March 20, 2004


Bush brands Kerry a serial tax-raiser, mocks Democrat's claim of foreign support (NANCY BENAC, March 20, 2004, Associated Press)

President Bush used the first rally of his re-election campaign to cast Democrat John Kerry on Saturday as a serial tax-raiser who has voted for tax increases 350 times. He also mocked Kerry's claims of support from undisclosed foreign leaders.

Bush took note of Kerry's proposals to expand health care, education and other domestic programs while still cutting in half the deficit. Kerry, the president, said, has promised more than he can pay for.

"He's going to have to pay for it somehow," Bush told thousands of cheering supporters at the Orange County Convention Center. "It's pretty clear how he's going to fill the tax gap -- he's going to tax all of you. Fortunately, you're not going to give him that chance."

Aides to Kerry, who was vacationing in Idaho... [...]

Bush used his speech to jab at Kerry on two other counts: his vote against an $87 billion aid plan for Iraq and Afghanistan, and his claim that some foreign leaders would prefer to see Kerry win the election.

On the foreign aid, Bush mocked Kerry's awkward explanation that "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Bush read aloud the quote, then declared: "That sure clears things up, doesn't it?"

"His answers aren't always clear but the voters will have a very clear choice in this campaign."

As for Kerry's claim that foreign leaders would prefer a Kerry White House, the president told the crowd, "That's OK, I'm not too worried, because I'm going to keep my campaign right here in America."

As Morton Kondracke noted on Fox News Special Report the other night, Mr. Bush is doing something unique in American politics here: he's making the Senator a target of open ridicule. The campaign's message leap-frogged over negative and went straight to dismissive. Even more daring, it's the President himself taking the lead. The key to this will be to stay relatively light-handed and to avoid outright contempt. If they can do that and treat Mr. Kerry as an object of fun, it will be just devastating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 20, 2004 09:44 PM

The key here for Bush is that while his campaign can push initial focus on some gaffe or sign of arrogance/elitism of Kerry's part, the president can never get out in front of pointing these things out -- he can comment on something Kerry's done, but only when it's already out in the open, so that by the time he's doing it, whatever the subject is already has become a safe target.

This would be a delicate balancing act, given the media's natrual desire to cover up for Kerry -- i.e. the Globe reporter's "retraction" of his own quote on the foreign leaders and the apparent tossing of the Kerry snowboarding pratfall tape into a glacier by ABC News -- but the Senator keeps making so many "unforced errors" on his own that as of now the Bush people don't have to prime the pump to make the Senator a source of ridicule; he's doing a upstanding job of it on his own, thank you.

Posted by: John at March 20, 2004 10:15 PM

Given that Kerry's whole public persona is designed to convey gravitas, this could be devastating if carried off properly.

Posted by: mike earl at March 20, 2004 11:09 PM

The Democrats dug themselves a hole in the primary trying to figure out how to deal with the (obviously unconstitutional) requirement that the candidate appear in the add approving it. They decided that the candidate couldn't be tied to anything negative, so, after Iowa, they never went negative.

Not only is this great for Bush because it meant that the Dem voters never had to face up to Kerry's record, but the president's campaign has grabbed the bull by the horns and dares to criticize Kerry with the president's explicit approval. It's actually a pretty gutsy move and I hope it works.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 20, 2004 11:31 PM

And simultaneously, because the press has to cover the president, no matter how much they dislike him, it forces them to put into print at least some of Kerry's innumerable gaffes and flip-flops, something they've been astonishingly reluctant to do.

Nice bit of jiu-jitsu!

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at March 20, 2004 11:37 PM

Even further, the Republicans don't have to do anything "negative", just present and then note what Kerry has said and done. Despite the media's carping, the people will see Bush's positive ads as well, and observe the difference.

Just tonight, Bill Schneider (CNN) was practically foaming at the mouth about how Bush fractured the country by going to war in Iraq: 60% thought him to be a strong leader for fighting in Afghanistan but only 40% support the war in Iraq. Even if those figures were accurate (and they are not), the 20% difference is a "fracture"? The media should realize that people are too smart or too uninterested to be deceived like this. But I think (in general) they are too lazy.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 20, 2004 11:38 PM

The Dems have been treating Bushitler the Smirking Chimp with contempt for the last four years, so it's nice to see them get a little back.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 20, 2004 11:55 PM

My guess is that this will have the added bonus of luring Kerry into going negative even more. This will just make him look angry, nasty and pathetic, and will hurt him even more.

Posted by: Timothy at March 21, 2004 04:04 AM

The media is going to have a hard time coaxing the American people to rally around the (suddenly?) underdog (Kerry given their own dissmissive treatment of the President (though they will try the Rove-Neo Cons-behind-this angle); and Kerry's limited ability to draw sympathy from any sector (an arrogant, white and French-looking to boot, married into fortunes, Northeastener) has always been fair game in the recent American culture.

Posted by: MG at March 21, 2004 09:13 AM

I was there at the rally. President Bush lighted up the crowd with his jabs at Kerry's records, and the crowd went wide.

I'm really proud of this President for what he has done for our country.

Posted by: Paul at March 21, 2004 04:27 PM
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