New Bush Ads Target Kerry’s Senate Record

Times Staff Writer

President Bush assailed John F. Kerry’s record as a senator in two new television commercials Monday, amid ongoing controversy over other Republican-backed attacks on the Democratic presidential nominee’s record during the Vietnam War.

One of the new Bush advertisements, airing on national cable channels and in local broadcast markets in several key states, depicts Kerry as a longtime backer of tax increases for the middle-class. The other, airing in Nevada, says he has cast votes in favor of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

Kerry’s campaign immediately dismissed the ads as baseless. But they served as a reminder of the multiple threats facing the Massachusetts senator this month through television commercials.


He has come under attack from a group called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which sponsored a widely publicized ad alleging that Kerry inflated his war record and did not deserve several of the five medals he received. Kerry and several veterans who served with him on a Navy Swift boat in Vietnam have vociferously disputed the accusations.

Today, the Swift Boat Veterans group is expected to air another ad charging that Kerry tarred the service of other Vietnam veterans through his antiwar protests in the early 1970s.

The group is funded primarily by Texas Republicans who are Bush supporters, which has caused the Kerry campaign to charge it is a “front” for the president’s reelection bid. Bush and his aides have strongly denied any such connection.

But the president’s campaign has intensified its advertising attacks on Kerry, focusing on his record since he was first elected to the Senate almost 20 years ago.

New data from TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group show Bush spent more than $12 million on TV ads from Aug. 8 through Saturday, while other Kerry critics spent nearly $1 million more. “A fairly good one-two punch,” said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of the ad monitoring group.

During the same two weeks, Kerry spent almost nothing, saving money for September and October. But his cause was helped by various pro-Democratic groups that, although independent of his campaign, spent nearly $19 million promoting him and attacking Bush.

The new Bush ad targeting Kerry’s tax policy uses footage from the Democrat’s speech last month accepting the presidential nomination. The 30-second spot shows Kerry saying, “We won’t raise taxes on the middle class.”

“Really?” responds the ad’s female narrator. “John Kerry’s voted to raise gas taxes on the middle class 10 times. He supported a 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase. Higher taxes on middle-class parents 18 times. He voted to raise taxes on Social Security benefits. Ninety-eight votes for tax increases. There’s what Kerry says, and then there’s what Kerry does.”

Kerry did vote for a major 1993 tax bill that included provisions raising taxes on gasoline and Social Security benefits for certain retirees. And he has often opposed GOP-sponsored tax cuts.

But Kerry aides say he supported a 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase only briefly, a decade ago, and never sponsored the idea as a bill. In addition, they said, many of the votes the ad cites were on procedural questions or minor congressional squabbles, some of which also divided Republicans.

In his presidential campaign, Kerry has stressed that he favors rescinding Bush-backed tax cuts for more affluent Americans but would leave in place the reductions for families earning less than $200,000 a year. Kerry aides also said the Democrat backed the child tax credit for low- and middle-income families in several Senate votes.

The new Bush ad airing in Nevada -- where polls show the presidential race is a virtual dead heat -- says Kerry gave critical support for burying nuclear waste near Las Vegas by voting for a 1987 bill that focused federal efforts on the Yucca Mountain site.

The ad is an effort to undercut Kerry’s criticisms of Bush for signing 2002 legislation that designated Yucca Mountain as the waste site. Kerry opposed that bill and an earlier version in 2000. He said this month that he would stop plans for the waste dump if elected.