Bush administration smear campaigns: John Forbes Kerry: Latest Headlines

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The following are taken from the Latest Headlines regarding Bush administration smear campaigns involving John Forbes Kerry.

Due to the length of the original article Bush administration smear campaigns: John Forbes Kerry, it has been subdivided.

John Kerry is ....

  • Howard Kurtz writes on April 27, 2004, in the Washington Post that "A fierce new attack has been launched against John Kerry. ... It has nothing to do with taxes, defense spending or gay marriage. ... The charge is that Kerry leaves people cold." [1]
"Kerry is grating, he doesn't wear well, he looks French, he's not as natural as Bush, and besides, the senator and his wife are too rich to relate to ordinary folks. (That's the reason for the focus on Kerry's wealth--ironically, from people supporting the son of a president and grandson of a senator who summers in Kennebunkport)." [2]
Kurtz sees three reasons for this: (1) "there's obviously a few grains of truth here. Kerry can seem stiff and tends to orate when he speaks, often in convoluted Senate-speak. The man looks dour, like he's perpetually worried about global warming or something."; (2) "Republican flacks are peddling this line."; and (3) "it has to do with the press. Reporters are writing these stories because they're not particularly fond of Kerry or, at a minimum, agree with the critique that he's an awkward pol. Kerry never had a particularly great relationship with much of the Boston press corps, and the same is proving true with the national media." [3]

The "Big Lie": "Defining John Kerry" a la Lyndon B. Johnson

  • On April 2, 2004, Smirking Chimp contributor Rich Proctor writes, "'Rove-BushCo' [is] trying to define John Kerry by making up trash, and cobbling this sewage into attack ads. 'Kerry has voted for higher taxes 350 times!' (a lie, of course) 'Kerry will raise taxes 900 billion dollars in his first 90 days!' (as if that's even possible - isn't the Legislative branch vaguely involved in this process?) and (my favorite) 'Kerry will demand a 50 cent a gallon surtax on gas' (which Bush has managed to create all by himself, except the entire 50 cent surcharge is going to OPEC, thanks to Rove-BushCo's Hummer-friendly energy policy).
"In short, 'Rove-BushCo' gins up some scurrilous whoppers, and then carpet bombs the airwaves with them - and it's working. Why? Because Karl Rove, evil genius that he is, has figured out that no matter how big the lies and how outrageous the character assassination, the press won't call him on it."
"Don't forget what Karl Rove is saying this very moment. 'The point isn't whether it's true or not. The point is to GET HIM TO DENY IT...'" [4]
"According to the Associated Press, Rove boasted how the White House is running 'a nimble campaign able to counterpunch even before Kerry opens his mouth.' and that the Bush campaign team 'has material ready to go on Kerry based on his votes and speeches.'
"In other words, any time Kerry says anything, the Bush campaign is ready to pounce. The New York Times reported on March 20 that President Bush's team in in the midst of 'an aggressive and precise 90-day media strategy to define Senator John Kerry as indecisive and lacking conviction, with a coordinated blitz of advertisements, speeches and sound bites.'"
"The Bush team is hoping no one will notice the disconnect between its words and its deeds; between the stories they spin and the realities they are trying to hide. The testimony given by Richard A. Clarke and others before the 9-11 Commission last week was the first crack in Bush's wall of deceit regarding the Sept. 11 attacks and the run-up to the Iraq invasion. It is up to the rest of us to keep pushing until we get the truth, and make George W. Bush a one-term president."

From the "Hoover Files" -- It's "Deja Vu" All Over Again

  • Phil Hirschkorn, "Documents reveal FBI surveillance of Kerry in early 1970s," CNN, March 23, 2004: "John Kerry's combat experience in Vietnam is central to his bid to become the next commander-in-chief, but Kerry's outspoken opposition to that war drew the personal attention of the president of the United States and FBI agents 33 years ago, documents reviewed by CNN reveal."

