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Bush administration smear campaigns: John Forbes Kerry: Terrorism, Defense, and Homeland Security

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

Bush administration smear campaigns include attacks on John Forbes Kerry and his positions and voting record on Terrorism, Defense, and Homeland Security.

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


Cheney Questions Kerry's National Security Judgement

  • The April 26, 2004, Washington Post reported that "Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Sen. John Kerry 'has given us ample grounds to doubt' his judgment on national security, but at the same time the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (Terry McAuliffe) in Washington urged the White House to stop such criticism." [1]
"Cheney told a friendly crowd at Westminster College that Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, wavered in views to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as well as the strength of the Persian Gulf war coalition built by President Bush's father" George H.W. Bush. [2]
"In a preview of his news conference, McAuliffe said Sunday that Cheney has 'zero credibility' when it comes to criticizing Kerry's national security credentials. Cheney as secretary of defense had proposed cuts to weapons programs being used by U.S. troops in Iraq, McAuliffe said. [3]
"Cheney, who was defense secretary from 1989-1992, 'tried to kill' more than 81 weapons programs, including M-1 tanks, Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter planes and B-2 bombers, McAuliffe said. He also pushed for closing more than 70 domestic military installations, and reducing the size of the military by 500,000 active duty personnel and 200,000 reservists, McAuliffe said." [4]
  • In his April 26, 2004, article "Bush campaign turns up heat on Kerry" for Reuters, Steve Holland writes that "President George W. Bush's re-election campaign has turned up the heat on Democrat rival John Kerry by accusing him of a troubling record on national security and inconsistent support of U.S. troops.
"In an indication the Iraq war was an increasingly important factor in the November 2 election, with U.S. forces caught up in an deadly conflict with insurgents, the Bush team's strategy was to raise questions about Kerry's commitment to the U.S. military and thus the country's defence."
  • Westminster College President Fletcher Lamkin told Associated Press reporter Scott Charton on April 26, 2004, "that Cheney's staff approached him last week about using Westminster as the backdrop 'for a major foreign policy address. Nothing was said about a stump speech.'" [5]
Lamkin, a former administrator at West Point, "said he was not expecting a speech minus any mention of presidential politics during an election year, but that the second half 'was all about politics and a political stump speech and in that respect it was disappointing.' ... 'in the interest of balance and fairness and integrity, we will strongly encourage Senator Kerry to take advantage of this venue to make his views known as well.'"

Kerry: "Opposed" Tanks & Planes "Revisited"

  • On April 26, 2004, FactCheck.org addressed "More Bush Distortions of Kerry Defense Record" stating that the "Latest barrage of ads repeats misleading claims that Kerry 'repeatedly opposed' mainstream weapons." [6]
FactCheck says that Bush's April 26 ads "recycle some distortions of Kerry's voting record on military hardware" and FactCheck has "de-bunked these half-truths before but the Bush campaign persists.
"The ads -- many targeted to specific states -- repeat the claim that Kerry opposed a list of mainstream weapons including Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Apache helicopters, and also repeat the claim that he voted against body armor for frontline troops in Iraq. In fact, Kerry voted against a few large Pentagon money bills, of which Bradleys, Apaches and body armor were small parts, but not against those items specifically."
See the FactCheck article for an analysis of the misleading claims and missing context expressed in Bush's ten new anti-Kerry ads.
  • Previously, in a February 22, 2004, letter to Senator Kerry, "Bush's campaign chairman Marc F. Racicot ... accused Kerry of 'voting against the weapons systems that are winning the War on Terror' and says Kerry was for 'canceling or cutting funding for the B-2 Stealth Bomber, the B-1B, the F-15, the F-16, the M1 Abrams, the Patriot Missile, the AH-64 Apache Helicopter, the Tomahawk Cruise Missile, and the Aegis Air-Defense Cruiser.' Another Bush campaign spokesman said Kerry has a '32-year history of voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems' (a clear impossibility since Kerry has been in office less than 20 years.)" [7]
  • "But," writes FactCheck, "Kerry's votes against specific military hardware were mostly against strategic nuclear weapons including the B-2 bomber, Trident missile and anti-missile items, not against conventional equipment such as tanks. And Kerry has a point when he says 'I've voted for some of the largest defense and intelligence budgets in our history,' which is correct. He's voted for military spending bills regularly since 1997."
See remainder of February 26, 2004, FactCheck article "Kerry voted often against nuclear missiles and bombers in the '90s, but GOP claims that he opposed a long list of conventional weapons are overblown" for details and "facts" on Kerry's voting record.
  • Fred Kaplan addresses Kerry's real voting record in his February 25, 2004, article "John Kerry's Defense Defense. Setting his voting record straight" for MSN's Slate. [8]

Kerry: Weak on Terrorism

  • Paul Krugman admonishes in his March 15, 2004, New York Times Op-Ed, that when the "Bush campaign boasts of the president's record in fighting terrorism and accuses John Kerry of being weak on the issue, when Republican congressmen suggest that a vote for Mr. Kerry is a vote for Osama bin Laden, remember this: the administration's actual record is one of indulgence toward regimes that are strongly implicated in terrorism, and of focusing on actual terrorist threats only when forced to by events." [9]
  • Associated Press reporter Mike Glover headlines on March 15, 2004, with "Kerry Criticizes Bush's Record on Homeland Security ... saying his Republican rival is 'big on bluster and short on action' in protecting the nation." Kerry further commented: "'I do not fault George W. Bush for doing too much in the war on terror, I believe he's done too little ... I think this administration has it backward. President Bush says we can't afford to fund homeland security. I say we can't afford not to.'" [10]

