Bush administration smear campaigns: John Forbes Kerry

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Since the time in February 2004 that it appeared he would take the lead for the number of candidates necessary to win the Democratic nomination and run against President George W. Bush in U.S. presidential election, 2004, Senator John Forbes Kerry came under increasing pressure from Bush administration smear campaigns on a number of issues.


John Kerry established a new weblog site especially designed to address spin, smears, and sneers. See DBunker: "Setting the Record Straight".

Due to the length of this article, it has been subdivided.

Also see:


While speaking to "supporters at a fund-raiser in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, [on March 8, 2004,] ... Kerry noted how Republicans turned on one of their own in 2000, when U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another decorated Vietnam War veteran who survived six years as a prisoner of war, ran against Bush for the party's nomination.

"'They even tried to challenge John McCain's tenure as a prisoner for six years ... they tried to besmirch his character, so I expect everything,' he said." [1]

The Economy, Jobs, and the Budget

Kerry: "Economic Isolationist"

In a March 9, 2004, article for the AP, Elizabeth Wolfe writes that President Bush "Warns Against 'Economic Isolationists' ... who question free trade pacts, [which was] a veiled criticism of Democratic rival John Kerry." [2]

"The charge of economic isolationism, a staple of Bush's political speeches, is aimed at Kerry even though he was not mentioned by name. Bush usually tries to tar Kerry as anti-trade with a remark like he gave last week in Los Angeles: 'My opponent talks about job creation, too, but he's against every one of these job-creating measures. Empty talk about jobs and economic isolation won't get anyone hired.'
"But Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and presumptive Democratic nominee for president, supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and world trade deals. On the campaign trail, Kerry has said he would place all trade deals under 120-day review and wants labor and environmental standards in new pacts. He also would require companies to give notice before sending jobs overseas. (See outsourcing.)
"Bush has erected barriers to trade. In March 2002, he imposed tariffs on 10 types of foreign-made steel, then set stiff import duties on a popular type of Canadian lumber. Both actions angered major U.S. trading partners.
"Bush backed down on the steel tariffs last December when the World Trade Organization ruled them illegal and Europeans threatened retaliation.
"With the country having lost more than 3 million manufacturing jobs since mid-2000, Democrats scoff at Bush's claims of job growth and say the administration is insensitive to the plight of the manufacturing sector. The president's critics also argue that free trade has opened American workers to unfair competition from low-wage countries with lax protections of labor rights and the environment."

Kerry: Voted for Bush "Tax Cuts"

During his presidential candidacy in February 2004, General Wesley Kanne Clark said that he could not understand why both co-contenders Senators Kerry and John Edwards had voted for President George W. Bush's "tax cuts". "Well," counters FactCheck.org, "they didn't."

Kerry: "Massachusetts' Liberal"

The Richmond, Virginia, Sarawak Tribune reported on February 9, 2004, that "Democratic front-runner John Kerry on Saturday accused US President George W. Bush and his Republican supporters of launching a smear campaign against him and vowed to fight back against what he described as an 'extreme' administration outside mainstream American values.

"'It's very clear to me they're already starting out on the attack,' he told a rally before an annual Virginia Democratic Party gala. 'They've got a lot of made-up stories that are starting to come our way ... and they're already starting to engage in half-truths and distortions and lies, and that's just about George Bush's record.'"
"That line of attack devastated former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, a former Massachusetts governor, in 1988 in his race against Bush's father (George Herbert Walker Bush)."

In the February 17, 2004, issue of USA Today, Judy Keen writes that "President Bush's campaign strategists believe "Massachusetts liberal" is a potent political epithet. But they don't think it's enough to defeat Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

"So the Bush team, which believes Kerry has the nomination wrapped up, is preparing a broad attack on his record over 19 years in the Senate and what they call his opportunistic reversals on key issues." [3]
"The drawback to the Bush strategy is that much of it has been tried before, most recently by Kerry's rivals for the nomination." [4]
"Something personal also is driving the Bush strategy. Some advisers believe the first President Bush dismissed his challenger's chances in his 1992 re-election battle and waited too long to take on Bill Clinton. There will be no repeat of that mistake, they say." [5]

Kerry: "Captive of Special Interests"

The title of the February 13, 2004 (modified February 17, 2004) FactCheck.org article "Bush's Misleading Attack Video. Internet attack ad says Kerry got most 'special interest money' of any senator. He didn't. And Bush got lots more" says it all.

