A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

RNC Fails to Document Ad’s Claim

Says Dems attack Bush "For Attacking the Terrorists," but can't cite a single example.


Summary

In a TV ad supporting the President the Republican National Committee went four words too far, not-very-subtly implying that Democrats who have criticized him are something close to traitors. The RNC ad claims that Bush is being attacked “for attacking the terrorists.” But  when pressed to back up that claim the RNC provided only quotes from Democrats griping about such things as Bush losing international support for anti-terror efforts, or spending too little on homeland security. None of them said he shouldn’t be attacking terrorists.

Analysis

The RNC’s 30-second ad shows a portion of Bush’s State of the Union address from last January 28. As the President speaks of the possibility of “a day of horror,” words silently appear on screen saying “Some are attacking the President for attacking the terrorists.” And just in case anybody might miss the point, the word “terrorists” turns slowly from black to red.

So who’s complaining about attacking terrorists? Osama Bin Laden, maybe. But the RNC made clear in a backup document released to news media that its ad actually referred to Democratic presidential candidates. “Democrats Attack President For Waging War On Terror,” the press release said. But no Democrats were quoted saying any such thing.

The RNC’s examples included, for example, Richard Gephardt saying last September that “the Bush-Cheney bravado has left us isolated in the world – fracturing 50 years of alliances, calling into question our credibility, squandering the global goodwill that was showered on us after 9/11.” And the RNC cited John Kerry saying of Bush in July, “He’s not making the world safer, I do not believe this administration is doing the job of protecting Americans.” And the Republican document quotes Howard Dean saying on MSNBC that that Bush spends too little on such things as inspecting cargo containers: “The president talks about homeland security and terrorism, but in fact he hasn’t done all that much about it.”

The RNCs’ examples included John Edwards ridiculing the Bush administration for suggesting that Americans be prepared to seal themselves up in their homes in case of chemical or biological attack, saying Bush’s “idea of homeland security is plastic wrap and duct tape …”

And in another example offered by the RNC, Dean was quoted as saying the President’s personal swagger is alienating potential allies and hindering international progress against terror. “It’s a personal matter,” Dean is quoted as saying. “He has some part of his personality which leads him to humiliate people who disagree with on policy matters.”

But according to the RNC, even such criticism of the President’s personality constitutes being soft on terrorism. If this ad is a preview of what’s to come in the general election, look for a long, ugly campaign full of distortions.

Media

Watch Republican National Committee Ad: “Reality”

Supporting Documents

View Republican National Committee release on its “Reality” 30-second TV ad

Sources

“RNC Research Briefing: ‘Reality’,” Republican National Committee, 21 Nov 2003.