends most of next week in Sea Island, Ga., at the economic summit of the Group of Eight industrialized democracies, both presidential campaigns plan an economic focus. Vice President Cheney will make appearances touting the recovery. Kerry's events will focus on what he calls the squeeze on the middle class, as families find they have less time to spend with their children as they have to earn more to pay for health care and education.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company