AD WATCH | Evaluating the Accuracy of Political Advertising
Bush Pumps Gasoline Issue
Candidate: President Bush
Images: Like an old-time newsreel, with speeded-up, black-and-white footage
of 1930s cars driving around in a circle; a Chaplin-like figure showing his
empty pockets; a man pushing his out-of-gas car.
Producer: Maverick Media
Time: 30 seconds
Audio: Some people have wacky ideas. Like taxing gasoline more so people
drive less. That's John Kerry. He supported a 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax. If
Kerry's tax increase were law, the average family would pay $657 more a
Raising taxes is a habit of Kerry's. He supported higher gasoline taxes 11
times. Maybe John Kerry just doesn't understand what his ideas mean to the
rest of us.
Analysis: Unlike three previous negative ads, this spot softens its charges
with a mocking tone and funny footage against the "wacky" Kerry.
But it unfairly presents a gas-tax hike as if it were the senator's
current position, when most of the examples are a decade old. Kerry voted
in 1993 for the Clinton economic package, which included a 4.3-cent
increase in the gas tax, and is widely credited with boosting the economy.
He also opposed several Republican efforts to repeal the tax.
Kerry spoke in favor of a 50-cent hike in 1994 as a possible way of
cutting the deficit, but no such proposal came to a vote and he later
changed his mind. His only recent vote was in 2000, when Kerry opposed a
GOP effort to suspend 18 cents in gas taxes for five months.
The ad fails to mention that the president, who promised in 2000 to trim
gas taxes, has never proposed such a cut. Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman
said Kerry last year opposed Bush's energy bill, designed to boost oil
production in part by allowing drilling in Alaska. Kerry spokeswoman
Stephanie Cutter called the measure "a giveaway to the oil companies," and
a Republican-controlled Congress killed it. The Kerry camp dug out a quote
in which Bush's top economic adviser, N. Gregory Mankiw, backed a 50-cent
gas tax in 1999.
In pinning the big-taxer label on Kerry, the ad tries to deflect attention
from the recent surge in gas prices, which could become a political
liability for a president with an oil industry background.
— Howard Kurtz
© 2004 The Washington Post Company