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Pro-Bush TV Spot Invokes Reagan

THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

The ad, which targets Kerry, is the first to use the late president's image. Its broadcast was delayed at the request of the former first lady.

June 17, 2004|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The year's first televised political advertisement to use an image of Ronald Reagan in promoting President Bush and attacking John F. Kerry is scheduled to run next week after a delay of a few days sought by the late president's widow, the ad's sponsor said Wednesday.

The Club for Growth, a conservative group that operates independently of Bush's reelection campaign, had planned to begin broadcasting its commercial as early as Wednesday -- just days after Reagan's burial. But that proved too soon for Nancy Reagan, said Stephen Moore, president of the group.

He said a family representative told him that Mrs. Reagan wanted that broadcast postponed. So the group delayed its release until Monday.

"Obviously, we don't want to cause any grief or embarrassment," Moore said. He added that the Reagan family did not object to the content of the ad.

The ad, a copy of which has been posted on the group's website, compares Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, unfavorably to Reagan and Bush, using footage and quotes from all three.

It shows a young Kerry, who fought in Vietnam as a naval officer, testifying before a Senate committee in 1971 against U.S. involvement there. "We cannot fight communism all over the world, and I think we should have learned that lesson by now," the presumed Democratic presidential nominee says.

A clip is then shown of Reagan speaking in front of the Berlin Wall in 1987, with his famous exhortation to the leader of the Soviet Union: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Next comes a clip of Bush at the site of the World Trade Center after the 2001 terrorist attacks. After firefighters and search crews chant, "USA! USA! USA!" Bush says through a bullhorn: "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked down these buildings will hear from you soon."

The ad closes with an image of Kerry and text reading: "John Kerry: Wrong then, wrong now."

The Club for Growth is spending $500,000 to run the ad on national cable news channels and in local markets in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, three closely contested states in the Bush-Kerry race. Democrat Al Gore carried all three in the 2000 election.

The Kerry campaign questioned the ad's appropriateness. "This is no way to honor Ronald Reagan's legacy," said spokesman Phil Singer. "Out of respect for the former president and his family, the president's surrogates should take down this ad."

Singer added: "Time and time again, President Bush has disregarded the Reagan legacy by dividing the nation and putting ideology before bipartisanship."

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the president's strategists had no role in producing the ad.

In comments after Reagan's death, many Republicans depicted Bush as the heir to Reagan's conservative mantle. But Bush campaign officials have not signaled any intention of running advertisements with Reagan's image.

In another development, a Bush campaign official said Wednesday that the president's advertising effort would pause briefly for the first time since it began in early March. The campaign had previously said it might not run ads continuously through the November election.

The official said the break, starting in about a week, would last a matter of "days, not weeks."

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