President Bush's campaign yesterday accused Sen. John F. Kerry of distorting his own writing in an ad involving terrorism and rolled out a counterattack spot that will hit the airwaves today.
While both ads will be airing only in New Mexico, the rapid response underscores the political sensitivity of the terrorism issue.
The controversy involves a single sentence in the Kerry ad -- "author of a strategy to win the war on terror" -- which shows a picture of the Massachusetts senator's 1997 book, "The New War: The Web of Crime That Threatens America's Security." The book, while mentioning terrorism, deals mainly with efforts to combat global crime, including the Colombian cocaine cartel and the Japanese crime syndicates known as yakuza.
Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt said the Kerry camp "is pointing to this book as an example of John Kerry's farsightedness. It's an incredibly disingenuous claim."
Kerry spokeswoman Chad Clanton responded: "In the nine months before September 11, this president didn't have a single Cabinet-level meeting on terrorism. But four years before September 11, John Kerry wrote a book on the impending threat of international terrorism and how to take it on."
The Bush ad mocks the book, saying: "John Kerry says he's 'author of a strategy to win the war on terror?' . . . against the Japanese yakuza.
"Never mentions al Qaeda. Says nothing about Osama bin Laden. Calls Yasser Arafat a 'statesman.' The New Republic says Kerry's plan 'misses the mark.' And Kerry's focus? Global crime, not terrorism. How can John Kerry win a war if he doesn't know the enemy?"
The Kerry camp cited a 2000 Glamour magazine interview in which candidate Bush silently shook his head when asked to describe the Taliban.