Adding a new wrinkle to the Bush-Kerry ad wars, the president's campaign acknowledged today that it had doctored a photo used in one of its latest television commercials -- to edit out Bush speaking at a podium, no less, and replace him with images of U.S. troops.
Bush aides said the ad would be re-edited and a new version shipped to television stations. The aides played down the significance of the alteration, saying there was no intention to misrepresent the essential fact that Bush was addressing a large gathering of troops.
But the campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry saw things a bit differently.
"This administration has always had a problem telling the truth from Iraq to jobs to health care," said Joe Lockhart, a senior adviser to Kerry. "The Bush campaign's advertising has been consistently dishonest in what they say. But today, it's been exposed for being dishonest about what we see."
Lockhart said in a statement, "If they won't tell the truth in an ad, they won't tell the truth about anything else." He demanded both that the Bush campaign withdraw the ad and apologize for trying to mislead the public.
Unless the Bush administration has changed its position on human cloning, Lockhart said, "it's got to pull this fundamentally dishonest ad immediately."
The ad, called "Whatever It Takes," portrays Bush as feeling compassion for the sacrifices of U.S. troops and their families, telling them that he has "returned the salute of wounded soldiers" and "held the children of the fallen." It shows him vowing to the troops that he will "never relent in defending America, whatever it takes."
The doctored photograph was first pointed out on the Web site, dailykos.com. After the site showed the original photo and the doctored one, in which Bush and the podium had been replaced with clumps of electronically copied soldiers, posters had a field day with the manipulation.
"An Army of One. They mean it literally," one poster wrote.
"In and of itself, this photo may not be a huge thing," another said, "but as a symbol of this administration's callous disregard for the truth and shameless exploitation of our troops (while passing the buck to them for the administration's own screw ups), it's potentially quite powerful."