Bush Slams Rivalís Record, Kerry Hits Back
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 14, 2004; Page A06
Candidate: President Bush
Images: Two women and a hand filling out what could be tax forms; a man in a gas mask and an extreme closeup of a furtive man who appears to be Middle Eastern; an elderly man, a female U.N. staffer and a shadowy figure running away.
Producer: Maverick Media
Time: 30 seconds
Audio: A president sets his agenda for America in the first 100 days. John Kerry's plan: To pay for new government spending, raise taxes by at least $900 billion.
On the war on terror: Weaken the Patriot Act used to arrest terrorists and protect America. And he wanted to delay defending America until the United Nations approved. John Kerry: Wrong on taxes. Wrong on defense.
Analysis: In the first attack ad aired by the president, the centerpiece is a Kerry "plan" that doesn't exist. Bush officials were unable to point to a Kerry proposal to boost taxes by $900 billion; that is the 10-year cost of his health care plan, which they assume he will have to finance through higher taxes. Kerry has proposed raising taxes only on those earning $200,000 and up, which would bring in $250 billion.
The assertion that Kerry would "weaken" the Patriot Act is debatable, since he voted for the law and wants to replace it with one that would better protect individual privacy. Kerry has repeatedly chided Bush for rushing to war in Iraq without building support in the United Nations but has never demanded U.N. "approval."
The ad is effective in raising doubts about Kerry on both taxes and terrorism. The use of a female narrator and two female taxpayers could help the president close a gender gap in the polls.
Candidate: Sen. John F. Kerry
Images: Newspaper headlines ("Bush Unveils Negative Ads Vs. Kerry"); Kerry addressing crowd before a giant American flag; newspaper clipping about Kerry; Kerry working; Kerry saluting at flag-bedecked ship.
Producer: Riverfront Media
Time: 30 seconds
Audio: Once again, George Bush is misleading America. John Kerry has never called for a $900 billion dollar tax increase. He wants to cut taxes for the middle class. Doesn't America deserve more from its president than misleading negative ads? John Kerry will crack down on the export of American jobs, get health care costs under control and cut the deficit....John Kerry. A new direction for America.
Analysis: Kerry's spot, while denouncing Bush for negativity, is in part as negative as the president's. Campaign officials acknowledge they need to provide more budget details, but say he supports new health and college-tuition tax breaks for the middle class that would cost roughly $300 billion over 10 years (most of which is included in the cost of his health plan). A Washington Post analysis, however, said Kerry's spending proposals would outstrip his expected revenue by $165 billion.
Kerry aides could not estimate how many jobs would be kept in this country by curtailing certain tax breaks but concede that such efforts would have only a limited impact.
The ad raises doubts about the president's credibility while demonstrating the senator's aggressiveness, although viewers may find it difficult to sort through the charges and countercharges.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company