WASHINGTON — The Democratic Party questions President Bush’s credibility on Iraq and the economy in a new campaign ad that shows the Republican on an aircraft carrier declaring an end to major combat under a “Mission Accomplished” banner.
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“How can you solve problems when you won’t even admit they’re there?” the ad asks.
The commercial, to start running this week, is the first of the general election by the national parties or the presidential campaigns to show Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. In the ad, Bush is shown saying: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. The United States and our allies have prevailed.”
With Bush in a flight suit hugging Navy pilots, the ad then says that since the president made that declaration, “867 more American soldiers have been killed in Iraq” and the war has cost “$100 billion.”
Switching to the other top issue in the presidential campaign, Bush then is shown saying “the economy is strong. The economy is getting better.” Newspaper headlines tell a different story: “Sharp rise in poverty reported,” “Record 45 million people lack coverage.” “The Gap in Wages is Growing Again for U.S. Workers.”
The ad is the latest effort by the party to question Bush’s character. Presidential challenger John Kerry’s campaign, recently reshuffled to include former advisers to President Clinton, has polls and focus groups suggesting that the Democrat can’t win unless he undermines Bush’s credibility.
In that effort, Kerry’s campaign also rolled out an ad Thursday challenging Bush’s depiction of Kerry’s health care plan as government controlled. “George Bush’s health care attack against John Kerry: Not true,” Kerry’s ad says.
Bush’s campaign criticized Democrats for “fundamentally misleading” voters through the ads.
“John Kerry’s campaign is continuing with its strategy of trying to tear down the president’s record because it can’t run on John Kerry’s 20 year-record in the Senate or John Kerry’s vision for the future because it’s out of the mainstream,” said Steve Schmidt, a Bush campaign spokesman.
He added that the Iraq mission was indeed accomplished for the troops aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Ellen Moran, who heads up the Democratic National Committee’s independent expenditure office, said voters know Bush made mistakes yet he won’t own up to them. “Clearly he was unprepared. Clearly he made a mistake and he needs to be held accountable,” she said of Iraq.
Her office, which can’t coordinate with Kerry’s campaign, is spending about $6.5 million over the next week to run ads on national cable networks and in 16 battleground states, including New Mexico. The DNC is going back on the air there after a weeklong hiatus.
Kerry ran a commercial last November in Iowa and New Hampshire during the Democratic primary that featured clips of Bush aboard the aircraft carrier. In that ad, Kerry was portrayed as the only Democrat who could challenge the commander in chief.
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