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Spinning an opponent's statements

A politician's "own words" can be used against him— and it isn't always fair

Sometimes during a political campaign, success depends on your ability to spin your opponent’s position so that you can then chop it in half. It may or may not be fair… but it is a strategy that is on full display in this presidential campaign.

Even this show is being used in the fight.

The latest episode of what you might call “historical revisionism” came last week. President Bush has said, “now, almost two years after he voted for the war in Iraq, about 220 days after switching positions to declare himself the anti-war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance.”

The problem is that John Kerry’s position actually hasn’t changed. And 220 days ago, on Hardball, he did not declare himself the anti-war candidate.

Below is the FULL exchange between Chris Matthews and John Kerry:

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you belong in that category of candidates who more or less are unhappy with this war?  The way it‘s been fought?  Along with General Clark, along with Howard Dean, and not necessarily in companionship politically on the issue of the war with people like Lieberman, Edwards and Gephardt?  Are you one of the anti-war candidates? KERRY:  I am.  Yes.  In the sense that I don‘t believe the president took to us war as he should have, yes.  Absolutely.  Do I think this president violated his promises to America?  Yes, I do, Chris.  Was there a way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable?  You bet there was and we should have done it right.

This is what the RNC-related web video used:

MATTHEWS: Are you one of the anti-war candidates? KERRY:  I am.  Yes.

That explanation, however, is edited out on a video mailed to 8 million voters and posted on a Republican party web site.

Not the first time
It’s not the first time the Bush campaign has twisted Kerry’s words of taken his position out of context.

In a Bush ad entitled “Priorities” released July 16, the ad claimed “Kerry voted against parental notification for teenage abortions.” Actually, 13 years ago, Kerry voted against a Republican bill that had no notification exceptions and voted for a Democratic bill that had some.

Last year, during a debate over the Patriot act, Kerry joined Republicans in trying to modify the act by giving more power to judges. But the Bush ad, “Patriot act,” released May 25, said “”While wire taps, subpoena powers and surveillances are routinely used against drug dealers and organized crime, Kerry would now repeal the Patriot Act’s use of these tools against terrorists.”

And when it comes to taxes, a Bush ad released April 1, called “Troubling” claims “Kerry supported higher taxes over 350 times.  Independent groups say the numbers were bogus, and that the Bush campaign counted some of Kerry’s votes for lower taxes as a vote for higher ones.

Democrats, too
The Democrats have also played fast and loose.

“When President Bush says he’s going to help companies outsource jobs, it’s infuriating,” says an August 11 media fund ad.

It might be infuriating, except the president never said that. He spoke about companies being able to compete.

And on Iraq contracts, despite a congressional watchdog review that found Halliburton “generally complied with applicable laws and regulations governing competition,” a ad said, “The Bush administration gave Dick Cheney’s old company no-bid contracts for Iraq on a silver platter.”

Democrats say, however, that there is a difference between an independent group getting it wrong, and a candidate, such as President Bush, stating something false himself.

Republicans, on the other hand, say the president has been accurate, and is simply boiling down John Kerry’s complexities.