Kerry: "Higher on Taxes"

"To be sure, Kerry has cast votes to increase taxes, and he's clearly on record favoring raising taxes on persons making over $200,000 a year, if he's elected. It's a major difference between the two candidates. But Bush aides have been falsely accusing Kerry for weeks of casting far more votes for tax increases than is the case. And now the President himself has joined in the misleading attack."
"One of the weapons in Bush's arsenal is an old family heirloom. Bush fired it himself at his big Florida rally over the weekend. He asserted that John Kerry had voted for higher taxes 350 times during Kerry's 20 years in the Senate. Vice President Dick Cheney and other presidential surrogates have been using this statistoid for several weeks, and it has been picked up and repeated in the conservative media echo chamber. In 1992, Bush's father charged that Bill Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, had raised taxes 128 times. This shabby and deeply disingenuous allegation ultimately became an embarrassment to the elder Bush, but it took weeks and months of pounding by the media and the opposition to make it this way. I'm hoping to spare us all that with a Powell-Doctrine-like strike early on."

Kerry: "Weak on Defense"

"In a speech Wednesday in California, [Vice President] Dick Cheney portrayed Kerry as a weak-willed lawmaker whose policies would have left Saddam Hussein in Baghdad as well as Kuwait. He said Kerry 'has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.'" [5]
"Yesterday, the Bush campaign released a new TV ad attacking Kerry's voting record on funding the war in Iraq." [6]
  • However, ...
On the March 18, 2004, NBC Today Show, Republican Sen. John McCain "defended Sen. John F. Kerry's record on national security, undercutting the Bush-Cheney campaign's latest attacks on the Democratic presidential challenger and frustrating conservatives hoping for a unified front against the Massachusetts senator." [7]
When asked on the CBS Early Show "whether he agreed with Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that Kerry is a threat to national security, McCain said: 'I don't think that. I think that John Kerry is a good and decent man. . . . I think he has different points of view on different issues, and he will have to explain his voting record. But this kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice.'" [8]
  • Paul Krugman, in his December 19, 2004, New York Times Op-ed "Taken for a Ride", writes that, "In fact, the Bush administration has done the very thing it falsely accuses Mr. Kerry of doing: it has tried repeatedly to slash combat pay and military benefits, provoking angry articles in The Army Times with headlines like An Act of `Betrayal'. Oh, and Mr. Kerry wasn't trying to block funds for Iraq -- he was trying to force the administration, which had concealed the cost of the occupation until its tax cut was passed, to roll back part of the tax cut to cover the expense.
"But the bigger point is this: in the Bush vision, it was never legitimate to challenge any piece of the administration's policy on Iraq. Before the war, it was your patriotic duty to trust the president's assertions about the case for war. Once we went in and those assertions proved utterly false, it became your patriotic duty to support the troops -- a phrase that, to the administration, always means supporting the president. At no point has it been legitimate to hold Mr. Bush accountable. And that's the way he wants it."

Kerry: Remarks re Support by "Foreign Leaders"