  • Katrina vanden Heuvel, writing for the February 24, 2004, Editor's Cut section of The Nation: [6]
"As President George W. Bush prepares to launch his first broadcast ads of the political season next week, it is clear that his well-groomed and well-rewarded donor network is doing their job. Relying on a pyramid scheme of Pioneers (those who raise $100,000 for the campaign) and Rangers (those who raise $200,000), Bush has amassed an astounding $143 million in less than a year, finance reports out last week revealed.
"But showing appreciation for all the favors and rewards from the Bush Administration by raising a mere 200 grand is chickenfeed for some of these wealthy captains of industry. Rumors in January first reported by the Washington Post hinted at another category of donors--those who are able to haul in $500,000."
  • The Washington Post opined on February 14, 2004, that "it's hard to recall a more brazen display of political chutzpah than the Bush campaign's assault on Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) as a captive of special interests. A video e-mailed Thursday night to 6 million supporters attacks the Democratic front-runner as an 'unprincipled' collector of special-interest cash. The video cites a report in this newspaper that Mr. Kerry led the senatorial pack in collecting money from the very Washington lobbyists that he is busy decrying on the campaign trail. As the dollar amount -- $640,000 -- shows on the screen, a female announcer emits a sound of pained surprise. 'Oooh,' she says, 'For what? Nominations and donations coincided.' The video concludes: 'Fact. Kerry -- Brought to you by the special interests. Millions from executives at HMOs, telecoms, drug companies. Ka-ching!'
"Mr. Kerry's fundraising and his relationships with Washington lobbyists are a legitimate topic, even more so now that he has positioned himself, or tried to, as the scourge of Washington business as usual. But -- how can we say this politely? -- let's consider the source.
"Mr. Bush's acceptance of special-interest money and his subsequent rewards to the industries doing the giving dwarf anything in Mr. Kerry's record. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, whose figures are cited in the Bush campaign video, Mr. Bush has raised more than four times as much from lobbyists during the 2004 race as Mr. Kerry has -- $960,000 for Mr. Bush to $235,000 for Mr. Kerry."
"The liberal group Public Citizen counted 53 registered lobbyists among the current Pioneers and Rangers (the $200,000-and-up crowd.) Total amount bundled by lobbyists? At least $6.5 million this time around. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching.
"And, since Mr. Bush brought it up, it's worth remembering that Mr. Kerry actually has some bona fides in the area of campaign finance ethics. He swore off checks from political action committees during his Senate races. He supported the McCain-Feingold legislation to end big soft money checks to political parties -- which Mr. Bush's party did its best to kill and which the president only reluctantly signed. While the Bush administration fights to keep secret the activities of its energy task force, Mr. Kerry has promised to release the records of his meetings with lobbyists during his time in office.
"The Bush video may be a long-shot effort to help derail Mr. Kerry's march to the Democratic nomination. More likely, it's an attempt to neutralize the special-interest issue, to inoculate the Bush White House against accusations that it's a captive of special interests and to muddy the waters by convincing voters that both candidates are equally complicit. We don't think voters are quite that slow."[7]
  • Craig Gordon and Anne Q. Hoy reported in the February 14, 2004, edition of Newsday that, "As the nation's largest labor group (AFL-CIO) prepared to unite behind his candidacy next week, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry Friday turned his fire on Republicans for calling him 'unprincipled' on special interest contributions and promised to fight back if attacked. ...
"Kerry told supporters in Madison that it was 'no surprise' that Republicans went on the attack against him, and charged that Bush's lobbyist contributions in the presidential race dwarf Kerry's.
"'We know exactly where these guys are going to go,' Kerry said on the Imus program. 'I'm ready for it ... I'm going to fight back.'" [8]
  • On March 10, 2004, FactCheck.org comments regarding the "conservative group Citizens United [that] launched an ad March 8 mocking Kerry's expensive homes and habits, calling him 'another rich, liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he's a 'man of the people.' The ad gets the facts of Kerry's wealth pretty much right, but plenty of US presidents have been wealthy, including the incumbent. And who's 'elitist' is, of course, a matter of opinion. ... But Bush is rich, too. So was George Washington."

Kerry: Guilty of "Shrill Rhetoric"

Peter Walsten's March 17, 2004, Miami Herald headline "Bush aide disclaims 2 GOP lawmakers' remarks on Cuba. The Bush campaign orchestrates a conference call to attack John Kerry on Cuba, but strong language from two Florida Republican congressmen distracts from the message" only begins to tell the story of another Bushco "Boomerang":

"Even as they accused Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry of shrill rhetoric, two Florida Republicans representing President Bush's reelection campaign questioned Tuesday whether Kerry has had contact with Fidel Castro and Spain's 'new Socialist government'.
"The comments from U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami and Mark Foley of West Palm Beach came during a conference call with reporters arranged by the Bush campaign to chastise the Massachusetts senator for his evolving positions on Cuba.
"But even in a time of torrid attacks from both sides, the piercing language lumping together Cuba's dictator with the winners of a legitimate election in Spain veered far off the Bush campaign script."

... And More

  • The Nation, Friday, February 13, 2004:
  • NewsMax Attack! With details almost too disgusting to print in the SourceWatch, let it suffice to say that the headline reads "John Kerry's Newt Gingrich Problem?" and the story begins with "But the press has been far kinder to Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry, who, according to published accounts going back more than a decade, began extricating himself from his first marriage to Philadelphia heiress Julia Thorne at the same time she was battling a case of depression so debilitating that it drove her to the brink of suicide." Enough said. Story dated May 12, 2003; posted March 12, 2004.
  • Counterspin Central carries the real deal by Hesiod, March 12, 2004.

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