Kerry: Weak on Homeland Security

  • Orcinus writes on March 17, 2004, "It would not take much to drive this point home. The Kerry campaign could easily point to Bush's serious lapses in handling domestic terrorism as symptomatic of the real shortcomings of his approach to 'homeland security':

Kerry: Not Supporting the Troops in Iraq

  • Josh Marshall, in his March 17, 2004, Talking Points Memo, comments on issues "from the latest Bush campaign ad ... This one uses last year's $87 billion Iraq supplemental, and the fact that Kerry voted against it, to accuse him of voting against each of the various line items for troop funding included in the bill.
"Now," Marshall writes, "this is inherently misleading since I believe Kerry, like many other Dems, voted for an alternative bill which would have funded these needs by rescinding part of Bush tax cuts. So to say he voted against these particulars is really a distortion of the legislative process."
  • Surrounded by veterans in Charleston, WV, on March 17, 2004, Kerry "rebutted a new Bush ad criticizing him for voting last fall against $87 billion in additional funding for US troops in Iraq -- a supplemental appropriation that included money for body armor -- by saying he would have supported it if it had been financed by repealing a portion of the tax cuts implemented during the Bush administration. Kerry made that proposal in an amendment he cosponsored; the Senate rejected the amendment before approving the $87 billion. ... 'I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,' he said." [18]
  • The Army Times (subscriber only) (week including March 17, 2004), provides this blurb: "White House won't try to cut special deployment pays. The Bush administration will not repeat its highly publicized -- and ultimately unsuccessful -- attempt last year to cut benefits for deployed troops." [19]
  • On the subject of "body armor" for the troops in Iraq, the October 14, 2003, Washington Times headlined with the Associated Press story "Armor shortfall hits U.S. troops."
According to the AP, "Nearly one-quarter of the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq still have not been issued a new type of ceramic body armor strong enough to protect against bullets fired from assault rifles.
"Delays in funding, production and shipping mean it will be December before all troops in Iraq will have the vests, which were introduced four years ago, military officials say.
"Congress approved $310 million in April to buy 300,000 bulletproof vests, with 30,000 destined to complete outfitting of the troops in Iraq. Of that money, however, only about $75 million has reached the Army office responsible for overseeing the manufacture and distribution of the vests."

Kerry: "Soft on Intelligence"

  • With a wink and a nudge, on March 9, 2004, BuzzFlash's "The Angry Liberal" writes that, on the previous day, Bush, "in front of a room full of Texas fat cats, ... made perhaps the dumbest charge against Kerry that he could make: It turns out that John Kerry is (you might want to sit down for this) soft on military intelligence." A brief reader fill-in-the-blank quiz -- "Bush: Soft-Headed on Military Intelligence" -- is followed by supporting links on the real "intelligence" record.
  • FactCheck reports on March 15, 2004, "Bush Strains Facts Re: Kerry's Plan To Cut Intelligence Funding in '90's. President claims 1995 Kerry plan would "gut" the intelligence services. It was a 1% cut, and key Republicans approved something similar."
  • In his March 17, 2004, Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall writes: "In that case, the President charged Kerry with a reckless plan to cut Intelligence spending in 1995, without mentioning that the agency targeted was mismanaging the funds in question or, much more importantly, that the Congress, then under Republican control, voted a substantially larger cut than the one Kerry had proposed."
  • This is supported by Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank who debunk Bush's claims in their March 12, 2004, Washington Post article "Bush Exaggerates Kerry's Position on Intelligence Budget": "In terms of accuracy, the parry by the president is about half right. Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years -- would have 'gutted' intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting."
  • Mike Allen, Washington Post staff writer, reported March 8, 2004, that Bush attacked Kerry "as dangerously indecisive and accused him of a 'deeply irresponsible' effort to weaken the nation's intelligence services before" September 11, 2001. ... However, Allen writes, "Bush reached back nine years to a bill introduced by Kerry to slow the rate of spending on intelligence gathering to argue that the presumptive Democratic nominee would weaken the nation's intelligence system if elected president." [20]

Kerry: Failed to Prevent Boston Hijackings

  • The New York Post's Paul Sperry reports on March 16, 2004, that "Former FAA security officials say the Massachusetts senator had the power to prevent at least the Boston hijackings and save the World Trade Center and thousands of lives, yet he failed to take effective action after they gave him a prophetic warning that his state's main airport was vulnerable to multiple hijackings.
"'He just did the Pontius Pilate thing and passed the buck' on back through the federal bureaucracy, said Brian Sullivan, a retired FAA special agent from the Boston area who in May 2001 personally warned Kerry that Logan was ripe for a 'jihad' suicide operation possibly involving 'a coordinated attack.'" [21]
  • Jesse Taylor at Pandagon comments: "By the way, doesn't this fly in the face of the contention that there was nothing that could be done to prevent September 11, 2001 that's been the Bush administration's crutch? Either it was preventable, or it wasn't, but it can't be preventable if you're a senator from Massachusetts and nonpreventable if you're in charge of the entire executive branch of the federal government." [22]
  • "Sullivan says he expressed his concerns to the FAA administrator's hotline. He also says he sent this letter to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a letter that now seems all too prophetic."
  • "Sullivan says Senator Kerry responded to his letter and asked the Department of Transportation's inspector general to look into the matter.
  • "Mr. SULLIVAN: I think Senator Kerry did get it to the right people and that they were about to take the right action.'"

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