  • On March 16, 2004, the BBC/UK and other news wires carried a version of the headline "Bush confronts Kerry on 'leaders'. US President George W. Bush has challenged Democratic rival John Kerry to name the foreign leaders he says privately support him in the election." Bush is quoted as saying "If you're going to make an accusation in the course of a presidential campaign, you ought to back it up with facts." [9]
Blogger John Cole (and others, to be fair) demanded to know "How long are you Democrats going to give Kerry a free ride on this?" [10]
Poster Ezra Klein at Pandagon (and others, to be fair) have responded to Cole: "Sorry John, but your little scandal is over. The new Spanish prime minister has said he wants Bush out, not to mention that Kerry was misquoted in the first place."
  • Matthew Yglesias at The American Prospect weighed in on March 16, 2004, by saying that, "Since the Manchurian candidate line of attacks doesn't seem to have worked (see below), the Bush campaign has now decided that John Kerry was lying when he said some foreign leaders support him:
"But it was the continuing flap over what Kerry said at a Florida fundraiser last week regarding the desire of some foreign leaders to see Bush replaced that continued to reverberate yesterday. White House press secretary Scott McClellan called on Kerry to explain his remarks. 'If he's going to make those comments, he ought to back them up,' McClellan said. 'If he refuses to, one can only come to the conclusion that he's simply making up these assertions to attack the president.'
"This," writes Yglesias, "is very silly. Given that there are dozens -- if not hundreds -- of people around the world who qualify as foreign leaders, it would be very odd if none of them preferred Kerry to Bush (and vice-versa). The reason Kerry can't name them is, moreover, perfectly clear -- government officials simply don't take public stands on democratic elections in other countries.
"If Scott McClellan's really curious, though, it's not exactly a secret which governments have been generally supportive of Bush's policies -- Poland, Uzebekistan, Italy, Azerbaijan, etc. -- and which haven't. The White House even put out a helpful list of nations willing to lend political support to the second Gulf War. Since the government was willing to reach pretty deep down to put this coalition together (it includes the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and the Soloman Islands) it's probably safe to say that America's other traditional allies aren't enthusiastic about the incumbent.
"[Yglesias] UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the Kerry statement in question was something of a misquotation anyway:
"Patrick Healy, the Boston Globe reporter who covered the fund-raiser, had quoted Mr. Kerry as saying: 'I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but, boy, they look at you and say, 'You have got to win this; you have got to beat this guy; we need a new policy.' Things like that.'
"Mr. Kerry said on Sunday that he had used the word 'heard,' not 'met,' prompting Mr. Healy to revisit the recording. On Monday, he sent out a corrected transcript, clarifying that the quotation actually began, 'I've met more leaders who can't go out and say it all publicly.'
"I'm not sure," adds Yglesias, "that there's a huge substantive difference here, but it's good to have the record set straight. It would have been all-too-easy under the circumstances for Healy to just sit by and watch his story get picked up over and over again without saying anything."
  • Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), co-chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Hardball broadcast March 17, 2004, "Supports Kerry's claim that foreign leaders want a change in America." A partial transcript and the full transcript are online.


  • The Guardian/UK's Giles Tremlett reported on March 16, 2004, that "Spain's new prime minister, the Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, yesterday followed his dramatic election triumph with a pledge to bring troops home from Iraq and accusations that Tony Blair and George Bush lied about the war." [11]
  • Associated Press writer Mike Glover reported March 17, 2004, that "Spain's Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero indicated his dislike of Bush's policies during the Spanish election campaign when he said he hoped Kerry would win in November. The International Herald Tribune recently quoted Zapatero as saying: 'We're aligning ourselves with Kerry. Our allegiance will be for peace, against war, no more deaths for oil, and for a dialogue between the government of Spain and the new Kerry administration.'" [12]
  • Cragg Hines, in the March 16, 2004, Houston Chronicle, writes in "W's smaller circle of international pals" that, "As the U.S. invasion (still minimally justifiable) and occupation (often shambolic) of Iraq moves toward the one-year mark on Friday, Bush suddenly finds himself minus one of his major European cheerleaders. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose Popular Party lost power in the vote, had even been bidden to the ranch in Crawford.

Great Britain

  • On March 7, 2004, the Observer/UK reported that "Ten days [prior], at Number 10 Downing Street, a reception was held for Ministers and 'progressive thinkers'. Professor Anthony Giddens, Tony Blair's Third Way mentor, was asked to say a few words. ... He spoke about the need for social democrats to come together and discover a popular language to defeat the neo-conservative strand of American thinking that had come to dominate the White House. 'Maybe we could call ourselves the neo-progs,' he joked. And then, in a throw-away line, he said what a lot of people in Downing Street and particularly the Prime Minister's inner circle feel about events across the Atlantic. 'We need to get George Bush out of the White House.'"
"George Osborne, a Conservative member of the British Parliament from the plummy depths of Cheshire by way of Oxford and a Dean Rusk fellowship at Davidson College in North Carolina, declares himself 'a signed-up, card-carrying Bush fan.' But last month in Britain's Spectator he wrote: 'If Britain could vote this November, no one doubts what the result would be. Kerry would win by a landslide. He'd win votes across the board. Not just on the Left, but on the Right, too. In fact, Kerry would probably get more votes in the Tory shires and suburbs than he would from Labor's urban heartlands. Because here is the truth that dare not speak its name: Many Conservatives don't much like Bush.'
"Indeed, Osborne wrote, 'Bushites are a minority.' On his own benches in the House of Commons, Osborne reported, one colleague told him: 'Bush is a man who might wail at the moon -- I don't feel comfortable with him, unlike Kerry.'" [13]

