AD WATCH | Evaluating the Accuracy of Political Advertising
A Bush Grenade on Defense Spending
Candidate: President Bush
Images: Soldiers advancing on a desolate battlefield; tanks, missiles and fighter planes disappearing one at a time.
Producer: Maverick Media
Time: 30 seconds
Audio: As our troops defend America in the war on terror, they must have what it takes to win. Yet John Kerry has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror: Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Patriot missiles, B-2 stealth bombers, F-18 fighter jets and more.
Kerry even voted against body armor for our troops on the front line of the war on terror. John Kerry's record on national security: troubling.
Analysis: While the votes cited are accurate, the Kerry campaign says the senator voted for every one of those weapons systems – and 76 more – at other times, or more than $4.4 trillion in military spending. Kerry aides note that Vice President Cheney, while defense secretary in the George H.W. Bush administration, proposed a long list of weapons cutbacks, including elimination of the Apache helicopter now being used in Iraq.
That began a period, as the Cold War was ending, in which both parties sought to trim defense spending, and most of the Kerry votes in the ad are from those years. But Bush aides point out that some of the votes are from the 1980s, when the struggle with the Soviet Union was at its peak.
Kerry never voted specifically against body armor and had criticized the president for sending about 40,000 troops to Iraq without the new generation of sophisticated armor. Body armor was contained in Bush's $87 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan, which the senator opposed as a protest against the administration's Iraq policy. (He earlier supported the $87 billion – the subject of another attack ad – if Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy were dropped.)
The ad keeps stressing the "war on terror," though many Democrats say the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism and the administration has never proven a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Local versions mention that some weapons are built in such states as Ohio, Michigan, Florida and Maine. The spot is part of a sustained campaign to erase the image of Kerry the Vietnam warrior and replace it with that of a soft-on-terror lawmaker.
– Howard Kurtz
© 2004 The Washington Post Company