AD WATCH | Evaluating the accuracy of political advertising
Scoring Points Over Vietnam
Sponsor: MoveOn PAC
Images: John Kerry in Vietnam; patrol boat on a jungle river; a uniformed man stamping a "G.W. Bush" folder "priority"; George Bush in National Guard uniform; a form stamped "failure to appear"; a locker labeled "G.W. Bush."
Markets: CNN in New York and Washington, Fox News nationally
Producer: Zimmerman & Markman
Time: 60 seconds
Audio: It is said of war that it sometimes brings out the best in a man. And sometimes, the very worst.
Two men. The first went to Vietnam. A lieutenant. In a boat riding up the Mekong River. An ambush. Nowhere to hide. A harrowing escape. Then the more harrowing realization that one man was left, wounded in the water. The lieutenant chose to go back, through the gunfire, because he couldn't leave even one man behind.
The second man sailed to the top of a list, on his father's name, was trained as a pilot, but failed to show up for a required physical. He was grounded, wasn't seen for months, and then was released eight months early to go to Harvard Business School.
This election is about character. It's between John Kerry, who left no man behind, and George W. Bush, who simply left.
Analysis: With just a $115,000 buy, this ad by the liberal advocacy group supporting Kerry will not reach most voters. But it starkly contrasts the Vietnam records of the president and his challenger in a factual, if openly partisan, way.
Kerry won a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his 1969 rescue of James Rassmann, who had fallen off Kerry's swift boat in Vietnam. Kerry, whose arm was bleeding, ordered his mine-damaged boat to speed several hundred yards under enemy fire and pulled Rassmann out of the water.
Bush, whose father was then a Republican Texas congressman, apparently received preferential treatment in 1968 when he got a spot in a coveted unit in the Texas National Guard. He was grounded after missing a required physical — the White House says he skipped it because he was planning to stop flying — and received an early discharge to go to business school. The president has maintained that he fulfilled his duties after transferring to an Alabama Guard base, but there is no definitive documentation, other than a dental exam, to establish his presence at the base for about a year.
As with most advertising, MoveOn highlights the facts most favorable to its case. The spot deals with Kerry's war exploits but not his controversial statements and returning of his award ribbons after Vietnam. Similarly, it deals with a gap in Bush's Guard record but not the risks of his decision to fly fighter jets. And the ad's accuracy is undercut by fake reenactments, such as the stamping of Bush files with "priority" and "failure to appear."
— Howard Kurtz
© 2004 The Washington Post Company