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Bush Seeks to Portray Kerry as Confused on War

A 30-second television commercial began airing Monday on national cable channels and local broadcasts in Michigan and other contested states.

September 30, 2004|Times staff writer Nick Anderson

Sponsor: President Bush


Bush: "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message."

On-screen text: "John Kerry on the War on Terror."

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts: "It was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the president made the decision I supported him."

Kerry: "I don't believe the president took us to war as he should have."

Kerry: "The winning of the war was brilliant."

Kerry: "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time."

Kerry: "I have always said we may yet even find weapons of mass destruction."

Kerry: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

On-screen text: "How can John Kerry protect us ... when he doesn't even know where he stands?"


The spot opens with two pictures of Bush, one smiling and one with his arm around his wife, Laura. The screen then shifts to footage of Kerry on a television monitor. Clips of the Democrat are shown in rapid-fire succession.


Bush seeks to set the stage for tonight's presidential debate on foreign policy. The ad's premise is that the war on terror, as the president sees it, and the war in Iraq are the same. Many Democrats disagree, calling the Iraq war a diversion from the global hunt for terrorists.

The snippets of Kerry quotes, drawn from various public statements in 2003 and 2004, are selectively edited and strung together in an unflattering way to support Bush's contention that the Democrat has repeatedly changed position on Iraq. But for all his complicated and sometimes long-winded explanations, Kerry has in fact stood firmly behind his October 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force to disarm Iraq. That congressional resolution was not a declaration of war. It left the final decision up to Bush, who launched the invasion in March 2003.

Subsequently, Kerry has criticized Bush's use of the authority Congress granted him, saying the president did not exhaust diplomacy, build a sufficiently large international coalition to support the invasion (with money and troops) or plan for an often-chaotic period of military occupation after the fall of Baghdad. In the ad, Bush omits Kerry quotes that explain these views.

However, the last Kerry quote cited, concerning an $87-billion bill for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, is an effective zinger. Kerry has acknowledged that he stumbled in explaining his opposition to the 2003 funding bill.


Compiled by Times staff writer Nick Anderson


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