Rejected Endorsement

  • FOX News reports March 19, 2004, that, although "former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad ... may have not been one of the foreign leaders with whom John Kerry spoke about his presidential candidacy, [Mahathir] endorsed Kerry anyway." Kerry, however, "'rejects any association' with Mahathir, 'an avowed anti-Semite whose views are totally deplorable,' said Kerry foreign policy adviser Rand Beers in a statement." [14]

Kerry: "Manchurian Candidate"

  • Jonathan E. Kaplan, in the March 17, 2004, edition of The Hill writes that "Republicans attacking Democratic candidates (and vice versa) is, of course, not unusual. Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said earlier this week that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's regime backed Kerry, basing this assertion on Kerry's claim that foreign leaders want him to defeat President Bush in November." [15]
  • On March 8, 2004, The American Prospect's Matthew Yglesias reported that "The latest release for the RNC shows that Ed Gillespie certainly knew what he was talking about when he predicted 'the dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics.'" It turns out, you see, that John Kerry is a North Korean agent. Our saga begins with a Reuters story quoting Kerry: [16]
"I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that," he said. [17]
"To this, the RNC responds: 'Communist North Korea Is Only Government On Record Supporting John Kerry'" [18]

Kerry: "liar or self-aggrandising fantasist"

  • The Telegraph/UK's March 17, 2004, edition reported that Kerry's "reluctance [to respond] has been seized on by Republicans, sensing a chance to tar Mr Kerry as a liar or self-aggrandising fantasist - a tactic used to deadly effect against the last Democratic presidential candidate, Al Gore, who was accused of claiming to invent the internet, among other exaggerations. If Mr Kerry could not back his claim with names, the only conclusion was he was 'making it up', said the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan. [Note: Article is posted/linked at www.cursor.org. This is a copyright protected article requiring registration. 3/17/04)
"Vice-President Dick Cheney and Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state, also challenged Mr Kerry to put up or shut up. [Ibid.]
"Senior Republican campaign officials have not missed a golden opportunity to paint Mr Kerry - a wealthy Boston patrician who spent a year at a Swiss boarding school, and whose first cousins are French - as a man with suspect foreign connections and tastes. [Ibid.]
  • Also see Michael Manville's March 15, 2004, New York Sun article "French Going Wild For Senator Kerry In Election Fever. 'A Certain Elegance'is Seen." [19]
"Ed Gillespie, the Republican National Committee chairman, told a fundraising dinner in Illinois that Mr Kerry was a fantasist whose 'imaginary friends have British and French accents'." [Ibid.]
"Well now," writes Yglesias, "The press release goes on to charge Kerry with such scandalous conduct as having a cousin who's not only French, but actually used to be the environment minister of France. Even worse, they say he's earned the support of the popular band Coldplay ... a British band. So there you have it -- a vote for Kerry is a vote for a massive conspiracy between Kim Jong Il and the English music industry to destroy the United States." [20]

Also see coalition of the willing: beginning of the end.

"Skewering" Kerry

  • In his March 17, 2004, The Hill article, Jonathan E. Kaplan is actually focused on "Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, [who]," Kaplan writes that Pryce "has added a new task to her communications portfolio -- that of skewering Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee. ... In early January, Pryce aimed her first salvos at ex-Gov. Howard Dean, then the Democrats' front-runner. As Kerry won a string of primaries, Pryce's focus turned to him." [21]
  • "At last week's bicameral GOP meeting, Pryce said that Kerry's policies would kill 16,000 jobs at Ohio's Honda plants. 'I'm glad he doesn't produce any results on our watch,' she said. 'He's been in the Buckeye State, but he's no Buckeye.'"
  • "Earlier this month, she lashed out at what she called Kerry's 'big-government, bureaucratic proposals and programs [that] dwarf the budgets of recent years.' The press release was titled 'Hey big spender.'"
  • "In another press statement, she said Kerry has been 'MIA in Congress,' adding, 'I'm glad that John Kerry thinks he has mastered the job of being a Democrat candidate, because as a Senator he is failing miserably.'"
  • "Pryce added that she only knows Kerry well enough to say hello. 'He's so liberal,' Pryce said. 'I don't know what we could work on, and I'm a moderate.'"