Those wacky Bush ads


Geraldine Sealey
March 31, 2004 4:41AM (UTC)

"I'm George W. Bush and I approved this nonsense." That should be the opening line to some of Bush's campaign attack ads against John Kerry, which are sure giving the Ad Busters out there a lot to work with. We're probably missing a few, but there was the misleading ad about Kerry's defense record. Then the even more misleading ad on Kerry's intelligence votes. There's the bit about the "350 votes for higher taxes" that Bush, Cheney and even a Boston cop speaking for the Bush-Cheney campaign continue to parrot even though nonpartisan truth-in-advertising watchdog groups say it's plain bogus. There was the Bush ad that created a taxing and spending plan for Kerry and then attacked him for the plan he never devised. And now, Bush's gift to the ad watchers is "Wacky." (Yes, the name of the ad is "Wacky.") Here's the script:

"Bush: I'm George W. Bush and I approved this ad.

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Announcer: Some people have wacky ideas. Like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry. He supported a 50 cent a gallon gas tax. If Kerry's tax increase were law, the average family would pay $657 more a year.

Raising taxes is a habit of Kerry's. He supported higher gasoline taxes 11 times. Maybe John Kerry just doesn't understand what his ideas mean to the rest of us."

First of all, Bush-Cheney '04 accuses John Kerry of wishing people would drive less? My guess is that lots of Americans stuck in hellish daily gridlock would actually enjoy driving less, but that's not the real problem with this ad.

Brooks Jackson and the folks over at FactCheck.org do the real dirty work of tracking down the falsehoods in "Wacky." The basic charge that Kerry supported a 50-cent per gallon increase in gas taxes is misleading at best. FactCheck says: "As we've noted before, Kerry's support for a 50-cent-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax happened a decade ago, back when regular was selling for a national average of $1.01 per gallon. Kerry's support was so fleeting that the only evidence of it to surface so far are two old newspaper clips in which Kerry complains that he deserved more credit as a deficit-cutter. He never voted for, or sponsored, legislation to impose such a tax, and he doesn't support one now, when the price is just under $1.76."

But then there's this: Kerry's support for the 50-cent increase may have been fleeting, but Bush's own economic adviser Gregory Mankiw wrote a whole article in support of it. In a 1999 Fortune piece called "Tax Gas Now!," Mankiw wrote: "Let's cut income taxes by 10 percent and finance it with a 50-cent-per-gallon hike in the gasoline tax Cutting income taxes while increasing gasoline taxes would lead to more rapid economic growth, less traffic congestion, safer roads, and reduced risk of global warming -- all without jeopardizing long-term fiscal solvency. This may be the closest thing to a free lunch that economics has to offer."

Now, that doesn't sound so wacky, does it?

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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