From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity
On Tuesday, the Bush campaign held a conference call to discuss its new ad, which charged that Kerry was "pressured by fellow liberals" to oppose wiretaps, subpoena powers and surveillance in the USA Patriot Act. "Kerry would now repeal the Patriot Act's use of these tools against terrorists," the ad said.
Kerry has proposed modifying those provisions by mandating tougher judicial controls over wiretaps and subpoenas, but not repealing them. In the conference call, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman was prodded to offer evidence that Kerry was pressured by liberals or that Kerry opposed wiretaps. He offered no direct evidence, saying only that Kerry objected to the Patriot Act after liberals did, and that "a common-sense reading indicates he intends to repeal those important tools."
Meanwhile, Kerry was greeted in Oregon and Washington state with television ads paid for by the Bush campaign that underscore what ad analysts call the negativity and misleading nature of many of the Bush TV spots. One titled "Doublespeak" pulls quotes from several major newspapers to argue that Kerry has waffled on major issues and has often said one thing and done another. The quotes, however, are often from editorials, sometimes from opinion pages hostile toward Kerry, such as that of the Wall Street Journal.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, as Kerry talked about rising gasoline prices, the Bush campaign recycled its charge that Kerry supports raising the gasoline tax by 50 cents per gallon. This was done in a memo to reporters and through Bush surrogates such as Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.). The Bush-Cheney Web site also features a "Kerry Gas Tax Calculator," allowing users to learn "How much more would he cost you?"
In Thursday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Tracey Schmitt, regional spokeswoman for Bush-Cheney '04, echoed the point: "John Kerry helped block the bill in the Senate and is now inserting himself into the debate in a blatant display of political opportunism. Senator Kerry supported higher gas taxes at least 11 times, including a 50-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax," Schmitt said.
On Thursday, after Kerry delivered a major foreign policy address, the Bush campaign dispatched Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to make this statement to the Green Bay Press-Gazette in his home state: "John Kerry has a history of making proposals and casting votes that would decrease America's safety." Kerry was campaigning in Green Bay on Thursday and Friday.
It is true Kerry has voted numerous times to eliminate weapons systems and opposed the 1991 Iraq war. But Cheney voted against many of those same weapons systems, and Kerry has voted for several defense increases, especially in recent years.
At Bush campaign headquarters on Thursday, Mehlman held a conference call with Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and George Allen (R-Va.) to level similar charges. "For John Kerry, the war in Iraq and the overall war on terror are a political game of Twister," Mehlman said.
Mehlman also drew reporters' attention to a new feature on the Bush Web site, allowing visitors to "Track Kerry's Shifting Positions on Iraq." That feature joined a Web log that points out negative coverage of Kerry, a feature called "John Kerry: The Raw Deal," "The Kerry Line," "Kerry Flip Flop of the Day," and "Journeys with John," a Kerry itinerary allowing people to see why "John Kerry is wrong for your state."
On Wednesday, a Bush memo charged that Kerry "led the fight against creating the Department of Homeland Security." While Kerry did vote against the Bush version multiple times, it is not true that he led the fight, but rather was one of several Democrats who held out for different labor agreements as part of its creation. Left unsaid is that, in the final vote, Kerry supported the department -- which Bush initially opposed.
Staff writer Howard Kurtz contributed to this report.
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