In an ad released July 5, the Bush campaign features Sen. John McCain speaking of “this war” as “a fight between good and evil” as he glowingly endorsed Bush in Fort Lewis, Washington last month.
We find no factual misstatements in the ad; McCain is mostly expressing opinions. The ad could confuse some voters — McCain’s reference to “this war” is about the broad fight against terrorism, not just about the war in Iraq. In fact, McCain has criticized Bush’s handling of the Iraq war — and his tax cuts as well. But McCain has set aside his differences with Bush and, as this ad fairly states, is endorsing him for re-election.
The ad is 60 seconds long, twice the length of most campaign ads. It is aimed at deflating Kerry’s July 5 announcement of John Edwards as his chosen running mate. The Bush campaign said the ad would run on national cable networks and in “selected” local markets.
Bush-Cheney ’04 Ad:
Sen. McCain: It’s a big thing this war.
It’s a fight between right and wrong, good and evil.
And should our enemies acquire for their arsenal the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek, this war will become an even bigger thing.
It will become a fight for our survival.
America is under attack by depraved enemies who oppose our every interest and hate every value we hold dear.
It is the great test of our generation and he has led with great moral clarity and firm resolve. He has not wavered, he has not flinched from the hard choices, he was determined and remains determined to make this world a better, safer, freer place. He deserves not only our support but our admiration. That’s why I am honored to introduce to you the President of the United States, George W. Bush.
Bush: I’m George W. Bush and I approve this message.
What’s being said in the ad is less important than who’s saying it — McCain was Bush’s opponent for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, and there was widespread speculation that Kerry would ask McCain to be his running mate on the Democratic ticket in 2004. The Bush campaign even went so far as to say in a news release the ad “features John Kerry’s first choice for a vice presidential running mate.” The ad was released the same day Kerry announced John Edwards as his choice for the vice presidential nomination.
It’s debatable whether McCain was actually Kerry’s “first choice” for running mate. Only Kerry can say for sure if that’s true, and he never said such a thing publicly. But that’s a criticism of the news release, not the ad itself.
Quotes in Immediate Context
The ad is cut from McCain’s introduction of Bush in Fort Lewis, Washington on June 18, before an audience of miltary personnel. The quotes are selective — the actual introduction went on much longer than the ad — but still give a fair representation of what McCain said. In his full remarks McCain speaks of fighting in Iraq as part of a broader war on terrorism and once again supports Bush’s decision to go to war against the “tyrant” Saddam Hussein:
McCain: You have taken the fight to our enemies, Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and you took the fight to Iraq where the tyrant Saddam. Whether he possessed the terrible weapons that would have turned this war into a fight for survival or not, he had used them before and was, I have no doubt, firmly determined to possess them again someday — for what terrible purpose we can only imagine with dread.
The Broader Context
Not mentioned in the ad — or in McCain’s full introduction of Bush — is the fact that McCain has repeatedly criticized Bush for his handling of the war, saying he should have sent more troops, should have planned better for the occupation, and should have prepared the public better for a long, bloody conflict.
For example, McCain took a slap at the President’s televised speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln after the fall of Baghdad. He said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” program April 16:
McCain: I didn’t think we needed to have “Mission Accomplished” banner, which by the way the crew doesn’t decide what banners go up on aircraft carriers. . . . (But) we must win. We will win. We will prevail in Iraq. We must do what’s necessary. But the American people need to be told in no uncertain terms how tough this challenge is. And they will support it. The American people are not uninformed. They know what’s at stake here. But they need to be told it, and they need to be told it in no uncertain terms.
And on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on April 15 McCain criticized the administration for poor planning in Iraq:
Q: Are you saying, Senator, there was no afterplan?
McCain: I’m saying that the plan was not adequate. I’m saying that it’s not an accident that this was the bloodiest month of the war since combat ended, and we need to adjust. . . . The signs were there that we needed to have more boots on the ground.
McCain’s position on Bush’s tax cuts is also quite close to that of Kerry, who has said he would repeal the Bush cuts only for those making more than $200,000 a year. McCain made this clear as recently as the April 16 NBC interview:
Q. Should the President consider postponing his tax cut?
McCain: I would have–I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthy Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit. But the middle-income tax credits, the families, the child tax credits, the marriage tax credits, all of those I would keep.
Democrats were quick to point out many of the unflattering things McCain had said about Bush when the two were campaigning against each other four years ago, and the Democratic National Committee posted text and video of some on its Web site.
But as the Bush ad correctly implies, McCain has set aside his differences with Bush on war policy and taxes and is backing his party’s leader for re-election.
Watch Bush-Cheney Ad: “First Choice”
Federal Document Clearing House, Inc., FDCH Political Transcripts, “Sen. John McCain’s Introduction of President George W. Bush, Fort Lewis, Washington,” 18 June 2004.
NBC News, “Meet the Press ,” Interview with Sen. John McCain, 16 May 2004.
CNN News, “Larry King Live ,” Interview with Sen. John McCain, 15 April 2004.